Slow growth in Rotorua's hard-hit economy has not stopped the Bay of Plenty from being ranked New Zealand's top regional economic performer.
Dairy, horticulture, wood, and some of the best beaches in the country have seen the region's economy rise 3 per cent compared to the same time last year. The national economy slipped back 0.3 per cent.
That's according to the latest Infometrics Quarterly Economic Monitor showing regional economic performance over the three months to March.
A continued lack of tourism saw Rotorua's economy continue to struggle, but primary industries helped boost its growth 0.3 per cent.
Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen said this was down to higher commodity prices which supported economic activity in the region, with good returns for dairy, meats, horticulture, and wood exports.
Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty were maintaining their economic strength - Tauranga was up 3.6 per cent and the Western Bay 3.1 per cent.
He said this was "not too bad, all things considered".
He said the "bolstering" activity in the rest of the region, particularly the primary sector, "more than outweighed" Rotorua's struggle.
But Whakatāne was the region's star performer, up 7.4 per cent.
Olsen said over the quarter there was "strong domestic activity, particularly coming through Whakatāne and the wider Eastern Bay of Plenty area."
However, he said there was still a "relatively tight" labour market in some sectors.
He expected the "strong primary sector focus" in the Bay of Plenty "will certainly keep things in a much better position".
He said there was uncertainty about how the tourism market would play out.
Rotorua Economic Development interim chief executive Andrew Wilson said higher commodity prices for dairy, meats, horticulture, and wood exports had helped the city over the last few months.
He said agriculture, forestry, wood processing, tourism, tertiary education, health, and manufacturing were some of the major industries Rotorua counted on for long-term economic stability.
Rotorua is fortunate to have one of New Zealand's most diverse economies to build on, he said, and these industries also attracted new business ventures, highly skilled residents, and international students.
He said there were still challenges ahead for businesses that depended on high visitor volume.
"While business confidence is much lower in this sector, the challenge of the last 12 months has also stimulated a lot of innovation from Rotorua businesses working hard to create interesting new products focused on the needs of New Zealanders."
"With better global economic activity and a domestic vaccine rollout in the second half of the year, we are optimistic about the path ahead."
Eastern Bay of Plenty Economic Development Agency general manager Karl Gradon said there was no single factor behind the success of the Eastern Bay.
However, a low base to start from coupled with a "huge surge in confidence" following the Provisional Growth Fund announcements for the Eastern Bay - which saw more funding committed than any other area per capita.
He said the investments were supporting "catalytic" infrastructure rather than businesses which was "huge" for the area, and a thought-out move in creating jobs in the region.
"We have seen huge transitions from dairy and maize, to high-value horticulture. Most of the horticulture expansions are happening here, they're not happening in the Western Bay where they used to."
On top of that, the area's beautiful beaches and sunny weather had drawn travellers unable to visit the likes of Fiji or Bali.
"People have had on their bucket lists places like the East Cape, Te Kaha, Te Urewera ... they want to find the best beaches in the country and they've been getting out there and doing it.
"The best sunshine in the country is here. The best temperatures are here. All of a sudden, our secret's out.
He said the growth across the region has been "incredible" - domestic tourism and kiwifruit had the best season ever, dairy had the second-best, and the forestry sector was strong.
"We would agree that the peak over the last three months is a result of higher commodity prices, with good returns for dairy, meats, horticulture, and wood exports."
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated communications manager Mike Murphy said the 2021 season is forecast to be another record-breaking year.
Kiwifruit production would overtake last year's record of 157 million trays of green and gold. On average, each tray has around 30 pieces of kiwifruit.
More than 80 per cent of the country's kiwifruit is grown in the Bay of Plenty across 10,000 hectares of orchards.
He said the peak harvest has just finished with around 20,000 seasonal workers required to pick and pack the crop in the Bay of Plenty.
The industry contributed $1.5 billion to the region last year.