Eastern Bay residents and visitors are opening their wallets as local business and consumer confidence runs high.

Recent electronic transaction data, reported by the market research company Marketview, shows that the Opotiki District cumulative annual spend is up 2.4% on 2019, while Whakatane District is up 11.2% on average over last year since lockdown ended. Karl Gradon, General Manager, Strategy, at Toi EDA says that this shows real confidence in the economy.

“I think most of us would agree that this has been a tough six months for the Eastern Bay feeling the impact of both the Whakaari/White Island eruption and Covid-19 back to back. We know that some sectors are hurting from the national lockdown and we know that many businesses have scaled right back or have pivoted in a new direction.

“As you’d expect, international credit card spend has fallen dramatically – the Whakatāne District has seen a decrease of over 30% in year-to-date spend. However, the domestic market has really stepped up and supported local businesses and it shows in the stats,” Mr Gradon said.

The Discover Our Local campaign, which has been led by the district councils, EBOP Chamber of Commerce, Toi EDA and EPIC, in partnership with the local radio stations 1XX and SunFM, has proven to be very successful in attracting locals and domestic visitors alike to the many experiences across the region.           

The sectors in the Eastern Bay that have seen the best performance have been the food and pharmacy sector and the home and recreation sectors. Since lockdown ended, there has been a significant surge in both clothing and department store retail (up nearly 25% in Whakatane) and hospitality and tourism (up 12.5% in Whakatane).*. 

“Our downtown retail precincts are performing well and the feedback from many retailers and cafes that I have spoken to is that they have had their post-lockdown expectations exceeded. People are out on the streets in strong numbers and it is proving to be a sustained increase on spend compared with the same period last year. That’s not to say there isn’t still a lot of water to go under the bridge and a hard road for some ahead, but there are reasons to be optimistic,” Mr Gradon said.

Mr Gradon said that the rebound since lockdown is due to a number of factors. In particular, the work that the community has put in over the past two years to secure Provincial Growth Fund investment, together with the remarkably resilient primary sector in the region.

“It looks like the Eastern Bay is in a position to slingshot out of this current crisis in a relatively strong position when compared with many parts of the country,” Mr Gradon said.

While there has been an increase in job seekers in the Eastern Bay as a result of COVID19, there has also been significant opportunity to redeploy skilled workers to the growth sectors that are performing well, such as high value horticulture and construction sectors. 

“Toi EDA will continue to work with employers, social services and training providers to ensure a clear pipeline from the right training to a wide range of employment opportunities. Having a clear workforce development plan is vital to ensuring the current boom in the Eastern Bay is sustained that the whole community continues to grow and thrive,” Mr Gradon said. .