I think there is something about Hawke’s Bay that gets into your blood. And no matter how far away you go or how long you have been away, there is always that desire to return. So 15 years later, after university, a stint in London, a husband and 2 children … I came back.

The girls at 6 months and 2 years didn’t take much convincing, but it was a little harder to convince Matt that life would still go on without the Crusaders. There were obvious trump cards in my sales pitch however – great schools for our children, wonderful warm climate, beautiful beaches and an abundance of good food and wine!

But our main concern at this stage of our lives – were there any business opportunities for us? Was Hawke’s Bay an IT growth region? Would we be able to make a ‘good life’ for our family having a background in IT, not agriculture, horticulture or viticulture? We weren’t entirely sure but decided it was worth a punt. And it has paid off for us so far …

We belong to a business networking group and have met a lot of people just like us who have had time away and came back for the “Hawke’s Bay Lifestyle,” but who are also serious about business. We are committed to the economic growth of our region, but can Hawke’s Bay keep us here? Is the region going to grow enough to sustain our businesses?

And of these business people we have met, very few are new to the region, they either lived here back in the day or their spouse did. So what are we doing to attract skilled people to Hawke’s Bay, because there is an obvious skills shortage. Is it that people don’t like the region (unlikely)? Or is it that they don’t see Hawke’s Bay as a region with business/vocational opportunities (probably)? And yet my brother, who is a skilled worker and does want to live here, has to work out of region and come back in the weekends because he is “too specialized” for Hawke’s Bay. And his girlfriend, who is a teacher at a local primary school, is about to leave for Dubai for a couple of years. So it seems we can’t get skilled people to come here (or we aren’t trying hard enough) and the skilled people we do have need to find work elsewhere or are leaving for greener pastures.

There also seems to be a housing shortage in Hastings. Property prices are high compared to income; good rental properties are hard to find and pricey. My parents say this has been the case for at least the past 35 years, so why is that? I guess Flaxmere was an attempt to rectify the problem, but it didn’t quite work out, so what else can be done?

Hastings has a stigma as a prison or service town but why couldn’t ‘the Stings’ be transformed into a Central North Island business hub? We aren’t that isolated, a couple of hours to Taupo and Palmerston North, a few to Gisborne and Wellington. The city itself is quite big; there is a ton of empty offices, lots of space for more. I’m not saying I want Hastings to become the next Tauranga, but I get that Hastings is seen as a backwater and needs a public facelift.

I think we grizzle about the prospect of developments, the Sports Park, the shopping mall. But if we want the region to grow, if we want to attract 30-somethings to live and work in Hastings, we need to offer these types of facilities and amenities that they have grown accustomed to in Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne and London. I think we should be asking these people what else they would want. What else will make Hastings an attractive option for skilled people?

I love Hawke’s Bay, I want to live here and I want to run a successful business here. But I want to be able to find local people to work for us; I want to be able to buy a nice house and not to have to travel to Wellington for decent shopping. I’m not going to be able to do that if there isn’t economic growth, and that means we need more skilled people and more development.

So let’s build a mall so we don’t have to shop out of region, let’s build some houses for people to live in, let’s market Hastings as a place worth working in, and let’s make sure they come.

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1 Comment

  1. Hey Georgina, great article!

    I'm not overly sure a mall would be the best option. For Central Hastings at least. One of the biggest mistakes New Zealand cities made over the past decade and a bit was putting malls in an already thriving business district.

    You've seen what having KMart and the Warehouse (I know, not technically "malls", but the closest, cheapest comparison we could come up with) just one to two streets over from Heretaunga street has done to Hastings. It's slaughtered the place. Now the council gives, practically, a free pass for a larger facility to go up even further out at Nelson Park. Madness! You can see a very similar case in the likes of Lower Hutt. Queensgate is fabulous, huge and busy. the rest of the city center? M'eh!

    I used to love going to Hastings when I was younger, until Bunker's Toyworld closed down. The CDB was huge, busy and it thrived. Now I almost feel queezy walking past all the empty shops and streets. The graffitti, the missmatched, off-colour footpaths.

    I had a chortle to myself at the schadenfreudesquely named "Hastings Alive" promotion that they ran recently.

    Absolutely nothing against Hastings itself, or the businesses who have stuck it out. They deserve to have kept going over these past years. It is just a huge shame they don't have the infrastructure or governance supporting them.

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