Canterbury has taken out second spot in a regional economic scoreboard with rebuilding activity sparking the local economy back into life.
The latest ASB Regional Economic Scoreboard ranks the economic performance of New Zealand's 16 regional council areas over the last quarter. The rankings are based on measures such as employment, construction activity, retail trade and house prices.
Canterbury's resurgence has continued, with the region moving into second place on the scoreboard, joining Auckland on four stars.
Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the region was "just at the beginning of massive growth".
"I love telling everyone that we are now pouring more cubic metres of ready-mix concrete than greater Auckland.
"I was quoted a few months ago as saying 'you can smell the money'. Well, now you can feel it."
Mr Townsend said a recent ASB report found the Canterbury economy was growing at 7.5 per cent, compared to Auckland's 2.4 per cent.
"That's an indication of just exactly where our economy is and where it's heading.
"We are just at the beginning of the rebuild, we know that last year something like $4 billion was spent in deconstruction and reconstruction (of an estimated) $30 billion. We've got a long way to go, and we've locked in positive economic growth into our region into the foreseeable future."
Ms Townsend said the biggest problems facing the chamber's 3000 members was building scale, how growth was managed and how skill shortages were accommodated.
"All those problems are positive problems."
Unemployment locally was 2 per cent below the national average and would continue to fall, Mr Townsend said.
The region's growing population was already higher than in September 2010 and the only constraint was a lack of housing, he said. Nationally, employment was described as "surprisingly weak" over the second half of 2012, despite growing employment demand in Canterbury. However, wage growth recorded modest improvement during in the quarter.
"We expect skills shortages to emerge later this year as the rebuild gathers momentum," the report said.
Housing market activity continued to grow in the last quarter, with a shortage of houses driving up prices.
Auckland and Christchurch continued to lead the increases, although there was evidence that price gains were spreading to other regions.
Retail sales also surged, with housing and construction-related sectors benefiting most.
Strong growth in new cars registrations was a positive sign of consumer confidence and demand, the report stated.
There were 41,091 new cars registered nationally in the quarter.
In the construction sector, there were signs of more rapid expansion in Canterbury, while nationwide, residential construction expanded faster than commercial.
ASB senior economist Jane Turner said a stronger lift in employment was expected, given the national rise in retail spending and construction.
The national economy was "still quite mixed" overall.
But as positive trends and confidence continued to build nationally, growth for the broader economy was expected for the rest of 2013, Ms Turner said.