NC businesses employ more and eye investment

SHARE

By RACHEL MACDONALD

North Canterbury businesses are employing more people and eyeing greater investment, despite business confidence slumping to a five-year low.

Two North Canterbury business leaders feel the region can look forward to a positive future as regeneration work approaches completion and companies rebuild.

That said, they agreed with Enterprise North Canterbury and Research First’s recently released October Business Opinion Survey, which showed the fall in business confidence.

The survey shows that business confidence in the region has been on the decline since last year. Currently, only 14 percent of surveyed businesses expect the business situation to improve in the next six months, with half expecting no change.

On the flip-side, the survey shows that businesses have mostly increased sales and output, have grown employment, and say they intend to increase their investments in the region.

Rangiora Promotions chairman Ross Ditmer targets the bigger picture, saying business confidence has gone from high to an all-time low across the board, and North Canterbury is simply reflecting this.

He observes that, like the rest of Canterbury, Rangiora has had it tough, but feels it has turned a corner.

“Retail spend is down, but again that’s a nationwide trend across all sectors, and business-wise things are actually looking positive here.

“Both Rangiora and Southbrook are buzzing. There’s very little vacant retail space available, and things are finally moving ahead on Red Lion corner and with the courthouse,” he says.

“I think we should be upbeat about what has been achieved in the town. Just take the new council-installed lights in the trees, for example. We haven’t had Christmas lights here in years.

“They were ready to flick the switch for the Christmas street celebration last
Friday night, and they’re there to stay.”

Enterprise North Canterbury business support manager Miles Dalton takes a
similar view. While the confidence statistics may appear bleak, it’s not all
bad news.

“This lack of confidence is not reflected in the investment levels, which
are steady, and employment of new staff, which has increased,” he says.

“People tend to be pessimistic about what is to come, while at the same time
preparing for growth. Overall, North Canterbury is broadly in line with the
patterns of the rest of New Zealand.

“We are seeing better profitability than we were a year ago and, although
we are having difficulties in finding staff, we seem to be finding it easier than the rest of New Zealand.”

In terms of the number of businesses currently operating in North Canterbury,
the latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show that despite 654 new
businesses in the Waimakariri District and 165 in the Hurunui District, total
business numbers have reduced, compared to June 2017.

There are now 6429 businesses in the Waimakariri District and 2532 in the Hurunui District.

Trish Coleman, of Mumma T Trading Lounge in Amberley says being in
business is always going to be tough, and that’s when you have to innovate.

“We’ve gone through four years of drought, and then the Waiau/Kaikoura
earthquakes, but we’ve made it this far.

And going by what I see up here, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom,” she
says. “We’ve got a really cool retail and service collective set up in Amberley, which is giving the place a real buzz.

“It’s a collaboration of well-run businesses, which refer visitors to the
town among each other. It’s a co-operative model, not a competitive one,
and we need to retain that mentality to keep things moving ahead. Word of
mouth is our best marketing tool, and the whole idea is seeing visitors staying
longer in town, rather than just passing through.

“That’s one reason we now have two late nights as well.

“Importantly, too, all the town’s enterprises and the fantastic wineries in
the region are really well supported by our locals, which is so essential to our
sustainability.”