In his latest BayBuzz magazine article — Boomers … Living in Paradise — Douglas Lloyd Jenkins asks: “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?”

Comparing Hawke’s Bay to Tauranga, he asserts that no one under 50 really wants to live in Tauranga (it’s a place to visit grandparents), and he warns: “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’.” Ouch!

Now along comes St John Craner, a new inductee to the Bay, a Gen Xer of the type Douglas says we need. As our guest blogger today, he shares his first impressions of the region and some cheeky ideas for getting ‘top talent’ to the Bay.

Is Hawke’s Bay the Elephants’ Graveyard of New Zealand?
By St John Craner

I didn’t move here to retire.

I moved to the Hawke’s Bay back in March, aged thirty seven, and three years early in the life plan, for two thirds salary and 100% lifestyle. In my second week here I was comforted to participate in an excellent Social Media Conference at Black Barn attended by some smart operators. We videoconferenced into the US to listen to world experts as well as local legend Rod Drury. So I hadn’t moved to Lamb Country after all … or so I thought.

As I delved deeper, observed and networked through contacts and events, I began to notice other things. Was this place an Elephants’ Graveyard where successful retirees came to see out their days? More importantly, where was the next generation coming through? This got me thinking. If Hawke’s Bay attracts older, successful people nearing or wanting to retire, why couldn’t we flip this and target a younger, smart talent pool who want to prosper and, in doing so, lift regional performance?

We have plenty of regional positives to compete on: sunshine hours, climate, landscape, recreation, family time, wine, schools and food. All strong, quality of life drivers nationally and internationally right? But are they differentiating enough? Nelson and Tauranga could match us. Maybe we need to extend the toolbox and offer strong digital connections or quality of life indices that correlate to business performance, staff commitment or output?

In a recent BayBuzz article – Choosing to be poor – Tom Belford referred to Sir Paul Callaghan’s speech for Strategy NZ, where he suggested New Zealand’s brand proposition should be: “The place where talent wants to live”. I want to propose that we lay this same challenge to ourselves. What would we have to do to attract 100 future Rod Drurys, Ray McKimms or Robert Darrochs?

So here’s a big idea: a Hawke’s Bay Resident Eligibility Scheme.

If we are serious about attracting top talent to the Bay, let’s evaluate how people wanting to move and live here can progress and contribute to our region:

  • What exclusive, specialist skills, qualifications and expertise can they bring?
  • Who can vouch for them? Are they of good character?
  • What’s their track record of achievement?
  • Will they buy a home here, or a business?
  • Will they bring their family, friends or others like them, with them?
  • What personal or professional networks can they share?
  • What is their level of influence?
  • What available capital do they have?
  • Do they have good physical and mental health?
  • How old are they?
  • Do they have children? How old are they?
  • Do they have a criminal record?
  • Do they intend to stick around? If so, for how long?

The more points they score, the higher the subsidies are to entice them to put roots down. These could be in the form of reduced rates, reduced school fees or relocation subsidies. The reward? Proven, magnetic talent in a place where ‘like attracts like’ that then self-generates as a population. Call it market forces.

If New Zealand and New Zealand business do it, why shouldn’t we consider it on a regional basis? We are competing for talent on a global stage and we could be the first to do it here. Could our first target be marketing to and attracting back the top 5% of the smart 500,000 Kiwis overseas? Come in KEA!

I love Chamber of Commerce chief Murray Douglas’s big idea of setting up Hawke’s Bay Embassies around the world. Here’s another but smaller idea meantime: a Hawke’s Bay Business Commune. A creative hub made up of artists, musicians, teachers, nutritionists, writers, physical trainers, seniors, school leavers, school students, architects, programmers and photographers (to name a few) … all focused on regional and commercial growth. The more diverse, the better. A cool, fully wifi’d space where great minds can formally meet to think, discuss and solve each other’s problems.

‘Group Therapy’ (also known as crowd sourcing) from a number of diverse angles and brains can often solve problems that haven’t been cracked before. I’ve seen it happen when tutoring business incubator groups round the country and it’s a powerful tool.

We can’t muscle our way out of our current under-performance as a region, but we can think our way out, and fortune favours the brave. Talent attracts talent so let’s show them how talented we are before we all wind up retired and old in sunset state.

Join the Conversation


  1. A well-reasoned article probably best read whilst listening to Elton John singing ” Don’t let the sun go down on me ?’

    I think the thrust of Craner’s concept has been paralleled successfully by Tim Shadbolt’s Council initiative for the free Southland University which has been an enormous success in putting Invercargill etc on the map.. both financially and in the perception of Kiwis as being more than just a hick place only good for the annual Bluff Oyster harvest…similar to “we’ve got wine country and they’ve got oysters”.. but now with their forethought, they have a lot more than us and our rapidly vanishing wine country branding exercise !

    I doubt whether an eligibilty scheme would work at an individual or corporate level as it’s assuming that the hard yards have already been done and large numbers of people are just busting to move to the Bay …when in reality the reverse is true , hence the above article.

    If you analyse the reasons why big businesses move offshore like Fisher and Paykel to Thailand etc you find it’s always because local government bend over backwards with entry ease, tax breaks etc.

    In theory, it would be possible with local and national Govt. collaboration to hypothetically make an area of the Bay the e.g IT ( silicone valley ) Capital of NZ…but i can’t see that collectivity happening when Napier and Hastings can’t even collaborate.

    As for H.B Embassies all around the world; that is so twee that it would have no traction or practical purpose.

    Reasoned discussion is always healthy but I only ever seem to read about discussion and circumlocution when people postulate on the economic and soporific future of Hawkes’ Bay !

