Economic growth is up in the Tararua, with some businesses reporting great trading figures despite the closure of the Manawatu Gorge in April last year.

And the anecdotal evidence of an improving Tararua economy is backed up with the latest quarterly economic report by Infometrics.

Tararua's economy finished 2017 on a strong note, with Infometrics' provisional estimate for GDP showing growth in the district of 3.6 per cent in the December 2017 year, compared with the national average of 2.8 per cent.

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Tararua has enjoyed a sharp rebound from a sluggish period in late 2016 and early 2017.

"This is a great improvement on the same period in 2016," said Mark Maxwell, the Tararua District Council's economic development and communications manager.

Traffic flow across Tararua rose by 3.4 per cent, compared with 1.4 per cent nationally and businesses in towns across Tararua have been reporting a lift.

"Our day-time trade is up considerably at the Black Stump," Tararua District councillor Alison Franklin said.

Mrs Franklin and husband Graeme own Pahiatua's Black Stump Cafe and Bar and Harrow's Restaurant.

"It appears traffic out of Wellington is coming over the Rimutaka Hill Rd, rather than taking the coastal route and travelling over the Pahiatua Track," Mr Franklin told the Dannevirke News.

"It's been a bonus for us, especially during the day."

And Mr Franklin said when passing through Woodville recently all the car parks along Vogel St were full and the town was "buzzing".


For the owners of Woodville's Sarah Jones Recycled Interiors on Vogel St, business is great.

"We were floored by our January trading figures. We're booming," one of the owners, Glen McDean, said.

And Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis also said, "Woodville is most definitely open for business."

The state highway through the Manawatu Gorge was closed last year because of a slip, with its death knell coming when the then Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the gorge would be closed "indefinitely".

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) will announce the new alternative route this month.

It's not only businesses picking up, Woodville folk have noticed an increase in the number of out-of-towners becoming residents.

"We had four new residents come up to us when we were selling raffle tickets for Relay for Life. They love our town," Shirley Beagley said.

Mrs Collis said people were looking at the Tararua as a good option for a relaxed lifestyle with all the amenities.

"From older retirees to younger families, we have a lot to offer and people are realising that," she said.

Tararua is being boosted by an upswing in retail activity. Market view data on electronic card transactions shows retail spending in Tararua grew by 7.1 per cent in the December 2017 year, much stronger than the national average of 4.3 per cent.

Vehicle sales are also growing strongly in Tararua. Car registrations were up by 18 per cent in the December 2017 year, more than double the national average of 8 per cent.

Commercial-vehicle registrations climbed by 27 per cent over the same period.

With residential building consents rising in 2017, some of these commercial vehicle purchases will have been made by builders anticipating higher workloads ahead, the Infometrics report states.

The recovery in dairy payouts will have stimulated vehicle buying by farmers too.

And although tourism is still a relatively small part of Tararua's economy, it grew rapidly in 2017.

Visitor expenditure was up by 8.8 per cent, comfortably above the national average rise of 6.4 per cent.

Guest nights in commercial accommodation grew by an even stronger 10 per cent in the December 2017 year.

This suggests private accommodation, such as Airbnb, is not yet a major force in Tararua.

However, private accommodation may be an effective way to handle further growth in tourism in the district.

"What we are doing is working and I'm sure we'll see more positive results," Mrs Collis said.