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BOP economy faring better than most after Covid-19

A report shows the Bay of Plenty’s GDP was down 1.6 per cent compared to 2.1 per cent nationally. File image/SunLive.

Despite the significant early impacts of Covid-19, the Bay of Plenty’s economy is faring better than the country as a whole according to recent economic data.  

A quarterly Infometrics report commissioned by Bay of Plenty Regional Council shows that as a result of alert levels 4 and 3, Bay of Plenty’s GDP was down by 1.6 per cent for the year to June 2020 compared to a national drop of 2.1 per cent.

BOPRC chair Doug Leeder says despite the relative resilience of the overall regional economy, due in part to sustained growth in dairy and horticulture, other industries within the area have been badly hit.

“Tourism employs just over one in ten people in our region, so the 11 per cent annual decline in tourist spend is causing significant hardship, particularly in Rotorua and also in Whakatāne, which had already been hard-hit by the Whakaari eruption aftermath.

“We can’t forget that any significant business downturn causes job loses that can result in personal and family hardship which flows through to the wellbeing of our communities.

He says the pandemic has provided an unprecedented opportunity to work with central government to accelerate projects that have far-reaching benefits for in the region.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council chair Doug Leeder. Image: BOPRC.

Local government and iwi entities across the BOP have seized those opportunities, securing funds through the Provincial Growth Fund’s (PGF) and other funding channels such as the Department of Conservation’s Jobs for Nature.

These funds have activated a range of projects to save and create jobs and incorporate training and development that will foster employment sustainability, says Doug.

“While addressing job loss is an immediate result, the projects deliver core outcomes such as business infrastructure development and digital connectivity for the longer-term benefit of our towns and cities. Close to regional council’s heart of course are the projects that also produce environmental gains and support safe and resilient communities.”

Forestry was one of the first sectors to be hit in the region with a 26 per cent drop in annual performance but it has since bounced back as export orders recovered. Other sectors such as construction had continued to be hit hard.

“The 29 per cent decrease in non-residential consents up until the end of June reinforces just how critical it was to secure the Crown Infrastructure Projects funding to activate projects and demand within the construction and engineering industry.”

Doug says that the Infometrics report emphasises that regional recovery must be co-developed in collaboration with people from all sectors and across the region.

“We should also note that in the post-Covid period up to the June Infometrics report around 960 full time equivalent jobs have been created through recovery funded projects. The number is currently over 2000, with further announcements anticipated.”

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