Govt needs to recognise & support SC more as a major contributor to NZ economy

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Published: 26 Apr 2023

A new report has highlighted the significant importance of South Canterbury agriculture to New Zealand and makes a clear argument for more Government investment in the region.

The report, The contribution of primary sector exports from Timaru and South Canterbury to New Zealand, was commissioned from regional economist Benje Patterson by Economic Development Agency, Venture Timaru.

It shows that food and fibre exports from South Canterbury totalled $3.9 billion and, despite the region only having 1.2% of New Zealand’s population, accounted for approximately 7.3% of New Zealand’s total food and fibre exports.

Venture Timaru Chief Executive Nigel Davenport said that the research confirmed this region was contributing significantly to New Zealand’s export economy and this needs to be substantially better recognised and supported by central government than is currently the case.

“Food and fibre exports have grown rapidly. Over the five years to 2022, the value of food and fibre exports from South Canterbury climbed 82% from an estimated $2.1 billion in 2017 to $3.9 billion in 2022,” he said.

“South Canterbury is home to the most diverse range of food processors and manufacturers in a geographically close location than anywhere else in the country who, along with their suppliers and associated servicing industries, are an integral part of NZ inc.

“We punch well above our weight in terms of our contribution to New Zealand’s total food and fibre exports, particularly when one considers the region’s relatively small population.”

Timaru District Mayor Nigel Bowen said that despite the district’s outsized contribution to the national balance of trade, support from Government didn’t necessarily follow.

“Our powerhouse agricultural sector provides significant income to New Zealand, but much of this production requires good infrastructure to meet its potential.

“Conservative estimates show that heavy vehicle movements on South Canterbury’s State Highways alone contributes $35 million to the Government through Road User Charges.

“Yet while population based funding is delivering major highway upgrades to our cities, we’re still dealing with one lane bridges on some of our major routes.

“South Canterbury already delivers massive benefits to New Zealand. In an environment where we’re seeing record balance of payments deficits, our Government needs to be investing in productive and high performing export sectors of the economy.”

Calculations using Waka Kotahi data – based on odometer readings at certificate of fitness assessments – shows there were 79.7 million vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by heavy vehicles on state highways in South Canterbury in 2022, which is equivalent to about 3.2% of all heavy VKT nationally on state highways.

RUC generated for the government by South Canterbury’s heavy VKT share was estimated to be in the order of $35 million in 2022 (out of $1.1 billion of heavy RUC collected nationally).

Timaru’s PrimePort also plays a major part in this economic success, with Statistics New Zealand data showing that $1.1 billion of exports from the port in 2021, 99% of which were food and fibre products.

The report can be downloaded here.

Last updated: 26 Apr 2023