Cyclone Gabrielle heavily disrupted the Tairāwhiti economy over the first quarter of 2023 and while this hampered usual economic activity levels, various indicators highlight the remarkable momentum the region has been able to maintain.
Data from the latest Infometrics Quarterly Economic Monitor shows Tairāwhiti saw a fall in economic activity, mainly due to periods of digital and physical isolation.
Spending activity was up 1.9 per cent in the March quarter compared to a year earlier. That spending growth was the weakest across all regions and comes as prices have still been rising. Other spending indicators suggest that spending fell in January and February but rebounded in March as recovery efforts were underway.
Annual card spending over the 12 months to March rose by 5.8 per cent, much slower than the national increase of 11.6 per cent.
Primary sector output was heavily hit by Cyclone Gabrielle, with crops and farms destroyed, manufacturing and processing sites damaged or limited by water restrictions and some transport routes unusable. Meat processing was virtually non-existent, with total livestock kills across Tairāwhiti and Hawke's Bay falling by 18 per cent in the first quarter. Forestry activity was also limited due to the Cyclone, other wet weather effects and weaker demand out of China.
The region's employment levels were lower at the start of this year compared to the beginning of last year. Filled jobs held by Tairāwhiti residents fell 0.4 per cent on average in the March 23 quarter, dragging annual average filled jobs growth down to 0.7 per cent per annum compared to the national average increase of 2.2 per cent.
Jobseeker support recipients in the region decreased by 11.4 per cent compared to a year earlier, greater than the national decline of 9.4 per cent.
Tourism expenditure in Tairāwhiti increased by 10.1 per cent on the previous year; however, this compares with an increase of 30.5 per cent in New Zealand.
A total of 51 new residential building consents were issued in Tairāwhiti in the March 2023 quarter compared with 39 in the same quarter last year. On an annual basis, the number of consents for the region decreased by 4.9 per cent for the same period the previous year, while nationally, residential consents were down by 7.9 per cent for the same period.
Non-residential building consents to the value of $50.5 million were issued in Tairāwhiti during the year to March 2023. The consent value decreased by 44.7 per cent compared to a year earlier.
The average current house value was down by 4.7 per cent in March 2023 compared to a year earlier, although the decline was not as low as across New Zealand (11.4 per cent). House sales in Tairāwhiti decreased by 25.4 per cent compared to the year earlier, while the national decline was 27.6 per cent.
Gross domestic product growth was provisionally up by 1.5 per cent for the year to March 2023 compared to a year earlier, however growth was lower than the national average of 2.9 per cent.
Infometrics Quarterly Economic Monitor Tairāwhiti March 2023