Local insights report: March 2023

Manawatu-Whanganui local insights report for March 2023.

This is the web version of the Manawatū-Whanganui local insights report for March 2023. 

You can download the PDF version below.

Top regional insights

The effects of Cyclone Gabrielle have disproportionately affected Manawatū-Whanganui

Although Tararua District declared a State of Emergency, other districts such as Ruapehu and Whanganui were not directly affected. Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith said he felt that the city had “dodged a missile” in escaping Cyclone Gabrielle. The impacts on the labour market are not yet fully understood as crops were destroyed in Horowhenua and roads remained closed in Tararua (at the time of publication).

Around 500 farms in Tararua have been visited in 4 days by Rural Support Trust, iwi and Tararua District Council

These visits included welfare checks and assessing what the issues/needs are moving forward. The farms visited were assessed as being the highest priority due to access, power and isolation issues, based on preliminary information.

Significant movements of labour are expected as workers assist in the recovery in Hawke’s Bay

This includes mobilising workforces from civil construction, residential and commercial construction, connectivity, and social services/welfare industries. Accommodation is being provided in Hawke’s Bay to Kaimahi from Palmerston North who are helping with the rebuild.

Iwi have deployed kaimahi in the hauora space to Te Puia Springs

This was a collective effort between Iwi/Māori providers, Te Aka Whai Ora and Te Whatu Ora. Rongoā practitioners from around the country are lending skills and knowledge to alleviate stress and trauma.

Trends at a glance

  • Only 2.8% of the working age population (15 years and over) in the rohe are unemployed, but available for work in December 2022. This shows the squeeze on the labour market is tight, despite a total labour force participation rate of 70.4%.
  • The underemployment rate in the rohe is 3.8%. Meaning that only 3.8% of those employed part-time (less than 30 hours) want to work more hours than they usually do and are available to do so. This indicates that either kaimahi have additional commitments limiting working availability, or that their current employment is meeting their needs.
  • 10% of youth aged 15 to 24 years old are considered to be not in employment, education or training (NEET). This figure is one of the lowest rates nationally and is similar to that of the Nelson-Tasman region. For Manawatū-Whanganui this was a -0.1pp difference year-on-year.

Source: Infometrics, Household Labour Force Survey, December 2022.

Regional labour market response

In Whanganui, Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) kaimahi were ready to deploy to the Hawke’s Bay but are not currently required

Current RSE workers in the Hawke’s Bay are instead being utilised in clean-up teams as their skill sets within the orchards are not in demand.

Conversations are underway regarding utilising a potentially displaced workforce from the East Coast

With unemployment numbers low, organisations and iwi groups are considering how to attract displaced workers to Manawatū-Whanganui, particularly for those working within IT and health sectors. With limited accommodation options in the rohe, accommodation centres such as those being used by the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (Whanganui) are being investigated.

Tararua Rural Support Trust are organising working bees on a handful of farms most significantly impacted

These farms have been targeted based on immediate need and the size of damage that occurred. While Rural Support Trust continue to advocate for farmers checking in on neighbours, they are encouraging this to be completed over the phone, where possible.

Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua deployed a team to assist with clean up in Wairoa

Rangitāne o Tamaki nui-a-Rua deployed their Jobs for Nature team to assist with clean up in the Tararua. 

Welfare outreach convoys have been prioritised to Ākitio, Pongaroa and Herbertville in Tararua

Many of these rural properties are only accessible by 4WD vehicles. With forecasted rain, these areas are at risk of isolation again.

Communities have rallied together to donate items to the East Coast, including taking time off from work to transport donations

An example of this is the Palmerston North Sikh community, who raised over $3,000 in donations to be donated to those affected by the cyclone.

Local Government NZ have initiated an 'Adopt a Community' effort, which sees Horowhenua adopting Tararua as their neighbouring effected district

While both sharing a heavy rain warning at the time of publication, Horowhenua is significantly less effected at time of publication. Palmerston North City Council has adopted Napier as their community.

Horizons Regional Council have provided the following links to keep up to date with information

Regulatory advice and welfare information(external link) — Horizons Regional Council 

River heights and rainfall — call 0508 4 35003

Road closures, delays and warning(external link) — Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency 

Regular updates(external link) — Civil Defence Manawatū Whanganui Facebook page  

Weather forecast information(external link) — MetService 

Regional Workforce Plan update

The Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Skills Leadership Group (RSLG) has continued to facilitate cross-rohe dialogue and information sharing, as outlined in the 2022 Regional Workforce Plan.

The RSLG are working towards the publication of a refreshed Regional Workforce Plan in June 2023. This refresh will include a focus on the 'Freight, Logistics and Warehousing Sector’ and the ‘seasonal elements of the Horticulture Sector’.

The RSLG have been socialising draft action points as part of the development of the refreshed plan. These action points relate to the 4 overarching labour market themes of:

  • Transitions support: Support development and awareness of pathways to entry-level training and employment.
  • Localisation of provision: Support development of provision that accounts for the needs of local learners and industry.
  • Partnerships and collaboration: Facilitate greater collaboration and information-sharing across the region.
  • Direction of national systems: Ensure that national-level decision-making is aware of regional needs and intentions.

You can read the Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Workforce Plan at:

Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Workforce Plan

For more information

For more information about the Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Workforce Plan local insights report for March 2023, email:


Previous local insight reports

Last updated: 28 March 2023