Rugby: Lions rugby tour boosts New Zealand economy

British and Irish Lions' Jonathan Davies in action during a New Zealand All Blacks v British and Irish Lions match.
British and Irish Lions' Jonathan Davies in action during a New Zealand All Blacks v British and Irish Lions match.PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand's economy grew 0.8 percent in the April-June quarter partly due to a tourism boost from the British and Irish Lions rugby tour, official data showed Thursday.

Statistics New Zealand said the quarterly figure, which was in line with market expectations and released just days ahead of national elections on Saturday, took annual growth to 2.7 percent.

It said exports rose 5.2 percent, the best quarterly performance in almost 20 years, amid high demand for New Zealand dairy and forestry products.

Dairy export volumes surged 19 percent as the sector continued to rebound after a long downturn.

Statistics NZ said retail trade and accommodation rose 2.8 percent as the Lions tour lifted tourist numbers during what is normally a quiet period of the year.

"A boost in international visitor numbers this quarter, especially from the United Kingdom, led to increased international guest nights, which benefitted the industry," it said.

Capital Economics analyst Paul Dales said the growth figures were "decent" and may give an election lift to Prime Minister Bill English, who has campaigned on his economic credibility.

Dales said the only major concern in the figures was a 1.1 percent fall in construction activity, the sector's second consecutive quarterly drop.

"We doubt that construction will be a persistent drag on GDP growth over the next year or so, but it is clear that it's not going to add as much to growth as in recent years," he said.

Dales said the figures would not prompt the central ban to lift interest rates from record lows of 1.75 percent next week, predicting they will remain on hold until late 2019.