Another testing year for businesses

Among those who have achieved business milestones in Otago or had an impact on the region’s...
Among those who have achieved business milestones in Otago or had an impact on the region’s business community this year are (clockwise from top left) Coralcone owner Yvette Shum, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Animation Research owner Sir Ian Taylor, Business South chief executive Mike Collins, and Pacific Edge’s chief executive David Darling as he rings a bell to celebrate the company’s ASX listing earlier this year. PHOTOS: PETER MCINTOSH & GERARD O'BRIEN
There is a saying that it is never an easy time to be in business. This year was no exception. Another year plagued by Covid-19, various lockdowns and a new traffic light system to get to grips with all made for its challenges. Business reporter Riley Kennedy looks back at what made the business news throughout the year.

Just when you thought 2020 was tough, along came 2021.

It started with an optimistic outlook.

The opening of the transtasman bubble and New Zealand’s Covid-free status after a successful elimination strategy the year before were signals for confidence.

Then along came Delta, which completely changed the game.

August’s lockdown, Auckland’s closed borders, shipping delays and learning to live with the virus under the new traffic light system and vaccination rollout were just some of the challenges this year.

The sector hardest hit in the lower South Island continues to be tourism.

In April, the transtasman bubble opened and Australian tourists were welcomed back to Queenstown with open arms.

But a growing outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Australia meant the bubble popped after just 28 days.

With that disappointment, August’s snap lockdown and Aucklanders remaining behind tightly controlled borders, there was no good news for the tourism industry.

The newest strain of Covid-19, Omicron, and the Government’s continued use of MIQ does not make it look like 2022 will be much easier.

Like tourism, hospitality and retail had another tough year.

The two sectors had to battle with the effects of August’s lockdown and adapting to the Government’s new traffic light system and vaccination mandates.

On top of that, worker shortages largely due to closed borders also caused problems.

The latest figures from ASB found that Otago was the most pessimistic region in the country in terms of consumer confidence as retail sales dropped by 0.8%
to $1.2billion in the third quarter.

Maybe 2022 will see the return of Dunedin shoppers’ favourite - Kmart?

The local tech sector found its feet this year after two Dunedin-founded companies were sold in major overseas deals.

First it was appointment-booking software company Timely, which sold to Nasdaq-listed EverCommerce in May for $135million.

Then, in June, global investment company Kohlberg Kravis Roberts acquired a majority stake in Education Perfect, valuing the company at $455million.

Dunedin’s growing gaming sector, supported by the Centre of Digital Excellence, will be one to watch in 2022.

Every business has to start somewhere and Dunedin was a great place to do it in 2021.

Startup Dunedin had 410 founders through its doors this year and had 170 students on its Audacious programme.

Scannable, Coralcone, Sahha and Winely are all companies to watch with keen interest in 2022.

The housing market has ended the year on a much-needed softer note as record growth rates start to slow.

House prices skyrocketed across the regions, but rising interest rates and affordability constraints started to bite and will continue to throughout 2022.

In the construction and building sector, it was a tale of two halves.

On one hand the sector was rushed off its feet with more homes being built to meet stock shortages.

But on the other, material and labour shortages, mixed in with delays with issuing consents from councils created big challenges.

The Dunedin City Council issued consents for 537 new dwellings this year, the most in a 12-month period since 1992.

Some builders told the Otago Daily Times they had at least three years of work ahead of them.

Large infrastructure projects, particularly in Dunedin, will not see the sector slow any time soon.

There was no shortage of market announcements from the South’s four NZX-listed companies.

Pacific Edge dual listed on the ASX and raised just over $100 million in capital to fund its next stage of growth.

Scott Technology signed multiple new contracts with overseas manufacturers to design and build new automation equipment from its Dunedin base.

South Port made its single largest capital expenditure decision, buying a new $9million tug.

And, finally, Blis Technologies joined forces with global probiotics company Probi in a long-term growth partnership.

Christmas came early for Southern food producers with extremely strong farmgate returns for beef, lamb and dairy produce.

But ANZ’s Research’s latest Agri-Focus report found that rapidly rising costs were proving tough on sectors in which returns were low, such as venison, wool and logs.

The agriculture sector did what it does best and banded together through protest group Groundswell to make sure the Government heard its concerns about what it called "unworkable regulations".

The group will finally meet its first government official next year when Climate Change Minister James Shaw visits Southland.

While businesses have had to face the different challenges in 2021, you cannot forget about the people providing stable leadership.

Business South’s new chief executive Mike Collins took on the job just weeks before August’s lockdown - somewhat of a baptism by fire.

During a period of ever-changing legislation, he quickly got to grips with it and was able to quickly communicate that to the wider business community.

Dunedin’s Sir Ian Taylor became an advocate for businesses to take the lead and provide solutions in the Covid response.

But it is every small business owner - especially those who navigated the many Covid-19 restriction changes, kept people employed and took big risks - who gets the biggest shout-out this year.





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