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Waikato Businesses Voice Expectations For 2024

Survey results released today show Waikato businesspeople have increased confidence in their business prospects and are seeking policy certainty to enable growth.

The Waikato Business Sentiment survey, undertaken twice annually by regional economic development agency Te Waka, recorded a rebound in business confidence to 45% last month. This is a return to November 2022 levels, following a dip to 33% in April.

Conducted while New Zealanders waited for their new government to be formed, Te Waka CEO Fiona Carrick says the results capture local businesses’ hopes for change.

“New Zealanders voted for change. These results show that the promise of that change sparked increased business confidence and hope for the future prosperity of both the Waikato and Aotearoa at large,” she says.

However, 44% of respondents see political uncertainty as a barrier to growth, the third most significant barrier behind inflation (51%) and skills shortages (46%).

“The next question will be whether the change New Zealanders voted for is delivered. We’re sure the Waikato business community will be watching closely to see its concerns addressed and enabling policy put in place to harness the growth opportunities in our region,” Carrick says.

Collecting data that can be segmented by sector and district, and to highlight Māori and Pasifika businesses, the Waikato Business Sentiment Survey results show distinct pockets of confidence throughout the region.

Pasifika businesses hold higher-than-average expectations of growth in the next 12 months, with 77% expressing optimism compared to the respondent average of 54%. This segment reported strong profit results too, with 47% logging a profit increase in the past 12 months, surpassing the 36% respondent average.

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Waikato Pacific Business Network Chair Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau says Pasifika businesses are becoming more visible across the Waikato marketplace.

“Increased business confidence is surely a good indicator of the Waikato region fast becoming a favourable destination to do business for our Pacific peoples. Families migrating from the larger cities to settle here will be further evidence of this,” she says.

The survey results also indicate shifts in the labour market, with increased availability of skilled workers.

Grant Johnson, CEO of Cambridge-based online website builder Rocketspark, says, “We’re recruiting at present and the number of applicants is significantly higher than what we’ve seen for comparable roles in the past.”

Despite a tough year that saw 71% of construction businesses cut staff, those in the sector remain positive about the local economy’s prospects over the next 12 months.

“The Waikato’s land availability and transport network connections make it an attractive proposition for manufacturing and logistics businesses looking to move down from Auckland for example, or to establish themselves in New Zealand,” says Leonard Gardner, Director at Hamilton-based Foster Construction Group.

“Businesses taking advantage of opportunities like this will lead to growth across the board, providing positivity both commercially and residentially in construction.”

Carrick says the survey results show a region with a breadth of business activity.

“We know from experience that some sectors of our economy fare better than others during economic downturns. However, our region’s diversity of activity and strength in key areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction and freight contribute to its overall resilience.

“Maintaining a region-wide view of priorities and growth opportunities is important, particularly as conversations about regional deals gather momentum. There is significant opportunity to ensure long-term strategic investment to build resilience, enable growth, and improve wellbeing for us all.”

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