Drought slows New Zealand economic growth

Wellington, June 20 (IANS) New Zealand's economy grew by 0.3 percent in the March quarter, with the nationwide summer drought offsetting the effects of the reconstruction of the earthquake-battered Canterbury region, the government statistics agency reported Thursday.

The "modest growth" in GDP followed a rise of 1.5 percent in the December 2012 quarter, said a statement from Statistics New Zealand.

"The Canterbury rebuild boosted activity for construction and related services," GDP project manager Jason Attewell said in the statement, reported Xinhua.

"The rest of the economy was a mixed bag, but we are coming off very strong growth in the previous quarter."

A 5.5-percent growth in construction activity, driven by the Canterbury rebuild, led the growth, followed by a 3.9-percent rise in business services activity, also driven by Canterbury and the demand for architectural and engineering services.

However, the country's pillar agriculture sector saw a drop of 4.7 percent as a result of the drought, while information media and telecommunications activity was down 3.1 percent.

"We expect the drought will impact on the economy for several quarters, as lower herd numbers and conception rates will affect future production," Attewell said.

Economic activity for the year to the end of March was up 2.5 percent.

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