25 Jun 2013

Unitary Plan fears knocking confidence, says survey

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Written by: Christopher Adams
Published: The New Zealand Herald – 25 June 2013

Concern about Auckland’s draft Unitary Plan may be keeping a lid on economic confidence in the region, a survey suggests.

The latest Westpac McDermott Miller Regional Economic Confidence survey found a net 24 per cent of households were expecting good economic times in the coming year, up from a net 16 per cent in March.

The national average was a net 25 per cent of households expecting good times ahead, while in Christchurch – where the rebuild of the city is gathering steam – a net 51 per cent of respondents were confident about the prospects for the economy.

“If anything, we were surprised not to see economic confidence pick up further,” said Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens. “Concerns around the draft Unitary Plan may be reining in economic optimism, just as they may be holding back housing turnover.”

The Unitary Plan, the Auckland Council’s blueprint for growth management, will replace the 12 existing district and regional plans and govern issues such as what can be built and where.

Feedback from the public was accepted on the draft plan up until the end of last month.

Westpac senior economist Felix Delbruck said confidence was relatively high until recently in Auckland.

“It’s the centre of population growth, with a strongly rising housing market and improving labour market,” he said. “So it leaves you a little bit puzzled why [economic confidence] might have stalled a little bit.”

In a separate survey, the Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Index showed confidence in Auckland was almost unchanged in June compared with March and sat just above the national average.

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