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The Marlborough Economy

05 February 2014

Marlborough District Council Media Statement.

The story is much better than you may have thought

The Marlborough economy, far from underperforming as suggested by critics, has been shown to have outperformed many other parts of the country.

A report on the performance of the regional economy over the decade to 2012, prepared for the Marlborough District Council, paints a picture of a resilient local economy.

Insulated by its diversity, the Marlborough economy had some protection from the worst effects of the downturn and is now showing signs of increasing economic efficiency.

Labour productivity is rising even though it has dropped at a national level. In fact, Marlborough is ahead of the New Zealand average GDP growth. In comparison with its nearest neighbours, Marlborough outperforms Nelson-Tasman in terms of GDP growth and in output per employee.

Employment growth is actually running ahead of the national average and even though the last 12 months have shown a decline, that decline is much less than that of the rest of the country, including the Nelson region.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said it was a revealing report which contradicts some assumptions and confirms that Marlborough has special advantages which it can build upon.

“Too often Marlborough is lumped in with Nelson, Tasman and even the West Coast, when central government makes it assessment of how things are looking in the regions. That buries the real picture of what’s happening in Marlborough. I’d go so far as to suggest it distorts the perspective of our region.”

“Late last year the Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency pointed to what were described as ‘concerning trends’ in the Nelson economy. The picture painted there does not hold true for Marlborough.

It would be a mistake to see the whole top of the south as a single economic entity.”
The fishing and aquaculture industry is a particularly vivid example of the way the local industry has outstripped the performance of its neighbours and the national average, he said.

Marlborough, he said, is delivering 82% of the country’s GDP derived from off-shore fish-farming.

The local processing industry, over the last decade to 2012, shows growth averaging at 6.7% a year, well ahead of the national figure of 2.6% and far out-performing the Nelson-Tasman industry where average growth was 0.9%.

The international financial crisis did hit the aquaculture industry hard in 2009 but it has bounced back well with growth last year alone out-stripping all growth in the decade running up to 2012.

The report shows that, since 2007, Marlborough’s economic performance has been affected not only by the global financial situation but by drought, the consolidation that’s occurred in the wine industry and the impact on tourism of the Christchurch earthquakes.

Mr Sowman said the report underlines the potential for Marlborough to build on its strengths.

“Too often, I suspect, assumptions are made about regional economies by financial, political and business interests. With this report we have hard data which provides a level of detail that has been missing from the economic debate. Now we need some real commitment to developing higher quality, higher paying jobs here – and that means more investment in business infrastructure and innovation.”

The Mayor said our aquaculture growth, for example, would be boosted if the industry brought more of its processing and research capacity closer to the actual source of its product here in Marlborough.

Research and innovation moves industries forward and that is where the Council has focussed its ‘smart and connected’ economic development policy, he said.

Alistair Sowman

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