Southland ranked as ‘most pessimistic’ region

An aerial shot of Invercargill. Southland’s drop on the economic scoreboard was largely driven by...
An aerial shot of Invercargill. Southland’s drop on the economic scoreboard was largely driven by a property market that was ‘‘less blazing hot’’ than elsewhere in the country. Photo: Matthew Rosenberg
ASB Bank has named Southland the ‘‘most pessimistic region in New Zealand’’ in its latest regional economic scoreboard.

Every three months the bank ranks the economic performance of each of the 16 regions throughout the country.

ASB released its results for the three months to September on Friday, which took in the start of Auckland’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Southland dropped one place on the scoreboard to sit at the bottom of the table at 16th, while Otago jumped four to sixth place.

Southland’s drop was largely driven by a property market that was ‘‘less blazing hot’’ than elsewhere in the country.

Despite the region’s house prices increasing by nearly 25% annually, it was the lowest rate of growth in the country, the scoreboard said.

Southland’s retail sales dropped 5.6% year-on-year to $355 million, the second-largest drop in the country.

This time last year Invercargill was experiencing a boom in construction with the redevelopment of its town centre but that had now slowed down.

That meant construction activity was down 17.5%.

‘‘All up, the challenges of the last 18 months are taking their toll here too, with Southland second only to Otago for the unwanted title of ‘most pessimistic region in New Zealand’ [for consumer confidence],’’ the scoreboard said.

After spending the best part of the year ‘‘stuck in the mud’’ at the bottom of the scoreboard - largely due to the borders being closed and no international tourists - Otago was starting to recover with employment growth back in positive territory after four quarters when it declined.

‘‘Now that we’re well past the 12 months of Covid milestone, the only way is up for the region,’’ the scoreboard said.

The region had some of the strongest year-on-year construction figures in the country, growing by 47.2% to $515 million.

But challenges of the last three months had also taken its toll on Otago - it was by far the most pessimistic part of the country in terms of consumer confidence with retail sales dropping 0.8% to $1.2 billion.

‘‘And the tourism-centric Central Lakes have had to endure not just the external border closure but the regional travel restrictions,’’ the scoreboard said.

Nationally, Canterbury topped the scoreboard for being a ‘‘good all-round performer’’.

The region was looking like it had entered a new phase following a period of consolidation after its flurry of activity and investment after the 2010-11 earthquakes.

Second was Manawatu-Whanganui, which jumped 12 places on the back of its house prices jumping nearly 50%.

Third was Northland driven by record forestry prices and ‘‘bumper’’ export activity.

The only region to not shift on the scoreboard was Taranaki at 13th, largely due to its 3.1% decline in job growth.

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