    You need to appoint two Hawkes’ Bay Trade ambassadors who are highly skilled and remunerated and not just some semi-retired escapee from the corporate world looking for a sinecure.

    With well-thought through economic proposals of the latest industry standards the businessmen/ambassadors go overseas with a valid pre-prepared plan to ” beat the drums” in places in S.E.Asia tiger country to come to the Bay and invest in productive commercial ventures…China loves that at the moment as they try to unload their trillions of rapidly devaluing Yank dollars.

    Build the airport; the planes always come but just thinking about it can only ensure nil result and a more chasing of tails !

    But I bet that nothing will happen because postulating and mulling and busily going nowhere, working the whole day long seems to be de rigeur for the beautiful but meandering Bay….

    That was our people for today and now it’s back to Paul in the studio..Tell us , Paul, what’s happening :-) :-)

  2. Dear John

    Welcome to THE BAY! As a tail end baby boomer I embrace your thoughts on revitalising my home and developing an active attractive landscape to entice our talented globally located kiwis. A Hawke's Bay Business Commune, a melding of a variety of minds all focussed on regional development gets the big tick from me. Let's empower our community and work together to create a more prosperous, positive lifestyle for us all.

  3. Craner's Elephant Graveyard provides a great niche inspiration for those of us wanting more from, of and for the bay. It is so refreshing to read someone akin to our "own" Tom Belford, who see such potential in our future, if only the "comfortably numb" would kindly step aside and let appropriate forward thinking change, integration and encouragement, take Hawkes Bay to a prosperous level previously unseen in NZ.

    I am with you St John and Tom; where do I sign up?

    collin littlewood

  4. A Hawke’s Bay Resident Eligibility Scheme, as proposed, sounds Orwellian to me, and some of the blue highlighted criteria an invasion of privacy. Rather than attract talented folk asking the following questions are more likely to scare people off:

    Who can vouch for them? Are they of good character? – so we wouldn't take Silvio (8 girls in a row) Beriusconi if he wanted to come with his billions? God forbid a pot smoking Silicon Valley genius.

    Do they have good physical and mental health? – so Stephen Hawkins would be ruled out, and I know more than a few brilliant people with mental health issues.

    How old are they? – so less points, the older you are? Counts out Warren Buffet and Julian Robertson and I daresay Tom Belford.

    Do they have children? How old are they? – what relevance is this? Does it mean Gays with no kids score less?

    Do they have a criminal record? – would bankruptcy count? or just fraud like the expert employed by HBRC to advise on the Holding Company.

    And why should the HB taxpayer subsidise newcomers reducing the competitive advantage of established businesses?

    This idea smacks of corporate welfare and moral elitism. As satire it's brilliant. If it's a serious attempt at attracting talented folk to live in HB it's really scary.

  5. I like it a lot. And I think that common sense should always prevail, so the Gays (does it really have a capital G?), Stephens, Warrens, Julians and of course the Toms of this world should always be welcome. I want it to happen now. Next steps?

  6. Well done Mark! I was going to say the same thing, but you say it so much better. Elitist, divisive crap based on the "we are so much better than you" mentality.

  7. Mike, I can't give you solutions, but I've got a point of view, and some ideas.

    The demographic in HB is loaded toward retired folk and youth. The retired are drawing the pension and living off investments, while nearly 1/3 of the youth are unemployed and on welfare.

    We all agree HB can provide a great lifestyle, but for many that's not the case. And there's not much comfort in hiding in a gated community or secured rest home while Hastings burns.

    I think our challenge is to provide a better lifestyle for everyone, not just the few.

    Businesses that employ people is what HB needs most of all.

    If I were making up St John's list, the most potent question would be: How many jobs, or training opportunities can you provide?

    Branding advisors, advertising gurus, currency/shares/futures traders, and importers of manufactured product, don't help the HB economy. Sure they spend around town but they probably pay trust fund diminished taxes and employ few. And forget IT; we can't beat India and the Philipines.

    George, I think common sense is working with what you do best, and developing on it, and that does mean attracting people who can provide employment, education, training, and health and lifestyle stuff to all, including the aged.

    Common sense is feeble on its own, but when balanced with reason, intuition and imagination, great things can happen.

    Why aren't we value adding to the logs piled at the port by processing some here, sending them off as door and window frames, panels and ply? Surely Japanese owned PanPac could be encouraged to do some manufacturing in HB.

    And couldn't this dovetail with initiatives like John Roil's 'Cottages' to upscale for the Christchurch re-build, and kit-sets for SE Asia and the Pacific? Already John has an apprenticeship partnership with the EIT.

    As well as providing excellent trades apprentices, EIT should be assisted to build on it's hospitality, culinary, wine-making and viticulture courses which are amply supported by our world class wine producers, and the unique entertainment and hospitality aspects. And EIT's Fine Arts, Film, Music, Literature should be nurtured too.

    What about a Sports Academy at the RSP linked to the EIT? We need an olympic standard swimming pool and gymnasium, but Chris and Craig should be able to arrange those now they're the power.

    And how about developing the organic model pioneered by John Bostock, which if coupled with GE free HB, and a sound soil sustainability policy, would give HB a unique market advantage? Value adding canning, freeze-dary, organic-ready-to micro-meals from HB in Manhatten I can see already!

    Let's not forget Tangata Whenua – we're in partnership after all. Des Ratima is a champion of the small business model, and Kahungunu's plans for a cultural centre in Napier, and investment in primary industry should be embraced.

    All the above provide more jobs, and culture, and entertainment. And I reckon we can do it with the talent we've already got, with some help from those folks who want to live here because they love it, and aren't attracted by a subsidy.

    So, sorry St John, your idea of subsidy hunters smacks of Eligibility Eugenics to me.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.