Auckland's economic performance improved in the last quarter of 2018, lifting it from the bottom of the ASB Regional Economic Scorecard.

The latest results, released today, show Hawke's Bay leading the way with a big lift in retail spending and solid numbers across the board.

The survey considers a range of economic data including employment, wages, construction, house prices new car sales and retail sales.

House prices in the Bay maintained double digit growth and there was a 38 per cent (annualised) increase in building consents.


The Otago region ranked second with strong job growth and Manawatu/Whanganui was third, aided by a strong property market and construction pipeline.

But Auckland's shift from the bottom of the rankings in the September quarter wil be some relief to those watching the national macro-economic numbers.

Auckland's performance in the survey has been volatile and after a big dip in the previous quarter it bounced back six places to ninth on the table of 16 regions.

"The regions retailers ended 2018 on a high note," said ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley.

"In a way that wasn't a surprise, as the fall in petrol prices would have come as a welcome relief to Aucklanders who suffered more than most."

However house prices were still weighing on Auckland's economy. It was the only region which saw price falls.

Canterbury was another big riser in the December quarter - up 11 places in to fourth place.

Construction was strong, with a number of large CBD commercial projects underway. There had also been a strong improvement in visitor numbers.


Northland also rebounded in the quarter - up seven places - with retails sales and housing leading the rise.

The weak spot for the region was job growth, with the number employed dipping in the quarter, Tuffley said.

The Waikato region had the biggest drop in rankings.

"Fonterra's lower milk price forecast spilled over into lower consumer confidence and retail spending," Tuffley noted.

However this was likely to be temporary with Fonterra having since lifted its milk prices and the outlook for 2019/20 looking strong.

Marlborough was at the bottom of the rankings for the quarter - down five spots.

It posted soft numbers across all the measures

1) Hawke's Bay +3
2) Otago +5
3) Manawatu-Whanganui +2
4) Canterbury +11
5) Wellington -2
6)Northland + 7
7) Taranaki +2
8) Southland -6
9) Auckland +6
10) Bay of Plenty +3
11) Tasman -3
12) Waikato -10
13) West Coast -1
13) Gisborne -7
15) Nelson - 4
15) Marlborough -5
(*from Sept quarter)