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Economic direction for Palmerston North

Palmerston North’s key strength is a group of fast-growing sectors which accounted for over 57 percent of economic activity (earnings) in 2013 and two-thirds of earnings growth between 2000 and 2013.

Sector profiles published on the Council's website provide an overview of the composition of each growth sector, factors supporting growth in the sector and the key organisations involved in the sector.  They are:

  • Health care and social assistance
  • Government administration and defence
  • Logistics
  • Retail and tourism
  • Science and research

Healthcare and social assistance

The largest sector for employment in Palmerston North is healthcare and social assistance, employing approximately 15% of all employees in the City and accounting for 15% of total earnings.  Nationally, the sector accounts for 11% of total employment and is one of the fastest growing sectors.  MidCentral District Health Board is the largest employer in the sector while other major sectors for employment are home healthcare services and residential care services. This sector has experienced significant growth in the last decade, being the largest generator of new jobs for the City.

Major organisations in this sector include:  MidCentral DHB, Aorangi Hospice, Broadway Radiology, Crest Hospital, MASH Trust and Medlab Central.

Government and defence

The defence sector plays a major role in the local economy with two defence bases (Linton Military Camp with 2,300 personnel based in Palmerston North and RNZAF Base Ohakea, with 833 personnel) located in Manawatū district. The Linton Military Camp is now the largest Defence Force base in New Zealand, and when combined with staff at the Ohakea base, the Defence Force accounts for nearly 6% of the total Manawatū region workforce. Due to our central location and educated labour force Palmerston North City has also become home to a number of government department operations.

Major organisations in this sector include:  Linton Military Camp, NZTA, Study Link, IRD, Horizons Regional Council, Palmerston North City Council


The city's central location and excellent transport connections offers the logistics, retail and defence sectors real advantages. The logistics and supply chain sector comprises wholesale trade, transport, postal, warehousing and non-store retailing activities. It is a significant employer in the City, accounting for close to 5,000 jobs in 2014 and is experiencing very strong growth in employment.

Major organisations in this sector include:Toyota, Foodstuffs, Ezibuy, NZ Post, Progressive Enterprises, Kiwirail, DKSH and CB Norwood

Retail and tourism

Palmerston North is a regional retail centre that attracts shoppers from all over the lower North Island. Confidence in the City has been reflected by the substantial recent investment by Kiwi Income Properties in the expansion of The Plaza inner-city shopping mall.  It is a significant employer, accounting for 17% of jobs in the City and 11% of earnings.

The Manawatū Region acts as a key gateway to a number of tourist activities, while also being the heart of The Country Road experience, encouraging travellers to visit and interact with the local community. Major attractions include Te Apiti - Manawatū Gorge, Te Manawa Museum, New Zealand Rugby Museum, and the Victoria Esplanade Gardens. Palmerston North City is also regularly home to many conventions, sporting tournaments, trade shows, meetings and exhibitions. This success is due in part to the education, research and science institutions based here, but also due to Palmerston North City's excellent location, transport access and facilities.

Science and research

Research and development is important for achieving improvements in our quality of life and future prosperity. The Region is home to many world class research organisations, and there is a particular focus on food innovation and agribusiness research.  Palmerston North City is an emerging world centre for food innovation, led by FoodHQ, a collaborative partnership between a number of parties within New Zealand's agri-science sector.

Major organisations in this sector include:AgResearch, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, Fonterra, the Riddet Institute, ESR, Landcare Research, AsureQuality, and BCC (Building Clever Companies). This partnership operates from the science campus based in Palmerston North City.


Palmerston North has a great reputation for having high quality primary schools, secondary schools, tertiary providers and training organisations. As a centre of tertiary education, the City also has a vibrant student culture that has spread a focus on learning and improvement across the whole region.

Major organisations in this sector include:Massey University, UCOL, IPU New Zealand, ETC and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.


Manufacturing is a major industry in Palmerston North and employs a significant percentage of the local workforce, particularly in food processing and metal fabrication for agriculture and transport sectors. In addition, local research and innovation offers opportunities within this sector for increasing productivity through improved equipment design.

Major organisations in this sector include:Steelfort, Iplex Pipelines, Ernest Adams, Goodman Fielder, Fonterra, Profab, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, AEC, OBO, Noske-Kaeser and Hynds.


The agricultural sector underpins the economy of the wider Manawatū Region, producing quality livestock and high yield crops, supplying the food processing industry and operating as an important part of the New Zealand dairy industry. A wide range of horticulture also flourishes here, due to our quality soils and benign climate.

A significant concentration of agri-tech businesses are based in Palmerston North, reflecting the city's relationships with Massey University, the Crown Research Institutes and sector research associations.