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Economic Growth In Manukau Remains Positive

Economic growth in Manukau in the June quarter was 2.6%, taking the annual rise in gross national product to 3.1% for the year to June. The national growth figure for the three months to June was 2%. This is lower than in preceding years and reflects recent events including the terrorist attacks in the U.S.

More than half the growth came from manufacturing which in turn led to more new jobs and a fall in Manukau's unemployment numbers. Overseas demand for manufactured exports is increasing largely due to the weak New Zealand dollar. The dairy industry is also having a boom year due to high international prices.

Another growth area is transport. Manukau benefits greatly from the presence of Auckland Airport which is a strong job creator. Over the past year there was high growth in tourism with an 11% rise in visitor numbers over the year to August.

But the recent world downturn in tourism following the terrorist attacks is expected to have an impact in New Zealand, with growth much lower than over the past year. There has also been a negative impact from the demise of Qantas New Zealand, and Air New Zealand's financial problems.

Manukau's housing market has made a strong recovery in the three months to August with a 30% rise in the number of building consents compared to a year earlier. Average house prices in Manukau rose 0.1% over the August quarter, while national house prices fell 0.2% and Auckland region prices fell 0.5%. Growth in Manukau's housing market is expected to continue over the coming year.

The commercial real estate market is growing but is expected to slow next year due to the fall in business confidence and uncertainty surrounding the global economy.

Over the June quarter the unemployment rate in Manukau fell to 6.8% from 7.2% in March. This is still high compared to the 5.2% rate in New Zealand as a whole but is a significant improvement and in the year to June the number of registered job seekers dropped by 12.5%. Nonetheless there remains a large pool of job seekers who are poorly skilled and with no qualifications. Manukau consistently has an unemployment rate higher than the national average.

Just under half these job seekers (47%) say they are looking for labouring or unskilled service jobs.

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis says that attitude is a huge problem for the city. "In fact, it's tragic. These people appear to have little ambition for their working lives and are choosing the lowest common denominator when there is a world of opportunity open to them.

"Sadly we have a large pool of people who are virtually unemployable as a result. Our economy has been growing faster than elsewhere in the country with many new businesses starting up. But these employers don't want staff who are unskilled, unqualified or with little recent work experience.

"We need to shift the mindset of aiming low, and we need to get these people to aim higher in life because generally all manner of social problems stem from having low skills and low paid work, including poor housing and health problems.

"When they should be aiming to be doctors, lawyers and scientists, their ambition instead appears to be to get a labouring job or work in a fast food outlet. But there are fewer and fewer of these unskilled jobs and they rarely pay well enough to raise a family. The future trend for Manukau and for New Zealand is to move away from simple manufacturing and low skill industries into more sophisticated fields requiring a highly-skilled workforce on good incomes.

"I am pleased that we are making progress through a variety of education initiatives to raise expectations, encourage aiming high and to forge links between schools and the workforce. But ultimately it's up to the individual to set their sights high and to realise they can be anything they set out to be."


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