Regional economic drivers


The Waimea Plains

The Waimea Plains holds some of the most fertile productive land in the South Island, producing fruit, vegetables and boutique crops such as hops and grapes. It is of national strategic importance and its loss of productive capacity would be significant.

According to HortNZ, in 2022/23, the value of New Zealand’s horticultural products was $7.17 billion. These exports command a premium overseas and Nelson Tasman fruit has proven highly valued: the Envy™ apple, for example, is grown locally and was crowned 'favourite apple' by US consumers in 2017. Although wine, kiwifruit and apples dominate horticultural exports, Nelson Tasman is the only region growing boysenberries and one of two growing blackcurrants, unique additions to NZ's export success. For apple orchard owners, their value has increased by 70% since 2015 due to success in international markets.

Security of water with the dam will mean continued growth in higher value crops and, therefore, increased economic activity and value to everyone who lives in the region.

Significant contribution to regional economy

Several independent organisations, including the NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), Northington Partners, and the Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA) analysed the data and concluded there are major economic arguments in favour of water storage.

The Nelson Tasman region will see tremendous benefit in terms of jobs, general health and well-being, and future economic development. These benefits are substantial: with the dam, the region could see GDP increase by as much as $923 million in the next 25 years, almost $37 million each year. In the first year alone, dam construction brought high-paying jobs to the region, and household incomes and consumption were expected to rise by $27 million.

We can't discount the supporting industries - it's not irrigators alone who will realise greater economic growth. According to the NRDA, our regional horticulture sector supports 21 other industries including business support, technology, research, and others. Today’s horticulture sector directly contributes 53 percent of the GDP from those industry sectors. It supports 41 percent of the total employment of those industries, which equates to thousands of people. The jobs in these 21 sectors pay a median wage that is 10 percent higher than the Nelson Tasman average.

Read these reports in full on our Documents page under the heading "Economic Analyses."