EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN CANTERBURY
5. SUB-REGIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
- Most of regional Canterbury was not directly affected by the earthquakes.
- There have been economic gains for regional Canterbury that have resulted from an influx of Christchurch people.
- There are seasonal work opportunities throughout the region, with some agricultural businesses desperate for low-skilled workers. The lack of workers is seen as a major constraint on the sector.
- Irrigation developments will play a key role in expanding agriculture and related jobs.
- There is evidence of developments outside of agriculture, such as in tourism, that will grow the Canterbury economy.
- The rebuild will create jobs throughout the region, but this could heighten already existing skill shortages, hampering economic growth.
This section focuses on regional Canterbury, specifically North Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, South Canterbury, Selwyn District, Kaikoura District, and Mackenzie District. Representatives from Economic Development Agencies (EDA's) or economic development officers associated with local councils were interviewed.
One common theme that emerged was the central role of agriculture to the fortunes of the region, and in particular the important economic benefits that increased irrigation could generate. It was also notable that some Canterbury areas had experienced population gains after the earthquakes that have benefited local businesses.
5.1 North Canterbury
The North Canterbury economy is predominantly agricultural, with some manufacturing, winemaking, tourism, and forestry throughout the Waimakariri and Hurunui Districts.
North Canterbury was more affected by the September 2010 earthquake than the February 2011 event. Initial job losses in hospitality and retail have been balanced by growth in these two sectors in recent months.
The earthquakes have had some surprising impacts on the North Canterbury economy. The popular tourist destination, Hanmer Springs, experienced many people seeking refuge from Christchurch. Local houses are selling quickly to Christchurch buyers, and there may have been as much as a 30% increase in Rangiora's population, which has meant retail and hospitality businesses have flourished. However, the cancellation of the Rugby World Cup games in Christchurch is likely to have had a big impact on international tourist numbers.
Currently, there are plenty of opportunities for low-skilled workers in the wine industry to pick grapes and prune vines. There were as many as 300 workers needed at the peak of 2010. While there are more locals filling these roles now, wineries have been resorting to sending mini buses to Christchurch for workers. Employers in the wine industry are flexible as to hours worked, and this is likely to encourage local parents with childcare commitments to work in this industry.
A major housing and shopping development in Amberley is due to begin. The associated supermarket, retail, and restaurant complex is expected to create up to 200 jobs.
Agriculture will continue to be a key industry. Irrigation developments are likely to shape the region's future prosperity. Dairying will grow, but there will be increased diversification of farming. Residential settlements, such as Pegasus, are likely to bring many more people into the region. A major wine village at Waipara, complete with conference facilities and a wine school, is also proposed.
5.2 Mid Canterbury
The Mid Canterbury economy is predominantly centred on agribusiness, with tourism secondary. While dairying is a key economic component, the region accounts for approximately half of New Zealand's arable production and two-thirds of seed production, with a strong vegetable processing industry. Mid Canterbury is also home to an international ski field, and a smaller but not insignificant manufacturing sector.
The strength of Mid Canterbury's food production meant the recession was not felt as it was in other parts of the country, and the region has maintained low unemployment levels. In the short-term, tourism development and increased manufacturing should increase the demand for workers, ranging from factory workers to tradespeople.
The earthquake rebuild will provide opportunities for the area's tradespeople, but this will increase local skills shortages, and may see lower-skilled farm workers attracted to labouring roles in Christchurch. This could have an adverse effect on local production. As a result, more tradespeople will be needed, and possibly more low-skilled farm workers. There are also serious shortages of highly-skilled workers, particularly General Practitioners.
High level agri-tech, food production, and tourism are likely to expand, creating opportunities for higher skilled workers, particularly those with a scientific background.
5.3 South Canterbury
The aftermath of the 22 February 2011 earthquake is having a range of unanticipated benefits for the Timaru economy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that as many as 2,000 people from Christchurch have relocated to Timaru. Some Christchurch businesses are working remotely from Timaru and as far south as Waimate, particularly businesses in the IT sector. Several nationwide retailers have relocated staff from Christchurch to Timaru.
Many local trades-people are commuting to Christchurch to work on the earthquake rebuild, with some of these workers staying in Christchurch from Monday to Friday. While it is mainly trades like plumbing that are seeing this weekday exodus, it is likely that carpenters will also be attracted to Christchurch once the rebuild intensifies.
