Saturday, 19 March 2011

Nelson - Employment Likely Static for 2011

Te Tau Ihu (Nelson/Tasman/Marlborough) and West Coast has a low unemployment rate at 3.9% (DoL, 2010). Many of the fully unemployed in the region are on the West Coast, with seasonally unemployed evenly spread through Te Tau Ihu.

Employees in Nelson/Tasman (DoL, 2010) predominantly consist of 13% agriculture, forestry and fishing, 13% social and healthcare workers, 12% manufacturing, 12% retailers and 8% hospitality. Compare this to Auckland, where the top five employee groups are 12% manufacturing, 10% retail, 10% scientists, 10% social and healthcare and 9% educators; quite a different mix.

Nelson’s key employment market of agriculture, forestry and fishing drives the region. Nelson does not have the research depth that Auckland does, but the steeper retirement bulge in Nelson requires more elder-care. Auckland’s tourism sector is of less economic importance than it is in Nelson.

Whereas New Zealand’s Maori population is 14%, European 70% and other 16%, Nelson’s population mix consists of 8%, 89% and 3% (Statistics NZ, 2006) – far more mono-cultural than the rest of the country. Nelson has an eight Iwi constituency, which co-exist relatively quietly via two main communal Marae. There is very little Pacific Island presence in Nelson. There are a number of international students – largely Chinese and Indian – who study in Nelson at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and PTEs , some of whom stay, post-graduation.

The Department of Labour feels that our labour market is continuing to soften (DoL, 2010). So, with an eye to enhancing my understanding of our region’s workforce, I asked some employers their views about the New Zealand labour market, technology change and work.

The employers’ collective views on our New Zealand labour market were that it was definitely below average, but the impact was felt least in manufacturing and most in tourism. In the latter, it was difficult to obtain skilled seasonal staff. The professions had noticed a broad-scale redundancy trend, but felt in some industries it was now reversing.

This theme of views continued with technology; which was most positively embraced in manufacturing and least in tourism, with the professions seeing both ends of the spectrum. Technology-wise New Zealand’s manufacturing industries are turning more and more to computerisation, automation and mechanisation to drive down operational cost, allow 24 hour processing and to remove duplication, error, labour cost, risk and insurance levies. However, this cost-reduction model is also being embraced in accounting with a number of firms off-shoring processing to India. Tourism operators are unable to take advantage of a cheaper cost model, and so was being increasingly squeezed by customer demand for reduced cost, and increased demand for higher employee remuneration.

NZIER's (2010) predictions for NZ’s coming quarter is bleak, with an economic recovery reversal until mid-2011. All respondents saw the national economy as flat in the short-term. With regard to Nelson, the professions saw Nelson as recovering more quickly than many other regions because of the diversity of activity, while manufacturing and tourism felt it would be at least another year before recovery commenced.

  • DoL (29 June 2010). Labour Market Update - June 2009. NZ: Department of Labour. Retrieved 2 December 2010 from
  • NZIER (30 November 2010). Quarterly Predictions December 2010 - media release. Retrieved 2 December 2010 from
  • Statistics NZ (2010). Table Builder. Retrieved 2 December 2010 from


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