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Sectors of strength

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Palmerston North city and Manawatū is the home to some of the brightest minds in Aotearoa, world-class research and educational institutions and an established business ecosystem that is connected to the world. Learn more about our sectors of strength below.
Agritech & Agrifood
Distribution & Logistics
Infrastructure & construction

Agritech & Agrifood 

Palmerston North city and Manawatū is known as the epicentre for agrifood innovation, and was the first region in Aotearoa to develop an agritech strategy. Recognised as a leading agrihub, Manawatū is home to three crown research institutes, Aotearoa’s FoodHQ, Global  Finistere Ventures, Sprout Global Accelerator, Fonterra R&D, AgResearch, and more. We’re home to world renown companies and have a unique cluster of scientists, researchers, engineers and start up incubators, agri experts who all work together to revolutionise food production.
Sector ProfileTalent and Skills Food & Fibre profile

Distribution & Logistics

When it comes to distribution and logistics, Palmerston North city and Manawatū play a vital role in connecting industries and products within New Zealand and to the world. Located in the heart of the lower North Island, the region acts as a central hub for the North Island with highway, rail, air and sea via port access connections to major centres and regions. Distribution and Logistics in the Manawatū region accounts for close to 6,546 jobs, 10.4% of total employment in the region in 2019, and contribution to GDP is estimated to have been $671 million year to March 2019, increasing by 90% from 2000. One of three key nodes in the national freight network, the region is a unique multi modal hub that sees goods for 20 per cent of New Zealand’s population moving through Manawatū annually.
Sector profile


Palmerston North city and Manawatū is home to a world-class education system with Massey University, UCOL, and IPU New Zealand located in the region. Palmerston North hosts Te Wānanga o Aotearoa campus and is home to several private training establishments, and the New Zealand Defence Force College and Education Directorate for Navy, Army and Air Force personnel. The education and training sector is the fourth largest sector in the Palmerston North economy, contributing $349.3 million in GDP in 2019. With a population that values and promotes education; 40% of people in the region study or train in education and the city is home to the highest concentration of doctorate degrees in Aotearoa. Niche areas of specialisation include agrifood and agritech, agriculture vet science and education.


Health care and social assistance is the largest employment sector for the Manawatū region with more than 8000 employees recorded in March 2020. Home to two hospitals based in Palmerston North - MidCentral District Health Board and Crest, the importance of the city as a major regional centre for hospital-based services is reflected in the region’s 3.2% share of national hospital employment. MidCentral Hospital in Palmerston North has a dedicated ICU, Coronary Care and Neonatal Units, amongst other services, and provides one of the largest provincial trauma centres in New Zealand. As of February 2020, Manawatu recorded more than 570 businesses and other organisations operating in the health sector, accounting for a 4.8% share of total organisations in the region. Our central location and high concentration of specialist services makes us a unique health destination for residents from across the lower North Island.


Palmerston North and Manawatū is home to over 7000 service personnel, civilians and families connected to the three defence bases in the region (Linton Military Camp, Hokowhitu Campus and RNZAF Base Ohakea)., with numbers regularly increasing with major construction projects in the sector, and the relocation of staff from Whenuapai in Auckland, to Ohakea here in Manawatu. Annual employment estimates suggest there were 3,940 people employed in the defence sector in Manawatū as of February 2020, accounting for 6.3% of the total workforce in the region, while the number of regular and civilian personnel employed directly by the Defence Force in the region is estimated at 3,246 people. Our central location means we are located within two hours of the Waiouru and Trentham camps.
Sector profile

Tourism & Visitor

Tourism plays a significant role in the Manawatū region economy, although our key visitor markets and motivators are quite different from what you would expect in a traditional tourism destination. Prior to COVID-19, the Manawatū visitor economy contributed $500 million to the city and region in the year ended February 2020, representing growth of 29% over the last five years. Total tourism expenditure in Manawatū increased by 20.5% in the year to June 2021. This compares with an increase of 5.4% in New Zealand. Total tourism expenditure was approximately $312 million in Manawatū during the year to June 2021, which was up from $259 million a year ago.

Our key visitor markets come to our region for business and conferences, to visit friends and relatives, attend events and for leisure activities. The region’s greatest strength is in domestic tourism, accounting for an above average share of domestic day trips and overnight stays by New Zealand residents. This also means our visitor economy is sustainable in a volatile COVID-19 environment.


The manufacturing sector contributes 6.6% of total GDP in the region and is a major source of employment, with a workforce of 5,060 people in February 2020, or 7.7% of total employment in the region. The largest components of the manufacturing sector in the region are food processing, fabricated metal product, machinery and equipment manufacturing, transport equipment and polymer and rubber product. Our focus on agrifood and renowned research and development in this sector makes Manawatū an attractive place to set up a high-value manufacturing business..
Sector profile

Science, Research & Technology

We have a deep research, technology and innovation ecosystem that supports many diverse industries with respected national and international profiles in research and innovation. With more than 3900 scientists and researchers working here, and home to three Crown Research Institutes and FoodHQ, Manawatū has all the right ingredients to deliver innovative, value-added products, technology and IP to Aotearoa and the world.   

Infrastructure & Construction

The Infrastructure and Construction sector in Manawatū and Palmerston North is growing faster than the national average due to a strong pipeline of work. Locally, nearly 9% of the total workforce is employed in the sector, and the construction service subsector employs half of them. It's a good thing then that there is a strong pipeline of investment and ongoing maintenance work planned for the region.
Sector profileTalent and Skills Infrastructure & Construction profile


Discover Manawatū through the eyes of our locals. From eating and drinking hit-lists to family friendly day trips, shopping hot spots and rural discoveries. This is the start of something beautiful. Dive right in!
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BROUGHT TO YOU ByCentral Economic Development Agency