A spike in non-residential consents and a busy tourism sector are underpinning economic growth in Hawke's Bay.
Data published in Infometrics' Quarterly Economic Monitor – Hawke's Bay Region, March 2019 shows consumer confidence in the region's economy shows no sign of abating, despite a sluggish national economy.
The average value of non-residential consents in Hawke's Bay surged by 23.9 per cent, with an annual value of $153 million for the year to March 19.
This is up $124m on the year before and is a 35 per cent increase on the 10-year average ($113m).
Business Hawke's Bay chief executive Carolyn Neville says Hawke's Bay's economic indicators keep moving in the right direction.
"Consumers are feeling confident enough to make large purchases and business confidence is robust as well.
"This is the third consecutive quarter of strong economic performance for Hawke's Bay.
"Our region is doing well and continues to outperform the national economy on many measures. Sustained quarter-on-quarter momentum shows that it's not a flash in the pan."
Many of the region's measures of economic health are at record highs or well above the 10-year average, she says.
"Unemployment is falling steadily and is at a decade record low. Regional unemployment remains at 4.1 per cent, compared to 4.3 per cent nationally.
"Consumers are feeling confident enough to make large purchases such as cars as well as keeping on spending in the shops.
"Business is booming, and not surprisingly, business operators are feeling upbeat too, splashing out on cars, trucks and vans. Commercial vehicle registrations are at an all-time high."
Car registrations increased by 0.4 per cent compared to a national decrease of 7.6 per cent.
A total of 6333 cars were registered in Hawke's Bay in the past 12 months, 34 per cent above the 10-year average. Commercial vehicle registrations increased by 8 per cent, outstripping a national decline of 0.1 per cent.
"New vehicle registrations is a leading indicator of consumer and business confidence. Of particular interest is commercial vehicle registrations which are at an all-time high.
"Business is booming in the Bay, and business operators are feeling confident enough to splash out on new cars, trucks and vans to support growth."
Tourism spending also continued to rise, reaching a record $658m for the 12 months to March 19, up from $635m a year ago.
Cruise ships are expected to bring an estimated 150,000 visitors in the coming season, said Neville.
"Our tourism sector is doing well. Hawke's Bay is more accessible than ever, with more accommodation options than ever.
"Our backyard is a very attractive place for domestic and international tourists alike, with activities for every budget.
"Hawke's Bay Tourism has done a great job of extending the season and encouraging domestic and international visitors to enjoy the Bay in spring and autumn."
Hawke's Bay Tourism marketing manager Ben Hutton says the growth in tourism could be attributed to a number of factors.
"[They include] the increasing attractiveness of Hawke's Bay as an events destination – which, in particular, delivered an incredibly strong summer line-up of events with genuine visitor appeal.
"The reach and effectiveness of regional marketing efforts, which have seen our visitor portal achieving record visitation" are also contributing, Hutton says.
"The continued success of our trade, media and influencer familiarisations, which result in extensive Hawke's Bay profiling to domestic and international audiences and the bumper cruise ship season" are additional drivers of growth, he says.
However, not all economic indicators are positive for the region, with the percentage of residential consents down 5.5 per cent and an increase in jobseeker support recipients.
Neville says the comparison in numbers is being made to some very strong growth in recent quarters, from late 2017 through 2018.
"[They] reflect the major residential developments in Frimley, Parklands, Te Awa and Havelock North, and the consenting period for these developments we believe is levelling out."
She believes the increase in jobseeker support recipients is to do with "lumpiness between job seekers and opportunities".
"Although unemployment is very low, a change in government policy in 2018 continues to push the number of Jobseeker support recipients higher.
"Work and Income New Zealand staff must now get a second opinion from a staff member before making the decision to cut or suspend benefits.
"This is Infometrics comment about the national numbers, and we could confidently say that this policy change is reflected in HB numbers."