The Central Otago district has a unique and interesting economy. While rural or primary industries still provide the backbone, Central Otago has become a fashionable place to live and visit. This means that new industries such as viticulture and tourism are playing an increasing part in local development, while service industries such as construction and business services have grown considerably. These industries, as well as supporting infrastructure, are increasingly acting as buffers to external factors such as commodity prices and exchange rates which, in turn, have historically lead to boom – bust cycles in the local economy.

As supported by the demographic information, Central Otago offers a full range of opportunities for all businesses. The local economy is characterised by:
  1. High levels of employment
  2. A large number of small sized businesses
  3. Increasing value added (GDP)
  4. A stable agricultural base supporting increasingly diversified businesses. Service and tourism businesses have seen significant growth.

Central Otago, however, is not immune to what is happening elsewhere. The protracted recession has made its mark here with similar trends in reduced expenditure and tightened credit affecting many. The local economy moved into recession in 2009, a year after the big hit nationally. The optimistic view is that the things that have driven the growth of the district over the last few years will see the local economy remain reasonably robust. However, as has been shown in the past, any small population is very exposed to large scale events and we will follow what happens elsewhere.

If you are interested in more information, please download the copy of the latest BERL Otago Economic Profile, which can be found HERE.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Employment Largest and Fastest Growing Industries


Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the value of goods and services produced in Central Otago has grown 50% over the last decade from $553million in 2000 to $797million in 2010. Key GDP contributing sectors are: business services; primary production; and retail/distribution .


There is low unemployment and high work force participation across the region, and there has been particularly strong employment growth over the last five years. Over the last decade average employment growth has been 4.4% - over twice the national average.

Largest and fastest growing industries

Agriculture remains the backbone of the Central Otago economy generating the second highest GDP and employing the most people. However Business Services is a key growth sector and creates the highest GDP.

Traffic Movements

Traffic congestion and motorway pile-ups are unheard of in Central Otago. The major transit routes are well designed and maintained to accommodate the increase in traffic flow that has occurred over the last five years.

Size of business

Central Otago business have been growing in average size as they have benefited from a decade of economic growth. Businesses are still relatively small compared to the rest of the country, employing 2.8FTEs compared with the national average of 3.6 FTEs.


Along with most of New Zealand the amount of new building in Central Otago has declined. However, the scale of building activity in the district remains significantly higher than it was a decade ago.

House Sales

Real Estate has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn and the change in focus as people look to live more within their immediate means. While prices look to have stabilized the number of houses and sections sold in Central Otago is considerably less than what it was four years ago.


Access to reliable good quality broadband is the major telecommunications challenge for Central Otago but improvements are on the way.
Business Directory
Business Groups & Organisations
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Economic Development Strategy
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