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Hawke’s Bay Economy On A High

Hawke’s Bay Economy On A High

Horticulture is expanding, house prices are rising, and development is all go. Claire Connell looks at what’s driving Hawke’s Bay’s success.

19 October 2021

Ask Napier’s mayor Bill Dalton why he loves Hawke’s Bay and the answer is simple.

“Hawke’s Bay has got everything the big cities have got, except for the congestion and the [geographical] distance.”

Dalton thinks it’s the best spot in the country, and it seems he’s not the only one.

Those with their finger on the pulse of the region’s economy say the Bay is booming. So, what’s driving it?

Property on the rise

Bindi Norwell, chief executive of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, says there’s been “significant growth” for Hawke’s Bay property.

“It’s been phenomenal.”

At November 2018, the median house price was NZ$470,000. At the same time in 2017, it was NZ$420,000. Back in November 2013, it was NZ$280,000.

“The volumes have been strong too,” Norwell says.

“Sometimes the prices are really strong because of the lack of listings available. But that’s not the case here,” she says.

Increasingly, she says, people are moving from Auckland or other regions to get more for their money in Hawke’s Bay – plus a great lifestyle, too.

Dalton says property prices are an indicator of the strength of the economy.

The government’s invested

The coalition government’s Provincial Growth Fund, announced last year, aims to invest

NZ$3 billion into regional projects over three years.

So far, NZ$5.9 million has been allocated to Hawke’s Bay, with more funding expected.

Dalton says there’s been no funding on this scale for Hawke’s Bay before.

“The problem with the previous government is they forgot the fact that when the provinces are economically strong, the country is economically strong. And they lost sight of that.

“This government has decided they want to give the provincial economies a boost – and I certainly applaud that.”

Funding highlights include money to do a feasibility study for the planned Hawke’s Bay food innovation hub.

And KiwiRail’s been given money to reopen the line between Wairoa and Napier, making it easier for those in the forestry industry to transport logs to the Napier port.

There’s also been money given to help build a new National Aquarium of New Zealand.

“This NZ$50 million project will put Hawke’s Bay on the ‘must see’ list for both international and domestic tourists alike,” Dalton says.

Businesses are feeling confident

There’s a feeling of positivity and vibrancy, says Carolyn Neville, chief executive of Business Hawke’s Bay.

Surveys last year that showed low business confidence nationwide did not seem to ring true in Hawke’s Bay, Neville says.

Neville says the strength of the primary industries – horticulture, viticulture, and sheep and beef farming – has had a flow-on effect.

National apple and pear international exports to the year ending June 2018 were worth NZ$745 million, more than double 2012’s figures, Neville says. Most of that produce came from Hawke’s Bay, she says.

“The export values have been driven by increases in both volumes and prices. Apple and pear growth has been huge over the last few years. They’ve really reinvested in the fruit stock, and their international marketing,” Neville says.

“When the primary sectors are doing well, and businesses are making money, that flows to retail spend.”

Getting invested in the region

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst says it’s great to see more businesses move to the Hawke’s Bay region.

Kiwibank’s new regional office in Hastings two years ago brought 150 new jobs. Staff moved from Wellington and locals were also employed.

The new NZ$20 million Eastern District Police Headquarters, expected to open later this year, will bring Hastings 140 more jobs, Hazlehurst says.

Other developments include Delegat’s new winery, a NZ$30 million project; a NZ$30 million expansion of Villa Maria; and a NZ$38 million expansion of the Apollo Foods processing facility.

There have been more coolstores and packhouses built too, to keep up with horticulture production growth.

A large airport expansion is due to be finished this year.

“Our economy is rocking,” Hazlehurst says.

The future is bright

Bill Dalton says increasing tourist numbers, both domestic and international, have been positive for the region.

“Tourist numbers have never been better. We’re now seeing 70 odd cruise ships a year, and we are having to turn some away because we can’t fit them into the wharf,” Dalton says.

Drawcards are the wine industry, the area’s famous art deco buildings and culture, and outdoor experiences like golf courses and cycle trails.

Meanwhile, the lifestyle is great for those living there.

“We regard ourselves as being in a traffic jam if there’s a car in front of us at the traffic lights,” Dalton says cheekily.

He says it’s easy to live in “extreme comfort” in a nice home for “probably a third to a half of what you’d pay for it in Auckland”.

With close proximity to golf and other sporting clubs, sophisticated restaurants and pubs, the region is attracting many new residents, Dalton says.

“Just don’t tell too many people what a hell of a good place Hawke’s Bay is, because we don’t want it too crowded,” he says with a laugh.

Published 29 February 2019

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