Once-prosperous New Zealand provinces are falling into
the economic doldrums as politics and policies focus on the
urban powerhouses of Auckland and Wellington, according to a
The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report on
regional economies says complex, misunderstood regional
economies range from triumphant to troubled.
''Regional considerations need greater prominence in the
political and economic debate,'' NZIER principal economist
Shamubeel Eaqub said.
As the country headed towards a general election, Auckland
and Wellington's views and needs were well heard.
''But what about Taranaki, which has the highest GDP per
capita in the country? What about Northland and
Gisborne-Hawkes Bay which rank near the bottom on many
Mr Eaqub and his colleague John Stephenson wrote the report
as a stocktake of New Zealand's regional economies.
They warned future social and demographic trends, such as
continued urbanisation and ageing populations, would favour
complex, urban centres to the detriment of regional
A typical Auckland family had an income of about $77,000 a
year, compared with $60,000 in Waikato and $47,000 in
Northland. The gaps would widen if economic prosperity in
provincial economies did not improve, Mr Eaqub said.
The study of regional data found how closely interconnected
regions were. Growth in one region could spill over to
others. A neighbouring region might benefit from such growth
if it had complementary specialisations, but lose out if it
had the same specialisations.
New Zealand, and every one of its regions, was facing the
forces of broad secular trends. Those affected where people
lived and worked, businesses made investments and central and
local authorities delivered the supporting infrastructure.
Forces tended to favour the urban centres to the detriment of
regional communities, he said.
The focus on regional performance would be under an
increasing spotlight. There was no single recipe for success.
''The similarities between regions, and the issues they face,
mean we need to think about the country as a whole. But there
are enough differences to require a closer look to understand
the causes of these differences and find place-specific
strategies,'' Mr Eaqub said.
Two distinctively urban economies:
• Auckland and Wellington. They have complex economies and
very high human capital.
• Three distinctively resource-based economies: Taranaki,
Upper South Island and Southland with concentrated exposures
to natural commodities and international commodity
• Remaining regions are driven by common national factors.