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Five speakers had five minutes each to outline what happened in the local economy in the past year and what to expect in the near future during the Alexandra Clyde and Districts Business Group Biz Breakfast last Friday.

Speakers included Central Otago District Council’s Economic Development manager Nick Lanham, farmer and Otago Regional Councillor Gary Kelliher and Breen Construction chief executive Keri Yeo.

Seasonal Solutions’ chief executive Helen Axby and restaurant owner David Ritchie also spoke.

Mr Lanham talked about unemployment and how Central Otago’s population growth of 3.5% compared to the national rate of 2.1%.

There had been 380 people out of work last July and now there were about 180.

He said building consents were about 90% of the previous year but expected to go up.

Clyde restaurant owner David Ritchie said while Queenstown was suffering through the lack of international tourism, domestic tourism in Central Otago was more positive.

“The region is doing relatively well, compared to other regions.

“Hospitality is quite strong.”

He said domestic tourism had been strong in January, but softened slightly in February.

That was when international visitors usually came but he was expecting March and April to be stronger.

The new cycle track was on the bucket list for many people, he said.

Breen Construction’s Keri Yeo said there had been an increase in commercial, jobbing and civil work for the company, including contracts with the Ministry of Education for school work throughout the region.

She said they were really busy but were constrained by the lack of trade staff and had been utilising the Government’s apprenticeship scheme.

She advised anyone wishing to build not to wait but to book in early.

Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby said staffing was still a key issue for the region as it moved into the grape harvest.

Growers were expecting 200 Recognised Seasonal Employer workers in April for the grape harvest.

Farmer and Otago Regional Councillor Gary Kelliher said catchment groups had worked well around the various water requirements but expected to see rates rises and an increased focus on pest management.