Waikato District Council has noted strong performances in the district’s economy over the past two years, even amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic.
In a recent report derived from the Infometrics Regional Economic Profiles, Council noted the regional GDP measured $3,412 million in the 12 months up to March 2021, an increase of 3.8% from the previous year. In comparison, the wider New Zealand economy contracted 1.2% during the same period.
To better understand the impacts of Covid-19 on local businesses and communities, Council conducted two rounds of an economic and social survey which produced responses from over 300 businesses and 400 households across the district in April of 2020 and 2021.
The survey results suggests that approximately 60% of businesses within the district have been impacted and 8% severely impacted, with the arts, recreation, accommodation and hospitality industries among the most impacted.
Waikato District Council Mayor, Allan Sanson, acknowledges the difficulty and strain that has been placed on businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, and is pleased with how well the district has performed despite the challenges.
“It has been a tough couple of years for everyone, particularly for business owners across the district and New Zealand.
These new statistics shed light on the resilience of so many businesses across the district and I commend you all for your perseverance,” says Mayor Sanson.
Although we have all felt the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in various ways, the Waikato District has experienced a higher rate of population growth compared to that of the national total. Since 2014, more than 12,000 people have migrated from other parts of Aotearoa to the district.
The Waikato District has a relatively unique industry profile, with a strong focus in the primary industries, meaning our district often attracts highly skilled and specialised members of the workforce.
The Covid-19 impacts have seen the flexibility in working locations amplified including a notable uptake of people working from home. With the increased flexibility in working environments, the Waikato District becomes more attractive as a place to live due to its preferred lifestyle and house affordability.
Six towns in the district (Pōkeno, Ngāruawāhia, Huntly, Tamahere, Tuakau and Te Kauwhata) all had a population increase of more than 1000 people over the past six years, notable growth in Pōkeno of 4,289 people (+341%).
With the influx in population to the district, also comes new business ventures and a rise in competition in the job market. In 2021, a total of 10,032 business units were recorded in the Waikato District, up 1.5% from the previous year and 1% higher than the national total.
The district also experienced a 3.5% increase in employment, with 25,717 filled roles across the industries in 2021. Similarly, the unemployment rates in the district have been lower than the national average since 2009, currently sitting at 3.7%.
In the coming year, traditional exporting primary industries such as dairy, meat and mining and their associated secondary industries, will remain important drivers of regional growth.
As the international border reopens, a slow recovery of the international tourism sector is also expected.