Key talks up economy despite gloomy outlook

John Key (Simon Wong/3 News)
John Key (Simon Wong/3 News)

By 3 News online staff

West Coasters remain optimistic, despite a gloomy prediction for the economy and fears the struggle is about to get worse.

Westpac's quarterly outlook says unemployment could hit 6.5 percent nationally and growth could slow to around 2 percent.

While Prime Minister John Key says it's good news the report didn't predict a recession in the next few years, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn is concerned.

The West Coast has weathered several rounds of big job cuts in recent times, and an announcement on Solid Energy's future – expected any day now – could have major implications for the region.

"Certainly there are storm clouds on the horizon, but we've had them here for quite a while. We know how to deal with these situations and there's always sunshine after rain – we know that on the West Coast."

Northland business leaders say they're doing the best they can to avoid a climbing unemployment rate.

Northland Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Collins says they're predicting the regional economy to slow.

"It's not surprising, but it is worrying particularly given we've only had a short period of recovery in the north and we've also started from a lower base than most other parts of the country, so we'd expect the unemployment issues to remain up here."

Mr Collins expects difficult dairy farming conditions to hit hard, and it's critical they entice young people to stay in the region.

Mr Key says the economy is diversified enough that plummeting dairy prices will have more of a "psychological" impact than real.

"There is a pretty heavy programme of work being undertaken around New Zealand," he said on the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"Jobs are being created, and you've had well over 150,000 approximately created in the last couple of years. So you know, I accept that while dairy prices are weak and China is a little bit slow, you've got an ICT sector that's going well, manufacturing has expanded 33 months in a row, tourism… is doing extremely well."

Growth in manufacturing and a lower dollar have also brought good news to other parts of the economy, Mr Key says.

3 News