Data from latest Taranaki Trends places Taranaki back in first spot for GDP per capita

The Winter 2021 edition of Taranaki Trends, produced by Venture Taranaki, explores how our regional economy is tracking, including some of the medium-term impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, a year on from the Level 4 lockdown in 2020; particularly around employment, construction, house sales, retail spend and the visitor market.

Significantly, in this edition, data indicates that Taranaki is once again ranked as having the highest GDP per capita in Aotearoa.

In 2020, Taranaki contributed $9.5 billion towards the national GDP of $323 billion. Our GDP contribution is driven by our high-productivity energy and food/agriculture industries. 

“The latest data also indicates that Taranaki has not suffered some of the extremes that other regional economies have experienced as a result of COVID-19. We are in a fortunate position due to the strength and resilience of our  food production industry, and also because our visitor industry is not as dependent on the international traveller,” explains Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland.

Taranaki's visitor spend saw a decrease of only 1.8% (year on year) on the back of a strong showing in late 2020 and over the summer holiday period, which leveraged local events such as the Taranaki Garden Festival, TSB Festival of Lights and concerts at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands. These events likely attracted out-of-town friends, family, and other visitors keen to experience the region. Taranaki now sits just behind Northland, Gisborne and the Hawke’s Bay in rankings on visitor spend by region in terms of growth.

“The visitor sector in Taranaki is less exposed to the international market, so the hit to visitor spend here has been less than many of our regional counterparts. We have worked closely with our visitor enterprises and event organisers to showcase our region and launch an effective and targeted domestic visitor attraction campaign. While Taranaki doesn’t traditionally rely on international visitors, with the opening of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble, we do expect to see the visitor market gradually build again,” says Justine.

Retail spend is rebounding as Taranaki continues to support local. Taranaki-wide consumer spending was higher than pre-COVID levels from May 2020-January 2021, with total retail spend within Taranaki for the year ending December 2020 reaching $1,411,221,275.

“We have seen Taranaki’s consumer spend continue to grow. Our consistent increased spending over the last year has now nearly fully closed the deficit that was created during lockdown,” says Justine.

The housing market in Taranaki, like many other parts of the country, is running hot, with the median sold house price in Taranaki topping $520,000, an increase of 15.3% from September 2020. The number of properties sold around Taranaki in February 2021 increased 31.4% from the same time last year.

“The value of houses in Taranaki increased across the board. House prices increased by 35.3% in Stratford, 34.6% in South Taranaki and 14.3% in New Plymouth district,” explains Justine.

The construction industry is busy, with the total value of all building consents processed in Taranaki in the 12 months ending July 2020 increasing by 1.25% compared to the 12 months ending February 2020. ​ 

“While there are strong reasons for positivity, beneath the surface, COVID-19 has further extended the inequality gap for our lower socioeconomic communities and families,” continues Justine.

Unemployment is up to 6.3% in Taranaki for the year ending December 2020, higher than the national average of 4.9% for year-end December 2020. Plus, there has been a 30% increase in people receiving Jobseeker support, with 5,154 people in February 2021, compared to 3,966 people in February 2020.

“The regional job market is proving a mixed bag with job seeker registrations remaining at heightened levels and unemployment being one of the highest in the country, yet at the same time we’re seeing increases in employment and skill shortages in certain industries such as construction.”

“We’re also seeing an increase in new enterprises being registered, with 948 new businesses registered in Taranaki throughout 2020. This is 100 more than what was registered in 2019,” explains Justine.

Youth NEET rates have dropped down to the lowest since 2017. The NEET rates for Taranaki decreased from 17.8% to 13.1%, placing our rating just above the national average instead of having one of the highest regional NEETS.

“It is likely that we’re seeing this decrease in NEET rates as more young people choose to stay in education due to the uncertain economic climate over 2020. ​Another reason may be an increase in availability of apprenticeship schemes in Taranaki and the free WITT courses that were on offer,” says Justine.

“Beyond COVID-19 there are important broader policy and economic challenges that we need to be conscious of, such as our shift towards a low-emissions future, and the Government’s response to the final advice due from the Climate Change Commission in May 2021. There are many moving parts that affect our region as we continue to respond in the face of change,” concludes Justine.

Taranaki Trends is produced by Venture Taranaki as a 6-monthly economic snapshot of our region. As such, it provides a range of metrics, represented as digestible charts and graphs, to help inform the region’s leadership, enterprises and investors. 

To read the latest edition of Taranaki Trends, click here.