Kōrero: Regional economies

Whārangi 5. Regional character of the economy, early 2000s

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Population-based sectors in regional economies

Sectors such as education, health and the retail trade have displayed very similar patterns across regions, because their incidence is population-based. But the pattern for tertiary education was more concentrated. In Manawatū 9.4% of the workforce was employed in tertiary education in 2006, compared with 7.2% nationally, because Massey University and other tertiary educational institutions were located there.

Small regions lacking a major hospital naturally registered low on health-sector employment – health workers were 4.8% of the workforce in the King Country in 2006, compared with 8.1% nationally.

Farming, manufacturing and mining

In the early 2000s farming remained important for employment in a number of regions. It accounted for over a quarter of the labour force in the King Country in 2006, and over 15% in the East Coast, Wairarapa, Marlborough, South Canterbury and Southland, compared with 6.8% nationally.

Mining accounted for 3.9% of the West Coast labour force – not a large percentage but nearly 20 times the national average.

Much manufacturing in the early 2000s was primary-product based. It was therefore significant in a number of rural regions, notably Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, South Canterbury and Southland. Wellington had the smallest manufacturing labour force of the main centres – just 6.7% in 2006, compared with Auckland’s 11.3% and Canterbury’s 12.8%.


The accommodation sector was important on the Volcanic Plateau, on the West Coast and in Otago, illustrating the importance of tourism to their economies. In all three regions it accounted for 9–10% of employment in 2006, compared with 5.6% nationally, and in the Queenstown Lakes district, the most visited part of Otago, that figure rose to 17.8%.

Two distinctive cities

In the early 2000s Auckland and Wellington had high concentrations of workers in the information, financial and professional sectors – combined, these accounted for 13% of employment nationally in 2006, but 18.2% in Auckland and 21.3% in Wellington.

But there were marked differences between the two cities. The wholesale trade sector accounted for 7.4% of Auckland’s workforce compared with 5% nationally, reflecting its central role in the import and distribution of goods. In Wellington, the capital city, 10.7% of the workforce was employed in the public administration sector in 2006, compared with 4.1% nationally.

Whereas the combined Wellington urban areas formed a single labour market, Auckland was more segmented. The different industrial compositions of Auckland and the North Shore on the one hand, and Manukau on the other showed:

  • North Shore and Auckland city combined were twice as strongly represented as Manukau in the professional and related sector in 2006 – 13.7% compared with 6.7%
  • Manukau was twice as strongly represented in manufacturing – 15.9% compared with 8.6% in the North Shore and Auckland.

Other cities’ economies

Other major cities – Christchurch, Hamilton and Tauranga – did not have such specialised functions and displayed an industry structure much closer to the national one in the early 2000s, although the importance of the construction industry in Tauranga reflected the city’s rapid growth, including the expansion of its port.

Dunedin diverged markedly from the national profile in education and health, on account of its university and medical school. The two sectors accounted for just over 22.2% of employment in 2006, compared with just over 15% nationally.

Occupation, age and regions

Economic regions had varying age and occupational characteristics in the early 2000s. Wellington and Auckland had a high proportion of professionals, whereas rural regions had very high proportions of labourers. Other categories were fairly evenly distributed.

The most marked difference in age was between North and South Island regions. In the north, 23.7% of the population were aged up to 15 in 2006, compared with 21.0% in the south. The north had 11.2% aged 65 and over, compared with 13.2% in the south.

Ethnicity and regions

Immigrants mostly look for work in cities, particularly the largest, Auckland. In 2006, 19% of Aucklanders were Asian, compared with the national figure of 9.2%. Auckland also had the highest proportion of Pacific peoples – 14.4% compared with 6.9% nationally.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Malcolm McKinnon, 'Regional economies - Regional character of the economy, early 2000s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/regional-economies/page-5 (accessed 19 January 2022)

He kōrero nā Malcolm McKinnon, i tāngia i te 11 Mar 2010