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Our economy

The Waikato region's natural resources and climate support our economy. Find out about the size and structure of our economy, how we spend our income and what choices we can make in our daily lives to help the environment.

Hamilton City.On this page: Sustainable development, Gross domestic product (GDP), Income, How we spend our income, How you can make a difference

Sustainable development

The Waikato region's natural and physical resources are economically significant to the entire country. It is important we look after them for future years and future generations.

'Sustainable development' means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs1. For sustainable development to occur we need to balance economic prosperity and our needs for a good quality of life, while ensuring the quality of our environment.

What makes up a good quality of life? For many of us, it will include environmental quality, natural resource wealth, leisure time, working conditions, health and knowledge. These are attributes that we value as a society, but they are not easily measured. When we make decisions based solely on economics these valuable attributes are often not accounted for.

Waikato Regional Council uses an ecosystem approach when managing the environment. This means we try to be aware of the links between the air, land, water and coast and the plants and animals which live there. We recognise the important role our environment plays in our local economy.

The value of goods and services provided by ecosystems are estimated to be worth at least as much as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Find out about the 'hidden' services ecosystems deliver.

Gross domestic product (GDP)

GDP is a measure of the market value of all goods and services produced within an economy. GDP is not a measure of wealth or sustainability of production because it does not take into account savings or depletion of resources. Nor is it an accurate measure of quality of life, which depends on the type and distribution of goods and services among the population, as well as quality of the local environment. However, GDP is the easiest indicator to measure and compare with other economies.   

The Waikato region's total GDP was $16.5 billion for the year ended March 2011.2This is 8.5 per cent of New Zealand's GDP. Labour productivity, or value added per full-time equivalent employee in the Waikato Region was NZ$82,700.

The largest industries contributing towards GDP in the Waikato region in 2010/11 were:

  • dairy cattle farming
  • business services
  • construction
  • health and community services.

The graph below illustrates the structure of the economy for the Waikato region, compared to New Zealand as a whole. It shows each type of industry and its contribution towards GDP.

GDP chart


In December 2012 the Waikato region's labour market had an unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent for people aged 15 years or older and part of the labour force. The national unemployment rate was 6.8 per cent. See our unemployment indicator for more information.

The median weekly income for residents aged 15 years and over in the Waikato region decreased from $552 in 2011 to $546 in 2012, a 1 per cent decrease. The median income for the Waikato region remains lower than the national median weekly income, which is $560. The graph below shows the distribution of household income for the Waikato region and New Zealand for 2010, the last year for which income band data is available.

Income chart

How we spend our income

In 2010, the total average weekly spending for households in the Waikato region was $886 compared with $1,010 for the whole of New Zealand3.

The chart below shows the Waikato's average weekly household spending on various categories compared to nationally.

expenditure chart

The way we spend our money influences our environment.

Community Economy and Environment Bulletin March 2012

You can download the Community Economy and Environment Bulletin March 2012 below in pdf format:

Community Economy and Environment Bulletin March 2012 (99kb)

How you can make a difference

Making choices about the way we live today will create a better future for our children and the environment. We can reduce waste, save energy and use natural resources more wisely. Keeping our rivers and streams clean, and looking after our beaches, forests and lakes improves the quality of the environment we are living in.

See the table below to find out what you can do to help the environment. Many environmental choices will make us healthier and save us money too!

Expenditure group Your choices
Housing Is your house energy efficient and insulated?
Is your home built of environmentally safe and recycled material?
Are you using dual-flush toilets and water-saving shower heads?
Are you using rainwater to water your garden?
Do you turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving?
Transportation Do you walk, cycle or take the bus?
How many cars do you own?
Can you use your car less often?
Do you car-share?
Is your vehicle maintained and tuned properly?
See more tips on how you can help to reduce green house gases.
Food Do you buy in bulk and try to reduce packaging?
Do you take your own bag for shopping?
Do you eat organic and buy local produce?
Are the products you buy produced using sound environmental practices?
Clothing Do you buy locally made or fair-traded clothes?
Do you buy natural fibres?
Do you try to reduce packaging?
Do you recycle your old clothes, furniture and books?
Other goods (for example, alcohol, tobacco, medical, books, recreation) Do you take your rubbish away with you, respecting our coasts, rivers, lakes and bush?
Do you buy recycled goods?
Check out our tips on reducing household waste.
Services (for example, health, education, financial, savings, leisure) Have you looked for information about the environment, how it works, and what you can do to help?
Are you investing in companies with a good environmental track record?
Household operation
(for example power, fuel, appliances, furniture)
Do you conserve energy around the home?
Do you buy energy efficient appliances?
Do you use recycling facilities?
Do you compost your kitchen and garden waste?
Do you minimise the use of pesticides and fertilisers?
Do you take care with detergents, paints and oils so they don’t get into stormwater drains?


Check out the Ministry for the Environment's tips for more you can do to help improve the environment.

Find out how we measure the impact our lifestyles have on the environment, in our Regional Ecological Footprint indicator.


  1. Defined by the World Commission On Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission named after the Norwegian Prime Minister).
  2. Market Economics Limited. 2009: Waikato Region Economy-Environment Futures Model.
  3. Statistics New Zealand Regional Household Economic Survey (data for the year ended June 2010). This does not include expenditure such as taxes, rates, savings and investments