While agriculture is the dominant industry in South Canterbury, with dairy generating over $330 million to the local economy, there are a number of other industries that are doing well. In the manufacturing sector, a major warehouse construction project will significantly boost the district's storage, particularly cold storage. Dominion Breweries has upgraded its brewery and is taking on local staff. The construction sector is benefitting from the building of the Caroline Bay Aquatic Centre, due for completion in July 2012. This project has absorbed local tradespeople. Retail is doing reasonably well, with some businesses attracting Christchurch shoppers, such as Ballantynes department store, which is bussing shoppers to its renowned sales. Local freezing works are major employers of lower-skilled workers. Recent upgrades have meant a 10-month freezing work season is now possible, and this has provided much more employment for freezing workers, who had previously worked a 6-month season. The local salmon farming industry is also growing.
Agriculture will remain the mainstay of the South Canterbury economy, and if water issues are resolved the potential for the industry to expand is enormous. Work is underway on the Rangitata South Irrigation Scheme, which will create jobs for locals, with other major schemes proposed. Manufacturing will increase after recent zoning changes have opened up more land for manufacturing. This may enable Christchurch manufacturers to extend their operations, and is likely to attract manufacturers from other regions who are attracted by potentially lower production costs. Niche foodstuff production is seen as a growth sub-sector on the back of increased recognition of a distinct South Canterbury brand. Construction will benefit significantly from earthquake reconstruction, and other developments such as the Temuka North residential housing project that will see 220 new homes built.
5.4 Selwyn District
Selwyn District is New Zealand's best performing Territorial Authority, with the fastest growing population and a ranking of second for employment and GDP growth. Selwyn has a highly-skilled workforce and comparatively low unemployment. Over half of local residents work in Christchurch, with approximately 10% in Christchurch's CBD. However, despite this, there has not been a noticeable increase in the number of unemployment benefit recipients since February.
Post 4 September 2010, tourism has been the most affected industry, although it is not a leading employer in the district. Significantly, agriculture is expanding, led by dairying, and there is a demand for farm workers. Agribusiness and associated services are performing the best. The seed sector is also doing well.
The rebuild could potentially provide many job opportunities for Selwyn workers. Demolition work has already absorbed lots of young local males. Local engineering firms could play an active role in supporting the reconstruction effort. The comparatively large local construction industry is also looking to the rebuild to provide stimulus on the back of a low number of residential consents. It has recently built heavily in townships such as Rolleston, demonstrating the sector's ability to undertake significant construction projects.
The earthquakes' impact on seasonal workers is still to be seen. However, more opportunities for locals may emerge for seasonal work over summer. Many farmers had relied on seasonal fruit and vegetable pickers from Aranui in Christchurch, a large number of whom live in the 'red zone'. Whether this supply of labour is easily mobilised again remains unknown, but there will be prospects for locals to fill these roles.
In the future, water-related jobs such as dairy farming and irrigation systems supply and support are expected to grow significantly. Tourism is also seen as an industry likely to flourish.
In the Kaikoura District, agriculture is the best performing industry and is likely to maintain that status in the future. Tourism remains a leading industry, but it has been suffering since 2007, despite a short boom after 22 February 2011.
Several developments could provide a significant boost to the comparatively small Kaikoura labour market. An 80 bedroom hotel with conference facilities, a modernised museum, and an aquatic recreational facility are possible developments that would create construction jobs, but also longer-term employment for locals. Tourism's future successes are closely linked to these developments.
5.6 Mackenzie District
The relatively small Mackenzie District labour market, which is home to approximately 4,000 people, is dominated by two industries, with tourism and agriculture each employing about 30% of the local workforce. Agriculture is benefitting from strong wool and milk prices, and tourism is also doing very well.
Much of the work in the district is seasonal, offering opportunities for young people or lower-skilled workers who are prepared to travel. In the short-term, a new supermarket at Tekapo will provide opportunities. Tourism is likely to continue to flourish, spearheaded by developments to ski fields and the renowned Alpine Springs recreation facility in Tekapo. Agriculture will intensify, particularly if water-use issues are clarified.
 Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL), Regional Performance Indicators 2010.