Otago still in top four performers

Otago's economic performance has dropped a couple of notches in recent months, but it remains in the top four of the 16 regional councils across the country.

Christchurch narrowly holds top spot, ahead of Auckland, and both regions are buoyed by strong employment, population growth and a healthy construction outlook, according to the ASB's regional economic scoreboard released yesterday.

However, away from main centres economic activity was not as robust and the almost 40% decline in dairy prices, and more recent forestry price slump were weighing heavily on the outlook for parts of rural New Zealand, the report said.

Separately during the past week, Otago Southland's BNZ-Business New Zealand services sector index was rated the highest in the country, but the earlier manufacturing index for Otago Southland was in contraction for the third consecutive month, as national ratings hit 22 months of consecutive expansion.

The ASB report said Otago had dropped back two spots in the latest quarterly-based scoreboard, but stayed in the top four and kept its four-star rating, the report said.

''Employment and retail trade both recorded strong June quarters. Meanwhile, the tourism sector has had a strong autumn, with guest nights surging over the June quarter,'' the report said.

Consumer confidence in Otago remained its ''sticking point'' and the latest reading was the lowest in the country. Otago's housing market was a ''mixed bag'' with slow sales, but house prices remained firm.

To the north, Canterbury is in top place as its rebuild continues, while Southland is in the mid-tier of rankings, where it led the building consent rankings for the quarter, which was underpinned by commercial construction activity.

Canterbury's rebuild was beginning to move through the economy.

The boost to construction was flowing through to double-digit annual employment growth, which was contributing to high consumer confidence, putting extra dollars in people's wallets and ultimately flowing through to retailers.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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