9 May 2016

Realities of regional living is more talent than jobs

9:58 am on 9 May 2016

Nelson City Council wants the government to relocate some of its services from Wellington to the regions.

The Nelson City Council has made a move to encourage government offices to re-locate to the regions.

The Nelson City Council has made a move to encourage government offices to re-locate to the regions. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Local Government New Zealand recently invited councils to forward ideas for consideration that would address national concerns. A remit proposed by Nelson councillor Matt Lawrey and supported by Mayor Rachel Reese, will seek support from other councils, and the government, to relocate services to the regions.

Mr Lawrey said advances in communication technology would make it possible. He wanted to see more of the Department of Conservation services run from Nelson, because most of the department's estate was in the South Island.

He said relocation of services would boost the regional economy, and potentially save the Crown millions in high rents paid in the capital.

New Zealand's regions are being eyed as affordable alternatives for cashed up Aucklanders, but while the cost of buying a house might be less, finding a job is the hard bit.

Prime Minister John Key said on a recent whistle-stop visit to the Nelson-Tasman region that he did not agree job opportunities were limited, but people needed to be realistic.

"A lot of regions in New Zealand have had faster job growth than Auckland. What's true is that it's sometimes the scale of that - it's the particular jobs they're doing, so I would say to people it's very difficult to get New York salaries in New Zealand and you're not probably going to get an Auckland salary necessarily in Nelson."

Nelson has a lot to offer, but sunshine and sea breezes will get you only so far.

Nelson has a lot to offer, but sunshine and sea breezes will get you only so far. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

As a new arrival to Nelson from Auckland, Hamish Dublon struggled to find a job, and then a house. The British electronics engineer moved to New Zealand in 2009, on the immediate and long-term skills shortage list. He had been made redundant several times in the United Kingdom, and thought New Zealand would be a good bet.

He now has a young family and was forced out of Auckland by house prices. The Quotable Value April 2016 figures showed average Auckland City house prices were $1,101,785.

Mr Dublon said his Auckland salary of $105,000 a year was "getting up there", but even in his wildest dreams it still was not enough to meet monthly repayments on the amount he would have needed to borrow to buy a house.

"To repay back per month would have been more than what was coming in, and that didn't leave money for food."

He said while 120 companies in Auckland could have employed him, or 50 in Christchurch, in Nelson there were just six. He did all the leg-work himself to secure a job in a market where there were none advertised.

"I put myself out there because I realised that was the only way of doing it."

He took a pay cut, then, he had to find a house.

Despite average prices in Nelson being less than half that of Auckland's, competition was fierce, with homes being snapped up as soon as they hit the market.

"When you turn up to an open home, and it's the first one, cash offers were already there on the table," Mr Dublon said.

Nelson-Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle.

Nelson-Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Nelson-Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle said people needed to be realistic about what living in a region offered, but good opportunities did exist. She said a number of people had created their own business opportunities.

"It is a small market - no doubt about that."

Ms Kettle said people might also need to change their career profile.

"It's about what aptitude do you bring - what range of skills and experience do you bring that you can leverage in a way that's going to benefit an employer based here in Nelson."

Intepeople Nelson managing director Paul Bell.

Intepeople Nelson managing director Paul Bell. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Paul Bell, who heads recruitment firm Intepeople's Nelson office, said the challenge was also convincing local employers of the opportunities that outside talent can bring to a business.

He said there was more talent coming into town than there were jobs, but motives of the new arrivals were not always career driven. Work-life balance was a major motivator.

"We are seeing more people coming from Auckland and Christchurch, they are perhaps wanting to get off the corporate treadmill, possibly sick of implementing orders from offshore - they're looking for roles in which they can make a meaningful difference.

"They also want to come to an environment that encourages fresh thinking," Mr Bell said.

He said there was a huge opportunity for corporate and government offices to move to regions like Nelson or Blenheim, to utilise the talent and benefits of the region.

"There's a view that everything has to be centralised in Auckland because that's where the major markets are, but that's only appropriate if your market is New Zealand."

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