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February 2021 News Update

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Kia ora koutou,

I hope you managed to spend some time with whānau and friends over the Christmas/New Year period, are still enjoying our Bay summer and ready to tackle the opportunities 2021 will bring.

Cities and towns across the wider Bay of Plenty region seem to have been buzzing with kiwis exploring their own backyard this summer and we’re looking forward to seeing how that translates into real numbers on the ground.

In other ‘number’ announcements, the latest unemployment figures released last week appear to have caught many analysts by surprise, with the national unemployment rate falling to 4.9 percent in the December quarter, down from 5.3 percent in the previous quarter. While there was a quarterly decrease, the total number of unemployed stands at 141,000, which is still higher than a year ago. We have a round-up of various economic commentaries and statistics further in this panui.

Another key announcement in the past week has been the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice for Government in order to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission’s conclusion is that there are “achievable, affordable and socially acceptable pathways” for Aotearoa to reduce its emissions to help achieve a better future. In their words…no emission reduction is too small – or too soon.

The release of this draft advice is timely and relevant for the Bay of Connection’s key focus areas, and we’ll be incorporating this in our discussions as we finalise our work plan for this year. You can read more about the Climate Change Commission’s report below.

Finally, in case you missed it late last year, Tim Hurdle was appointed Chair of the Bay of Connections Leadership Group in December. A brief note from Tim on his appointment and 2021 vision is below.

Tim and I have begun meeting with stakeholders across the region to get a sense of priorities and to socialise Bay of Connections’ draft work plan for the year. These meetings are incredibly valuable to understand how Bay of Connections can best support local and sub-regional initiatives, and identify areas of regional focus.

On behalf of the Bay of Connections Leadership Group and operational team, I wish you all the best for 2021 and we look forward to working with you for the benefit of our region.

Ngā mihi,
Dean Howie.

Message from our new Chair

Tēnā koutou and Happy New Year.

Late last year I was appointed as the new Chair of the Bay of Connections Leadership Group, following the resignation of Andy Blair. Andy has been part of Bay of Connections for the past eight years and is focusing on her global geothermal commitments.

I have lived in the Western Bay of Plenty for the past two years and have been a Leadership Group member since its inception in August 2019. I have a varied commercial background specialising in infrastructure, strategy and economic advisory services, and bring a genuine passion for an economy that lifts living standards for all, across the Bay.

I have seen how diverse and capable the Leadership Group is and I’m excited to work alongside them to support our shared vision of a better future for our communities, whānau and people.

Dean and I have been out and about connecting with our councils, economic development agencies and regional tourism organisations to find out their priorities. We’ve heard many of the same challenges and aspirations for our region.

Bay of Connections is looking to progress cross-cutting opportunities that will ultimately lead to long-term positive outcomes for the wider region. This involves forming alliances and partnerships across key business, industry and communities across the region to unleash innovation and productivity. These connections and networks are a vital part of creating a prosperous future for the Bay of Connections region.

If you have any questions or would like to chat, please reach out to me through

Tim Hurdle.


Building a picture by numbers

The tail end of 2020 provided a mixed bag of data with some signs of positivity, including the economy bouncing back strongly from recession in the third quarter.

But it is clear that a level of cautious optimism remains in place, with regions extremely conscious of the pending close to the summer season, bringing with it a reduction in the number of backyard explorers and its associated impact on tourism, retail and hospitality.

The timing of tourism data releases means we will not have an accurate picture of the summer tourism season in the wider Bay of Plenty for another month or so, but we will distribute any updates before then via our Facebook and Linked In pages.

According to the ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey undertaken in January, consumer confidence continues to climb slowly but steadily back to the historical average.

After tracking above 2019 levels since New Zealand moved to COVID alert level 2 in mid-May, consumer spending eased during November. The fortnight leading up to Christmas saw spending above levels for the same period in 2019, however this softened again as we entered the new year.

Labour Market

Unemployment figures released by Statistics New Zealand last week showed a decrease in the national unemployment rate in the December quarter to 4.9 percent, down from 5.3 percent in the previous quarter. December’s unexpected low rate is still higher than the 4.1 percent national unemployment rate reported at the same time last year.

The Bay of Plenty unemployment rate remained at 5.6 percent between the September and December quarters – still ahead of the 4.7 percent reported in the same period last year.

Our region’s results reflect Stats NZ’s assessment that while some sectors are showing strong jobs growth – such as construction – others continue to be impacted by COVID-19, particularly tourism.

Labour shortages continue to be a significant issue, with a net 43 percent businesses reporting difficulty finding skilled labour, as recorded by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research. With borders expected to remain closed throughout 2021, skills shortages will remain a pressing issue for employers and key industries for the foreseeable future.

Bay of Plenty Job Seeker Support recipient numbers increased in December 2020 after recording decreases in October and November. The Ministry of Social Development reports that Job Seeker numbers traditionally increase in December and January each year as fewer roles are advertised, more people finish their education and some parents having greater childcare commitments in the school holidays.


Access to affordable housing continues to be an issue across New Zealand, with the wider Bay of Plenty being no exception. While December data shows a brief respite from month-on-month increases in median house prices and average weekly rents, industry experts and economic commentators expect these to continue their upward trend in 2021.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand reports a national 19.3 percent increase in median house prices from December 2019 – December 2020 across New Zealand, with the Bay of Plenty median sale price up 13.4 percent to $720,000 and up 12.8 percent to $615,000 in Taupō.

A record number of 11,291 new residential builds were consented at the end of the December quarter – the highest since December 1973. The value of consents also rose during this period.

In the Bay of Plenty, new residential consents increased nearly 20 percent in the December quarter, to 662.

The Government recently released its Public Housing Plan, setting out public housing supply intentions for the next four years. The Bay of Plenty has been identified as a priority area, with supply being targeted toward Rotorua and Tauranga, with additional supply for Whakatāne.


Low Carbon Circular Economy update

While many of us were enjoying the long Anniversary weekend, the Climate Change Commission released its draft action plan for Government, with its advice and recommendations to reduce greenhouse emissions.

The report calls for “transformational and lasting change across society and the economy” in response to the climate crisis, and recommends the setting of three new emission-reduction targets:

- an average reduction of 2 percent emissions each year between 2022 and 2025
- a 17 percent reduction each year between 2025 and 2030
- a 36 percent each year between 2030 and 2035

The current emissions targets are:

- to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030
- an unconditional target to reduce our emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2020
- a conditional target to reduce New Zealand’s emissions to between 10 percent and 20 percent below our 1990 levels by 2020
- to reduce our emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The wider Bay of Plenty region is well placed to contribute to these targets, with ready access to geothermal, biomass and solar energy options, giving the region a national and international advantage.

The region also has pilot projects and plans in place for low carbon transport solutions, a well-established forestry sector which can offset emissions and provide alternative biofuel options, and waste minimisation/circular economy initiatives through the aquaculture sector – just as three examples.

The Commission’s advice clearly aligns to our four key Bay of Connections focus areas, including exploring how the region can transition to a low carbon economy.

The Commission’s draft advice is now open for consultation until 14 March and the final version is set to be released before 31 May.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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