For the first time in eight years all 14 regions in New Zealand reported growth in economic activity in the December quarter, according to the ANZ Bank' quarterly regional trends survey.
In terms of annual economic activity growth it was the first time in two years that all of the regions in the country had seen positive annual growth.
"The Canterbury rebuild dominates the year-on-year growth profile," ANZ economist Steve Edwards said.
"The rate of increase in Canterbury’s economy is twice that of the second-placed Nelson- Marlborough. The nationwide measure of regional economic activity increased 2.5 percent in the 2012 calendar year. The previous time the nationwide growth was this strong was just prior to the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, when the economy was recovering from the downturn induced by the Global Financial Crisis."
Edwards said the North Island economy grew 1.9 percent in the twelve months to December 2012, while the South Island, led by Canterbury, recorded annual economic growth of 4.9 percent.
In terms of the quarterly increases in economic activity, Edwards said Gisborne and Hawkes Bay recorded the strongest increases of 3% or better.
"Waikato, Manawatu-Whanganui, and Otago recorded an increase between 2 and 3%. Nelson-Marlborough and Wellington trailed the field, with quarterly increases in economic activity of around 1%.
"The nationwide measure of regional economic activity increased 1.8% in the final three months of 2012. The North Island economy expanded 1.9% while the South Island economy grew 1.6%. Stronger gains were noted in real estate market statistics, retail spending, car registrations, guest nights, and building consents. These were partially offset by weaker employment data," Edwards said.
He said business confidence was slightly weaker compared with the September quarter.
"Manawatu-Whanganui recorded the highest level of confidence, while sentiment in Waikato eased to a 3½-year low."
Consumer confidence improved in most regions, with Wellington topping the survey. It was followed by Auckland and Hawkes Bay/Gisborne.
Retail sales posted strong gains across most of the regions, while house sales lifted in all regions except Gisborne and Hawkes’s Bay. Manawatu-Whanganui recorded the largest gain.
"Dwelling approvals were up in the North Island but down in the South Island, Edwards said. The central North Island recorded the strongest gains, while all regions in the South Island except Otago reported declines.
Commercial building permits lifted strongly in the eastern parts of the North Island and fell in all South Island regions apart from Southland.
Employment fell in most regions. The exceptions were Auckland, Canterbury and Otago. The unemployment rate improved as a consequence of more people leaving the workforce. Auckland’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.2 in September to 7.4 percent in December, Edwards said.