Region ranks worst in ‘real GDP per capita’

The Otago Regional Council and other agencies should do more to encourage development in and attract investment to Otago as the region ranks worst in New Zealand in a key economic indicator, a new report says.

Aside from Otago’s poor performance in "real gross domestic product [GDP] per capita", the region also had both the lowest percentage of people who spoke te reo Māori and the lowest proportion of Māori who spoke the language, the Otago Wellbeing Baseline Report said.

The report, commissioned by the regional council, is due to be considered at tomorrow’s council meeting.

It offers a first glance at how the region rates across 33 indicators as the council tries to understand more about regional wellbeing in order to identify issues, consider the council’s role and potentially take action.

In general, the wellbeing report said Otago scored well.

In three areas the region led the country.

People in Otago had the highest sense of "life being worthwhile". The region ranked first in the percentage of people who said it was "easy or very easy" to express their identity. Otago also outperformed all others in a measure called "mean generalised trust", which the report said showed a high level of "social capital" within the community.

Meanwhile, Otago remained an above average emitter of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

Otago improved in the percentage of people who reported living in a cold home from 57.1% to 54.7%, and from worst in the country in 2014 to seventh on the national list seven years later.

Concerning the poor performance of speakers of te reo Maori, the report qualified the region’s worst overall status by noting Otago had the lowest Māori population of all New Zealand regions at 9%, compared with a national population of 17%.

The report concluded the region’s ranking for real GDP per capita was an area of concern.

It said although there had been some growth in GDP per capita between 2014 and 2021, Otago still did not meet the national benchmark and lagged behind all other regions.

"To address this, the Otago Regional Council and supporting agencies could prioritise initiatives aimed at stimulating economic development, attracting investment and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship," it said.

"By creating a supportive environment for high-value industries and implementing targeted policies and incentives, the region can enhance its economic performance, generate higher-paying job opportunities and improve the overall standard of living for its residents."

A council staff report recommended that council determined the best mechanism to respond to the challenges raised in the report.

"This could include a formal cross-council working group ... or, alternatively, continuing with an ORC-focused programme."