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Local businesses “substantially” more confident and positive

Businesses’ views on New Zealand’s economic outlook are increasingly optimistic, according to a survey by the Wellington Regional Chambers of Commerce and Business Central.

“Overall, business respondents across central New Zealand show a net 7 per cent of businesses expect the economy to be better in 12 months’ time, a pleasing rebound from the negative net 12 per cent recorded in the previous quarter,” says Wellington Chamber and Business Central Chief Executive John Milford.

“The new year is starting positively as businesses’ confidence in their own prospects as well as our regional economy improved substantially.”

Expectations for the regional economy were net 32 per cent positive (11 per cent in September), and for businesses’ own situation net 47 per cent positive (38 per cent).

The quarterly survey was sent to Wellington Regional Chambers of Commerce and Business Central members across central New Zealand – from Gisborne and New Plymouth down to Nelson – in December and received 712 responses.

“Members are still facing staff shortages, with 25 per cent of all respondents stating they remain a barrier for them,” says Mr Milford. “Finding skilled labour is a far greater concern than the other stand-out issues of central government policy (12 per cent), and compliance costs and financing issues (10 per cent).

“In addition, concerns across the Wellington region’s economy are strongly focused on having adequate infrastructure, with almost one-third of respondents identifying this issue as holding back regional growth.”

Wellington Regional Chambers of Commerce members were asked questions regarding specific transport infrastructure projects, with all receiving at least two-thirds support: Wairarapa commuter rail services had 86 per cent support, the Otaki to Levin expressway 82 per cent, Melling interchange 76 per cent, and Petone to Grenada connection 68 per cent.

“This demonstrates businesses’ strong desire for action. Upgrades across public transport and roading networks have been on hold while consensus is sought on the region’s strategic transport direction. But announcements have been delayed and businesses are now concerned about it affecting economic growth.

“Central and local government leaders need to come to agreement on a Let’s Get Wellington Moving package that substantially improves peoples’ ability to get around and provides a positive boost to our economy. The big question for businesses is what will it cost to the ratepayer and the funding methodology.”

Business Central members received additional questions on health and safety changes in the workplace.

“Our results show businesses are confidently improving the health and safety of their workforce,” says Mr Milford. “Three-quarters of respondents say health and safety outcomes have improved over the past three years. Importantly, these improvements have not come at the expense of productivity, with the majority of respondents saying it has stayed the same.”

The Wellington Regional Chambers of Commerce & Business Central Business Confidence Survey was conducted over a 16-day period between 5 and 16 December. The next survey will take place in March.