The West Coast stretches over 600km from Karamea to Haast - similar in distance as Auckland to Wellington.
Being spread over such a vast area, our region has extremely diverse landscapes – from the Nikau palm covered beaches up north to the glaciers down south. This diversity is also reflected in our economy and how each of our districts have been impacted by the pandemic.
Infometrics’ GDP figures for the December quarter show we are currently a region of extremes, with the Buller District leading New Zealand in economic growth, while Westland is the hardest hit district in the country (equal with Mackenzie District).
For the December 2020 quarter, West Coast GDP fell by 1.7%, compared to a 0.2% increase nationally. Buller’s GDP grew by 7.5%, Grey’s fell by 1.2% and Westland experienced a drop of 11.4%.
Buller’s growth has largely been on the back of strong primary industries - dairy farming and mining. It has also bucked the trend with an increase in tourism spending. For the year to December 2020, Buller had a 4.6% rise in visitor expenditure.
At the other end of our region, the experience has been vastly different. Visitor spending in Westland has fallen by 28.4%, due to the impact border closures are having on the previously thriving Glacier Country region.
Given the devastating impact COVID-19 is having, DWC trustees have committed $5m towards a package to help protect the social and economic fabric of Glacier Country.
It is an incredibly difficult time for those affected, so we are grateful for the support the national media has given by shining a spotlight on the situation and giving voice to those in the communities.
On Thursday, there was a welcome announcement by Minister Kiri Allan of a $45m Predator Free project in South Westland. This project is expected to create over 50 jobs in the area over five years.
Last week it was also announced that the Provincial Development Unit has granted Buller District Council $2 million to get the Kawatiri whitebait project up and running with commercial partner New Zealand Whitebait. The $7m project aims to produce up to 100 tonnes of whitebait a year and is expected to employ more than 30 people.
The Greymouth Port is also enjoying significant investment, with $7m allocated for dredging, new wharves, and an expanded slipway and the $17.9m Pounamu Pathway project is under development.
Despite the current challenges, things are happening. There are exciting developments taking place across our diverse region, which will create opportunities and help build further resilience into our economy.
The Glacier Country community gathers to host John Campbell from TVNZ Breakfast.