Home' Greymouth Star : October 11th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Saturday, October 11, 2014
irst, let ’s go
back in time. It
was 2001. The
had just ended
native logging on
Crown land and
the mood was
To ease the pain, then-finance
minister Michael Cullen set up
Development West Coast.
Fast forward 13 years and things
are, again, grim. Mass job losses in
the mining industry. Depressed real
But this time, Development West
Coast is not there to save the day. It
has been moving away from its role
as a venture capital fund.
So who will lead the Coast out
of recession, we asked its chief
executive Joseph Thomas.
“It’s everyone’s issue and problem,”
“Everyone has to step up and take
So we took the question to leaders
and innovators Coast wide.
don’t know what the solution is,”
economist Shamubeel Eaqubm says.
His latest book Growing Apart
examines the urban-rural divide.
You may have seen him on tv
talking about why he will always
rent a house, and never buy.
He said a stagnant employment
market limited opportunities for
people living in rural areas.
“This then creates a spiral of
economic and population stagnation
— which is increasingly magnified
by young people going off for
education and jobs elsewhere...
“It’s a challenge that is in evidence
not just in New Zealand, but also
the north vs south divide in the UK,
or the rust belt vs the coasts in the
Blindly reaching for solutions
would do no good. For example,
the earthquake strengthening
regulations had unintended
consequences, he said.
It may not be economically
feasible, driving out tenants and
accelerating the stagnation-decline.
The bell cuts short Buller High
School principal Andrew Basher,
who is more upbeat. In Westport,
there is talk of a generation of young
men leaving the Coast to find work.
“The atmosphere is not all doom
and gloom, it ’s wait and see,” Mr
And, he stresses, many who lost
their jobs were not from Buller.
Others were nearing retirement, and
No matter what happens, the
school was focusing on getting the
best outcome for its students.
Tai Poutini Polytechnic chairman
Graeme McNally exudes a
confidence and enthusiasm. He has
already met with the region’s mayors,
and council chief executives.
He has two goals — one is to raise
the level of skill and education.
Once that happens, the economy
will improve, he says — there are
studies which back this up.
The polytechnic has already
strengthened its links with high
schools to ease the transition to
polytechnic. And it is working
on bringing degree level studies,
particularly in business, to the
Coast, probably in conjunction with
Part two of his plan sees education
itself as a business.
That means bringing people to the
Coast for training. As well as fees,
they pay to stay here. This works
particularly well with its esteemed
outdoor education course, and also
jade car ving. And the polytechnic
already employs more than 100 full-
“ We have done estimates, and we
contribute $40m to the West Coast
“ We will never be as large as
dairying or tourism,” he said, but
the polytechnic can train people in
each area, as well as mining (which
At Greymouth High School,
principal Andy England believes the
future is in young people’s hands.
Of last year’s leavers, about 34%
did not enrol in tertiary education,
which means 66% did.
“The question I think we need to
ask is ‘what can our young school
leavers do for our economy?’.
“... It is clear that we can’t look
for hand-outs so we need to help
Grey district schools and the
polytechnic were looking at ways to
work together to keep improving the
quality of the education on offer.
That did not just mean increasing
the percentage of school leavers
with NCEA Level 2, although
it did mean generally increasing
the qualification base of the local
“It means looking at means for
our young people to share the
amazing things they can do among
themselves and with the world,
which means technology. It also
means ‘ joining up’ the components
of a young person’s learning
— ie school, home, employers,
polytechnic — so that learning itself
becomes the focus and our youth
can go on learning.”
The community could help by
encouraging people to stay learning
— this could include ‘on the job’
training — for as long as possible.
The West Coast Trades Academy
was one example of this.
Westport businessman Brent
Oldham set up Go West Coast,
which lobbied for mining as
Bathurst struggled to get consents
for its mine on the Denniston
He has been talking with
Development West Coast and the
Buller council about a couple of
Mining, he believes, will bounce
back. But the Coast needs other
things to smooth the way in
between, level out those boom and
“ We are looking for an industry
that ’s constant.”
There has not, he stresses, been a
mass exodus and he notes some big
projects will come on stream next
year. He too talks of a confidence in
“But if you’ve got an idea, no
matter how wacky, now ’s the time. ”
Chris Ingle, the boss at the West
Coast Regional Council, has been
taking a quiet leadership role.
For once, all the Coast mayors are
working together, looking at what ’s
best for the region.
“That ’s helped enormously.”
Last month Ministry of Business,
Innovation and Employment
officials were on the Coast to meet
with the councils and Development
“There’s a lot of work behind the
scenes,” he says.
Grey District Mayor Tony
Kokshoorn is always the optimist.
He points to the new Westfleet
fish factory on the Greymouth
wharf and suggests fishing is making
inroads where once the Coast was
dominated by farming, tourism and
He’s also hot on adding value
to products — so, shipping out
furniture rather than just the logs.
Westland Milk Products, he says,
has started adding value and there is
already talk of doing the same with
the high quality coal in the Spring
Creek Mine near Greymouth.
He much prefers the idea of
adding to existing businesses’
bottom lines, than creating new
“It ’s hard to invent a new industry
because we are not close to the
“And we need to concentrate on
tourism. I know people say it’s a low
paid industry but it ’s a big part of
the West Coast economy now. ”
Yes, he says, mining has a future
but it won’t be as big as it was, and
markets will be more niche.
Another big opportunity is the
ultrafast broadband roll out.
Still, he concedes it will not be
easy, even though the region’s
mayors and chief executives are
collaborating more than ever.
In 1961 the population (census)
was 38,882, before falling to 30,000
in 2000, and then climbing to
“There is no easy fix for
employment and growth.”
We end with a success story. Kerrie
Fitzgibbon restored the Theatre
Royal at Kumara, right on the
doorstep of the Greymouth-Ross
Although sections of the cycle trail
are not completed, forward bookings
are strong. And the feedback from
customers is more than encouraging.
There will be many opportunities
to tap into the trail in coming years,
“It ’s positive for little rural places
that really didn’t have anything else.”
Ross and Kumara, two goldrush
towns, have now joined forces and
have funding in place to employ a
shared community development
Plans are also advanced for two
Chinese gardens in the town, just as
the Chinese market begins what is
expected to be strong growth.
They want to tell their stories and
“embrace the opportunities the
cycleway will bring”.
She is not ignoring the bad news
to the north. But she says it is
important to keep looking forward.
“ We need to be really proud, the
Lonely Planet put us in the top 10
tourism destinations in the world
“It ’s phenomenal. ”
In July, with more than 1000 mining jobs already gone and yet more cuts looming, Buller Mayor Garry Howard wrote to the Government saying the region
was facing a crisis. Instead of help, the answer was a polite ‘help yourself ’. So LAURA MILLS asked people Coastwide, how do we save the Coast?
Saving the Coast
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