Revealed: New Zealand's highest paying industries
New Zealand’s economy has been powering ahead over the past five years, supported by higher prices for our exporters and cheaper products for importers.

Add to that the need to provide for a booming population and many local industries are thriving.

As a result, some sectors of the economy have recorded much stronger salary growth in the past five years than others, according to annual data collected by SEEK.

BNZ senior economist Doug Steel helps explain which industries are the nation’s best salary performers, and why.

“Our population is growing at over 2% a year, which is extremely rapid, so it put pressure on infrastructure and housing and added massively to demand,” he says.

Consider too, says Steel, the needs of our 3.8 million international tourists a year – up from 2.6 million five years ago – and it’s not hard to understand why people working in hospitality and retail are commanding higher salaries than before.

Which industries pay the most?

SEEK salary data shows construction is now the highest paying industry in the country, with an average advertised salary of around $101,600 a year. That’s a 20.5% growth rate since 2013.

You’ll also find the big bucks in Consulting & Strategy, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and Mining, Resources & Energy, although mining is one of the few industries where advertised salaries are in decline. Five years ago average mining salaries were over $108,000 a year, now they’re averaging $92,300.

If you’re more interested in where salaries are rising the most, look to what a growing population needs – more housing, shopping centres, food and public services.

Like construction, people working in Design & Architecture have fared very well. In fact, this industry reported the highest average salary increase, having gone up 28.65 in five years.

Community Services & Development salaries have climbed more than 15%, Farming, Animals & Conservation is up almost 14%, while Administration & Office Support (13%), Education & Training (12.9%), Trades & Services (11.7%) and Retail & Consumer Products (10.9%) are also strong salary performers.

Average salary by industry: 2013 vs 2018
NZ Industry
Accounting $74,562 $79,181 6.19%
Administration & Office Support $46,286 $52,391 13.19%
Advertising, Arts & Media $64,468 $69,260 7.43%
Banking & Financial Services $80,728 $87,583 8.49%
Call Centre & Customer Service $47,135 $50,014 6.11%
Community Services & Development $56,093 $64,618 15.20%
Construction $84,321 $101,633 20.53%
Consulting & Strategy  $96,508 $100,610 4.25%
Design & Architecture $65,502 $84,213 28.56%
Education & Training $63,048 $71,176 12.89%
Engineering $91,751 $92,205 0.49%
Farming, Animals & Conservation $61,925 $70,409 13.70%
Government & Defence $78,384 $83,266 6.23%
Healthcare & Medical $71,821 $73,962 2.98%
Hospitality & Tourism $47,943 $52,703 9.93%
Human Resources & Recruitment $76,962 $82,342 6.99%
Information & CommunicationTechnology $88,228 $95,938 8.74%
Insurance & Superannuation $74,758 $74,466 -0.39%
Legal $82,850 $86,016 3.82%
Manufacturing, Transportation & Logistics $62,302 $66,876 7.34%
Marketing & Communications $76,785 $79,489 3.52%
Mining, Resources & Energy $108,257 $92,362 -14.68%
Real Estate & Property $78,890 $84,504 7.16%
Retail & Consumer Products $48,211 $53,484 10.94%
Sales $69,757 $75,242 7.86%
Science & Technology $73,185 $75,909 3.72%
Sport & Recreation $57,958 $61,267 5.71%
Trades & Services $54,682 $61,091 11.72%
Average $70,832 $75,794 7.01%

Industries to watch

Although retail has to contend with increased competition from the internet and off-shore buying, Steel says rising real wages across the economy and strong growth in population and tourism have underpinned a solid retail sector.

He identifies ICT as one of the nation’s strongest performers, and one forecast to continue to do well in the years ahead, along with tourism and hospitality

“Service industries are another one to watch,” says Steel.

“There is a strong undercurrent to a lot of activity happening here. When population is increased, there is a general trend towards more service-based industry.”

Building a nation    

Significant government infrastructure spending in response to the population boom, and the rebuild of the earthquake-devastated Christchurch, has helped push up construction salaries. It is now the highest paid industry, up from fifth spot in 2013.

Mark Robinson is the director of construction specialists Allerton Recruitment.

He says he’s never known New Zealand to be so competitive in terms of the opportunities for those in construction.

He says what makes this particular building boom stand out is it’s not limited to particular regions – the whole country is a hive of activity from Queenstown to Tauranga, Auckland to Dunedin.

“All through the Global Financial Crisis New Zealand’s population figures were tracking upwards,” says Robinson, “yet no one was spending money to improve infrastructure or on large commercial projects because there was so much risk in the market.

“People just put their hands in their pockets and didn’t build anything and now the country is playing catch up.”

He says companies have to be more innovative on what they are offering employees and how they’re attracting them.

“They’re having to give more flexibility to people and build a stronger culture, it’s not just about money and work any more,” says Robinson.

“If they’re short on resources a company might be driven towards more technology and new practices that are less labour intensive.

“Less people on site means a safer work environment and more cost effective projects, so there are lots of gains to be had by thinking innovatively.”