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 2020

Timaru District’s economy experienced a solid March quarter, placing it in a good position to approach the COVID-19 induced recession. Infometrics provisional estimates show GDP grew 3.2% in the year to March 2020, well ahead of the national rate of 1.7%.

Population growth, as indicated by health enrolments, notched up by 1.0% over the past year. This underpinned steady growth in consumer spending, of 2.6%. Car registrations remained very high through the March quarter as hail-damaged vehicles were replaced.

Infometrics’ modelling for Timaru shows that the district is expected to fare slightly better than the rest of New Zealand, due to its strong agricultural hinterland, and diversified industry mix. Nationally, employment is forecast to decline by 9.8% over the year to March 2021, pushing the national unemployment rate to 9.0%.

Highlights of Quarterly Economic Monitor Report March 2020


  • Unemployment held steady at the low rate of 3.2%, under the national average of 4.1%. However, growth in Jobseeker Support recipients of 17.4% in Timaru outstripped national growth of 11.7%.

House Prices

  • The average current house value in Timaru District was up 2.4% in March 2020 compared with a year earlier. Growth underperformed relative to New Zealand, where prices increased by 5.9%.
  • The average current house value was $382,466 in Timaru District over the March 2020 year. This compares with $714,174 in New Zealand.


  • Total tourism expenditure in Timaru District increased by 1.8% in the year to March 2020. This compares with an increase of 1.4% in New Zealand.
  • Total tourism expenditure was approximately $228m in Timaru District during the year to March 2020, which was up from $224m a year ago.

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