It often feels like anyone in Napier under the age of 40 gets ignored. Baby-boomers rule and everyone else can just fend for themselves.
As a result, we annually lose generations of our bright and talented youth to other parts of New Zealand and the world. A few return in later life with their families, most never do. This creates not only a great gulf in the age bracket, earning Hawke’s Bay it’s sunny ‘Retirement village’ image, but also major cultural and economic holes in the region.
Local organisations and authorities do little to help the situation, or empower youth as I wrote in my second Napier in Frame blog post.
When it comes to looking after Napier youth’s needs or allocating them some form of infrastructure, N.C.C.’s solution to date has been “build a skate-park!” Ho-hum! Where are the events, concerts, expos and exhibitions? When was the last time a Mission Concert featured an act that was at the top of the music charts during the lifetime of an average 25 year old?
Napier City Council’s recent “Big Picture” plan to turn Marine Parade (which they completely ignored for the past 20 years) into a “Kids’ Capital” featured some ideas with merit, like the wave park, but others like the cable-ski facility (cable ski = lots of metal. Lots of metal + salty sea air = big, continuous repair bills) were doomed from conception. Besides, tourist attractions and children’s playgrounds won’t keep our school-leavers in Napier.
This is a problem that has been nagging at me for years. I never left Hawke’s Bay for university, a career or global migration after high school. I stayed here, living and working in what I still consider one of the best places in the world. It has had its advantages, but also some major disadvantages.
Over the past decade the major drawbacks have been few career opportunities within the region and poor pay. Hawke’s Bay’s economy has suffered because of these factors and the poor economy has depressed wages and career opportunities even more. We need to break this cycle.
Paul Dutch and Rod Drury had a good exchange on keeping our school leavers in Hawke’s Bay in the comments section of an item on the wave park development over at the Fruitbowl website.
Paul had some good ideas on keeping Hawke’s Bay youth empowered, employed and engaged in Hawke’s Bay. While I respect Rod and all his achievements with Xero, I feel some of his comments encapsulated what it wrong with a lot of Hawke’s Bay businesses and older people’s attitude to the region’s “Lost Generations” of 20-somethings:
“It’s really hard to keep people in their 20’s in the Bay. Be great if we could, but there are easier places to focus where we swim with the tide.”
“The growth from targeting these segments (parents, high value call centres, food and agriculture and retirees) will create opportunities for those in their 20’s. But personally I think that’s hard and we should focus on attracting our diaspora later in their careers after they’ve had their world wide experiences.”
I don’t consider continuing to put this problem in the “too hard basket” and hoping Hawke’s Bay’s bright and talented young one day return to be an option any longer. Somebody needs to take a stand and do something about it. But who?
Certainly not Tukituki MP and Minister of Commerce Craig Foss, who doesn’t seem to mind that his region has some of the lowest wages, and fewest high value job opportunities in New Zealand, as he seems to think living in Hawke’s Bay makes up for it all. Um, no. Would Mr Foss be so happy with the situation if any of his children chose to stay in the Bay, rather than go to university or travel and end up stuck in a low paying retail or café job? I don’t imagine so.
Rod Drury’s Xero is a successful, global company. But one thing Mr Drury fears (I read this in a special CEO lift-out in the Herald this week) was his company losing its “start-up feel”. Start-ups are often skin-of-the-teeth operations. Someone starts with an idea and builds a business from it. People using their raw talent and skills – often without tertiary qualifications. I really admire people who can do that – I’m not sure I could.
The technology industry is one of the main benefactors and biggest earners of start-up thinking and business. Just look at Facebook. Typically, modern start-ups are often begun by people in their late teens and early twenties, just the segment Hawke’s Bay is missing out on!
We need to target these high-value tech companies and foster such start-ups to set up operations in Hawke’s Bay. Especially with web-based content, where global work can be done from pretty much anywhere in the world, so why not Napier?
With our youth being so tech-savvy (can’t figure out how to use your new phone or computer? Just ask any 10 year old) school-leavers would be ideal employment candidates. Pay them more than the local retail of hospitality industry (it shouldn’t be too hard), provide some on the job training and boom, instant workforce and all-round benefits to Hawke’s Bay’s economy!
This isn’t asking for preferential treatment for Hawke’s Bay’s school leavers and 20-somethings. This is about giving them the opportunity to stay in their home towns if they want to and at the same time creating real, well paying career opportunities and boosting our regions flagging economy. Doing nothing is no longer an option. It’s time we did something about it.