12 March 2015

Southland leads the way in economic gains

The Southland Times

Southland recorded the highest economic increase of any region in the year ending March 2014, according to figures released by Statistics New Zealand yesterday .

Dairy farming was the major driver of the 11 per cent increase in gross domestic product (GDP), which meant the province produced more than $5.5 billion in the year to March 2013.

This was an increase of $500 million on the previous year and represents $57,135 per person in the year.

Southland Federated Farmers president Russell MacPherson said a strong performance in the agricultural sector inevitably translated into a positive result across the board.

“It reinforces what everyone should know, which is that agriculture is vitally important to Southland.

“It’s not surprising to me at all when you look at things like higher milk prices and even an increase in tractor sales that the economy as a whole improved.

“Farming has always been very important to Southland and farmers make up a huge percentage of our consumers, so we’re far better off when our farms do well,” Macpherson said.

Fortuna Group operations manager Matthew Richards said the result was a major positive for the long-term future of Southland’s economy.

The forecast payout of $4.70 per kilogram of milk solids this season would hit hard, but he was confident prices would rebound.

“Dairying has a massive impact on the southern region and everyone is going to be affected in the year ahead by the downturn in our milk prices,” Richards said.

“Long-term, though, these figures are a really positive for the region and when milk prices rebound as I’m sure they will, Southland will continue to grow and prosper, and that’s very exciting.”

Southland’s GDP per capita of $57,135 represents a $4434 increase on the previous year and ranks behind only Taranaki ($80,297) and Wellington ($62,021).

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said this showed the region was batting well above its weight.

“There’s plenty happening down here, not just in agriculture but also in areas like tourism, which has really boomed recently.

“A lot of that can be put down to Venture Southland,” Tong said.

Venture Southland general manager business and strategic projects Steve Canny could not be contacted yesterday .

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said the growth showed the region had a strong and resilient economy.

Southland’s GDP increase of 11 per cent was significantly higher than the national increase of 6.7 per cent and follows a drop of 1.8 per cent in the year ending March 2013.

There has been a 23.9 per cent increase over the past five years.

The province contributed 2.4 per cent of New Zealand’s total GDP, which was $229.7b.

All regions recorded economic gains in the year ending March 2014, with Canterbury making the next highest gains and increasing by 10.6 per cent.

Otago was up 6.3 per cent, with dairy cattle farming again the major contributing factor.