Hawke’s Bay is, from a Baby Boomer perspective, a rather desirable location. It is ‘up-there’ on the list of destinations sought out by those who, if not quite wanting to retire, are comfortable enough to start talking about taking it easy. They are drawn here by the idea of getting away from it all and of living somewhere a little gentler than say Auckland or Wellington.

Baby Boomers are therefore starting to flock, taking advantage of Hawke’s Bay’s reputation as something of a Boomer playground of interlinked farmers’ markets and stunning scenery.

Although individually delightful, there is growing criticism of collective Boomer culture. They tend to be a self-centred lot, who having got most things free or cheap – education, healthcare, homes etc. – then went on to invent user-pays, whereby everyone who came after them could pay for those same services.

Boomers, homeowners extraordinaire, ironically see no reason those generations that follow shouldn’t rent. As they age they see no need to increase taxes to pay for those things they no longer need or never wanted in the first place. Watch this space, within a decade they’ll up the retirement age in order that those who follow them can pay for the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.

Baby Boomers, who are not prone to introspective self-analysis, will tell you that the next generation (Gen Y) are a pampered and demanding lot with more confidence than they have skills. However, new research undertaken by Leadership Management Australasia (LMA), suggests that Gen Y – communicative, innovative and natural planners – are in reality, looking pretty good as workplace contributors and future economic performers. In short, these are the people you want for your business to succeed.

Somewhat worrying however, is the revelation “that large numbers in all generations (including Boomers) don’t want to work with or report to, Boomers in the future.” To throw in a few figures, LMA survey participants were asked which generation they would prefer to work with and to which generation they would prefer to report. “Only 4% of both Gen X and Gen Y nominated Boomers in the work question, with 14% and 8% respectively nominating Boomers in the report question.”

Because of this, LMA describes the baby boomer as “an emerging challenge” and Does Hawke’s Bay’s growing reputation as a baby-boom paradise have the potential to limit the region’s future appeal and eventually its economic performance? “something that threatens to undermine stability of the workforce”. All this
because Boomers will continue to occupy most leadership and senior management positions for at least a decade to come. The research continues “when they have a choice Gen Y and those who follow will gravitate to jobs and companies that don’t have significant baby-boom management.”

Extrapolate these findings out and we need to ask: will Gen Y (communicative, innovative, hard-working) want to establish bases in, or relocate to, cities, towns or regions that are heavily focused around the lifestyle needs of ageing Boomers? If Gen Y don’t want to work with Boomers, then they’re highly unlikely to want to play with them either. Does Hawke’s Bay’s growing reputation as a baby-boom paradise have the potential to limit the region’s future appeal and eventually its economic performance?

Don’t become Tauranga

These things happen. Tauranga once meant a pretty cool holiday destination and neighbouring surf beach – now it translates as coastal retirement megacentre. A trip to Tauranga is now most likely to conjour-up a picture of fluffy-slippers in front of the pellet fire encountered on a trip to the grandparents. No one under 50 really envisages themselves living in Tauranga now or in the future.

Hawke’s Bay may similarly come to mean ‘the place baby boomers go to vineyard concerts by rock musicians whom everyone else thought were dead’; but unless we learn to evolve it won’t necessarily be an ‘up-there’ place where either Gen Y or Gen X will want to live.

Because baby boomers see themselves as eternally hip and youthful, the only generation gap they acknowledge is between them and those we might legitimately call children or adolescents. The real gap however is between Boomers and Gen Y – aged between 30 and 45 – and little is being done to address this particular chasm, in part because Boomers like to think it doesn’t exist. On the other hand the diversity of Gen Y’s demands, broad ranging opinions and niche interests makes them difficult to cater for en masse.

If there is an answer, a strategy, a plan, it’s usually couched in terms of a single word – broadband. Sure broadband strategies help with the need that Gen Y has to be connected, but their desire to be where something of interest is happening, transcends the mere digital. Getting away from it all and taking it slow
– is not the Gen Y way – they’re looking for the farmer’s market to come to them.

There is an argument of course that there comes a time in the development of any generation when one puts away the bungee-cord in favour of a glass of chardonnay and a little sunshine and this may too come to pass for Gen Y. In the meantime, it is important to remember that whilst Boomers flock, Gen Y roams… and attracting their attention requires a whole different set of tools.

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  1. Is it just me, or is there a bit of a central theme running through this edition? This excellent “Boomer or bust” article by Douglas, Claire Hague’s noting how the HB (and the nation’s) youth are being ignored or lead down the wrong path by the departments set to guide them and even to an extent Kathy noting how the upstart, revitalised Ahuriri is showing the old, grey mare of Napier’s CBD how it should be done.
    It’s a battle of the ages! Mobility scooters and Zimmer Frames vs. Segways and IPhones at dawn anyone?

  2. Just a gentle note – age 30-45 is (currently) Gen X – somehow in the editing this seems to merge/confuse Gen X and Gen Y.

    Perhaps winery concerts are best suited to Baby Boomers and Xers, but that doesn't stop us having events that have musicians etc appealing to Gen Y as well. We can cater for everyone without 'everything' catering to everyone.

    There are some really active entrepreneurs and people working with businesses to try and ensure we continue to grow our range of jobs, to go with the affordable housing… and that is a bonus for younger generations.

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