Labour market action needed to ensure Upper NI growth

Press Release – Waikato Regional Council

Labour market action needed to ensure Upper North Island growth

Co-ordinated action is needed to ensure that the right amounts and kinds of workers are available to support growth in the key economic powerhouse of the Upper North Island, says a new report.

The report on key sector trends and labour demand was prepared for the Upper North Island Strategic Alliance (UNISA), a collaboration of seven councils from Northland, Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Authored by consultants MartinJenkins and Infometrics, the report focuses on Upper North Island key sector trends to 2015 and labour demand to 2020. It has been formally received by the UNISA mayors and chairs, who have directed staff to look at how its recommendations will be implemented across the Upper North Island.

“The report particularly indicates the need for joint action in construction and related services, tourism, and freight and logistics – these are sectors where UNISA can add value over and above what is happening already,” says UNISA’s chair Bill Shepherd, who leads Northland Regional Council.

“There is a clear risk that not enough people with the right kinds of skills will be available for specific sectors. The forecasts indicate that the overall supply of labour in the Upper North Island will be only slightly higher than demand over the next five years, making it difficult to match the appropriate labour to jobs. There will be periods where demand actually exceeds supply.

“It is crucial that we do all we can to manage the situation going forward so that the Upper North Island, and through it the country, can maximise our economic potential,” said Mr Shepherd.

The report says that the Upper North Island accounts for over half of New Zealand’s population, economy and employment. An extra 115,000 jobs are expected to be created across the UNISA area between now and 2020. A further 245,000 jobs will need to be filled to replace workers who leave the labour market.

For the next two financial years overall demand for labour is expected to exceed supply, with only a small surplus of labour in 2019-20. The report also identifies significant shortages in some occupations related to construction, freight and logistics, and tourism.

Employment growth of 5.5 per cent a year to 2020 is forecast for construction and related services. This sector has strong inter-sectoral and inter-regional linkages across the Upper North Island. To ensure the right supply of skills for this sector, the report recommends the application of regionally-focused construction workforce initiatives, such as the Auckland construction sector workforce roadmap, to the Upper North Island generally. It also urges studying the timing of various infrastructure and construction investment across the UNISA regions and whether coordinated planning and procurement could smooth labour demand.

The tourism sector is expected to grow by two per cent per annum over the next five years. The report shows that tourism flows and demands are interconnected across the Upper North Island. It suggests working with central Government and industry to ensure that national initiatives under development can be applied to the region.

There are strong freight and logistics connections within the Upper North Island and the report calls for coordinated action to ensure an adequate supply of truck drivers and other skilled staff, including exploring whether existing training initiatives can be scaled-up.

“There is no quick fix to these challenges but we in UNISA are on the same page when it comes to recognising the need for action. We also look forward to working with central Government on the way forward.” said Mr Shepherd.

“So this report provides a great basis for joint work to ensure major industries, in a broad area that’s an economic powerhouse, are well supported with the right amount and kinds of labour,” said Mr Shepherd.

UNISA’S members are Northland Regional Council, Whangarei District Council, Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tauranga City Council.

Previous UNISA projects have spurred action on freight, industrial land supply and demand and ports across the Upper North Island.

To view the report go to


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