Agriculture a major influence on economy

The Timaru District economy is strongly influenced by its agricultural heritage. From its birth in pioneering sheep farming, our richly productive agricultural sector has grown to become New Zealand's "food bowl".

Today's farming is heavily influenced by dairy, with horticulture, intensive cropping, meat and wool also playing an important role. Significant manufacturing, processing, engineering and distribution operations contribute to extensive export and domestic supply of a wide range of goods and services.

This provides an array of employment opportunities across all sectors from trades and manufacturing to the professional, service and primary sectors. The Timaru District prides itself on having one of the lowest unemployment rates in New Zealand.

Temuka Transport stock truck

The wider South Canterbury region enjoys reliable and accessible water for irrigation and industry - indeed some of the most affordable resource in the country. This continues to provide the impetus for the development and growth of successful food processing and exporting operations. Large scale investment in water storage, quality and management is continuing, helping to ensure a robust, diverse economic future for the District.

Timaru District  – Quarterly Economic Monitor Report March 2021

Timaru’s economy declined by 0.7% over the year to March 2021, a cumulative figure which reflects the effect of lockdown in 2020 and restrictions in international transport. Economic activity in the March 2021 quarter was exactly the same as in March 2020, showing that the District is well on the road to recovery.

Business confidence in the District is strong on a relative basis, with a lesser decline in commercial vehicle registrations than the national average, and strong non-residential building consents. In Timaru, $44m of non-residential buildings were consented in the past year, including a $5.8m storage facility in March 2021.

Timaru’s resilient role as a food producer and processor has placed it in good stead throughout the pandemic.

Highlights of Quarterly Economic Monitor Report March 2021


  • GDP (provisional) in Timaru District was down 0.7% compared to a year earlier. This compares with a national drop of 3.0%.  GDP was $3,097 million in Timaru District for the year.


  • Timaru’s labour market has performed relatively well since the onset of COVID-19. The District’s unemployment rate has notched up to 4.2%, but remains well below the national and regional level.

House Prices

  • Timaru’s house values appreciated 13.6% over the past year, in line with the Canterbury trend but slightly behind national growth of 18.2%. This places the District’s average house value at $437,000.  This compares with $$871,375 nationally.

View the full report here:

Infometrics Quarterly Report Monitor

More economic reports.

Timaru District offers a great lifestyle with abundant opportunities. Find out more from residents who've moved here about what Timaru District offers for their lifestyle.

Timaru District Council Annual Plan 2016/2017

farmers mill

“Farmers Mill have chosen Timaru, South Canterbury to build our state-of-the art flour mill. The district is central to the arable land which produces the wheat we use to mill 100% NZ Flour. We find the district has a strong economic profile and the services and people we require to build a world class business.”  

Murray Turley, Chairman, Farmers Mill, Timaru