Farming keeps Covid at bay

Waipā’s primary industry is continuing to buffer the district from the economic fall-out of Covid-19.

In a quarterly report to the Waipā District Counicl this week, Wellington firm Infometrics said Waipā continued to hold up well against the global pandemic.

There was a modest 0.5 per cent increase in GDP across the district for the 12 months to December 2020, compared to a 1.2 per cent decrease for the Waikato region and a 2.6 per cent decrease nationally.

Senior economist Brad Olsen said while agriculture and construction activity in Waipā had been resilient to the worst of Covid impacts so far, the economic pain was not evenly spread.

“Waipā farmers and growers are still exporting and often spend those returns locally which helps explain why consumer spending figures are slightly up in Waipā, unlike everywhere else. Households continue to back local business which has supported local economic momentum,” he said.

“Around 14 per cent of people in Waipā are employed in the primary sector; that’s nearly three times as high as the national average.

“And unlike many other businesses, most primary industries in Waipā could continue to operate during alert level 3 and 4 lockdowns which had a big impact,” he said.

“That’s great news for the district. However, as Covid starts really hurting across the globe, we’re likely to see demand for some export products, including food products, weaken. That will lead to a gradual softening in our export performance and will have a direct impact locally.  So let’s not kid ourselves everything is rosy going forward.”

The impacts of Covid were being felt more by some than others, with those working in the tourism and events sectors hit hard, he said. Over the last year, 552 more Waipa people sought job-seeker support, a significant 53 per cent increase on the previous year and above the national average of 44 per cent.

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