Firms still struggling
Building and retail trying to bounce back
Central Otago’s primary production sector is clawing its way back from the disastrous blow it received after the 2008 economic downturn, but the building and retail industries are continuing to struggle. At a Central Otago District Council meeting in Alexandra on Monday councillors discussed what it could do support businesses to keep shops open. Council economic development manager Warwick Hawker said a BERL report showed that 2012 was a ‘‘recovery period’’ for the region after the economic crisis of 2008 to 2011. Central Otago performed well above regional and national averages in seven of eight key performance indicators, such as GDP and employment increases. It lagged behind only in the growth of new business units. Last year the primary production sector contributed $251 million to the Central Otago economy, up 40 per cent from a year earlier. Employment in the agriculture industry, which makes up the bulk of the district’s primary
sector, rose by 182 full-time equivalent jobs. The stonefruit growing industry in Central Otago generated 136 of those fulltime equivalent jobs. Estimated GDP contribution from this sector grew by 40.3 per cent (up $72 million) but it was noted the estimate could be overstated and it was more like 30 to 40 per cent, Mr Hawker said. However, other recovery still fragile, he said. Construction GDP contribution fell $8 million (down 8.5 per cent from 2011) which was largely due to a 15.4 per cent decrease in the industries’ remained construction industry. Central Otago had a decrease in business unit growth brought on by the decline in the number of businesses in the construction sector. The Christchurch rebuild was only starting to kick off and it was going to be a challenge for the building and construction sector to retain staff in Central Otago, Mr Hawker said. Mr Hawker had been told of a group of backpacking orchard workers who worked for a couple of days then headed to Christchurch to push wheelbarrows for considerably more pay, he said. Cr Martin McPherson said it was obviously a hard time for retailers and ‘‘a lot have got their head in the sand’’ when it comes to offering a difference and competing online. ‘‘Council takes a lot of criticism not doing anything about it,’’ he said. Strategies and programmes needed to be put in place so businesses could set high service delivery standards and offer a point of difference, he said. Mr Hawker said the economic division of council would be exploring issues in the ‘‘changing environment’’. ◗ For the full report go to southlandtimes.co.nz ◗ The consultation period for the council’s draft economic and business development strategy closes on July 12. It is not closed, as noted in last week’s Mirror.