Have Your Say on the Future of Napier!

Napier City Council is currently taking submissions for its “Long Term Plan”

You can make your own submission HERE

It takes a mere five minutes to fill out the Council’s questionnaire and then there is a space for you to write your own submissions to the council on how you think our city should move into the future.

But you have to be quick – Submissions close TOMORROW (Wednesday 13 May at midday)

I was a bit tardy, having been busy while the submission window was open, but I managed to get my submission down and have just sent it off.

I hope you feel empowered to make your voice heard too!

Below is a copy of my submission:

“Napier is a wonderful city. It has been my home all my life and I cherish it dearly.

But Napier has been allowed to “age disgracefully” over recent years under previous administrations. It has often felt like “baby-boomers” rule and the interests of anyone under the age of 40 get ignored or have to 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 its sunny ‘Retirement village’ image, but also major cultural and economic holes in the region.

When it comes to looking after Napier’s younger generations needs or allocating them some form of infrastructure, N.C.C.’s solution to date has been “build a skate-park!” Ho-hum!

Skateboards and BMX’s alone do not a youth make. Where are the events, concerts, expos and exhibitions for our youth? Where are the workshops for young writers, actors, designers, technicians and entrepreneurs?

Our central city is often bereft of shoppers, while the number of empty shops grows and festers. Napier’s CBD is a favourite destination for its young people, so why not combine these two elements for mutually beneficial results?

Where is any voice or influence for Napier’s “Youth Council”? It has essentially vanished off the radar since I was a member in 1995!

How are they being guided or given a voice? I remember hearing that in the last few years they staged a shanty town in the Library forecourt for the 40-hour famine and raised money for children in Africa. What about those underprivileged children in their own city?

There is so much focus and so many millions being thrown at attracting tourists and their wallets to briefly visit Napier, but where are the initiatives and funding to keep our talented, inspired 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.

I have talked to and read items written by local business people and entrepreneurs in their 30’s who, like me, never left Napier, or went away and returned. They have good ideas on keeping Hawke’s Bay youth empowered, employed and engaged in Hawke’s Bay.

There are also older, far more established business people in the region who are more than capable of being inspiring mentors to younger generations. Unfortunately their attitude to the region’s “Lost Generations” of 20-somethings is:

“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.”
(Rod Drury, Xero founder and Hawke’s Bay resident – Quote taken from “Fruitbowl” website)

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.

Will you?

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) 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 work can be done from anywhere in the world, so why not Napier?

With our youth being so tech-savvy, 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 Napier and 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.

Will you do it?

It’s an Interesting Life – My 100th Post!

happy-100th-blog-post

A few weeks ago when I was getting my hair cut the barber said “I’ve seen you in the paper a fair bit recently. Do they give you a call whenever they are getting low on news to fill up space?”

My first reaction was to think – “Gee, what a douche-bag! Looks like I’ll be getting my hair done elsewhere from now on…”

My second reaction was to actually say “No. I just have an interesting life that occasionally involves situations that deserve publication!”

And, as this is my 100th “Napier in Frame” post, I think that’s true!

Over the past two-and-a-bit years I’ve:

Been fortunate to end up in some unique situations,

IMAG2110

To do stuff I love,

Merv

To meet wonderful, interesting people,

The team gathers before the game...

The team gathers before the game…

To share trials, triumphs and tragedy,

Double Grandad

Have some fun,

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

Generate debate and discussion,

beggar

And, more often than not, to have a bloody good vent!

g

I have also been very fortunate to have you, my readers, get involved, give support and feedback and, well, read my posts! It makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

angel

So, thank you!

Here’s to another 100+ posts and, who knows. maybe even something professional may come of it! (I’ll write for food and / or money!) 😉

Why Live in a Shoebox When You Could Live in Napier?

The latest trend in NZ big-city living! (Please note: accomodation pic is actual size)

The latest trend in NZ big-city living!
(Please note: accomodation pic is actual size)

There’s been a fair amount of coverage of / promotion of tiny houses recently.

I can’t help but wonder how much of it is “Hey, that’s a neat idea – living in a caravan / container / kennel” and how much is an almost subversive attempt to phase out the classic / idealistic NZ “1/4 acre (albeit more like 1/8th acre these days) dream” mentality and make living in a tiny house or shoebox apartment seem more normal or acceptable?

To me, these tiny houses seem to be a move towards something between the old “workingman’s hut” of the depression era, Japanese “capsule hotels” and human “battery farms”.

In New Zealand we are very fortunate to have the amount of space we do. Heck, we have room to spare!

New Zealand is geographically bigger than Great Britain, but with only a tiny portion of the population and huge, uninhabited swathes of the country still covered in native bush / farmland / epic, majestically mountainous movie-background terrain that would give the most sure-hooved chamois vertigo.

So, when the inevitable comments focusing on the housing crisis and massively inflated prices in Auckland, Christchurch and (to a lesser extent?) Wellington once again come to the fore as reason for such close-quarters accommodation in New Zealand’s biggest cities, it raises a major question in my mind:

“Why must business in New Zealand still be SO main-centre focused??”

With the rise of E-commerce and so much business internet-based, why does it still “need” to be based in our main centres, exacerbating the high demand / high price problem, while regional cities, like my own home town of Napier, have been struggling to attract skilled workers and businesses in recent years?

• The average (full-sized, with a yard) house price in Hawke’s Bay is somewhere around $250,000 – $400,000 – a third to a quarter of those in Auckland.

• We have the infrastructure, including UFB network access, to easily operate a national / international level “E-business” from Hawke’s Bay.

• With its smaller population (more room, less congestion) and wonderful natural features encouraging healthier, outdoor pastimes, Hawke’s Bay has a relaxed lifestyle second to none!

Yet where is all the commercial and business development focus?

In New Zealand’s main centres 🙁

Welcome to #GigatownNapier!

GIANT

Welcome to #GigatownNapier!

For those who are unaware, “Gigatown” is a competition being run by Chorus over the next year or so.

The winning city / town of will receive:

“The fastest internet in the Southern hemisphere – Chorus will make a special one gigabit per second (1Gbps) wholesale service available in the winning Gigatown at a special price and a Gigatown development fund – a $200,000 fund provided by Chorus and Alcatel Lucent’s Connect will support entrepreneurs and innovators taking new services over Gigabit fibre to market for Gigatown.”

I’m all for Napier becoming the first city in the southern hemisphere to have gigabit internet speeds. I can see just how much of a benefit our city and region could gain from such a digital asset. At the very least it is a way to engage, employ and empower Hawke’s Bay’s technologically-savvy youth and maybe even keep some of them from leaving the region in droves as they currently do.
At the most, it can put us at the forefront of the digital world and create massive financial, employment and social gains for our region. That’s why I’ve become a “#GigatownNapier ambassador.”

HOW the competition is currently structured leaves me more than a little cold, though.

The first stage of the competition is all about getting as many people to “hashtag” (“#Gigatown(insert location here)”) your town’s Gigatown handle on as many forms of media as inhumanely possible.

This can, of course, backfire with lots of people getting tired of seeing or using the Gigatown hashtag very quickly – social media is, after all, a very fast moving, trend setting (and following), constantly changing and fickle.

It all seems a little “Spam-like” to me (although there are rules and guidelines to help avoid this).

Currently leading the “#Hashtag Section” is Wanaka – where a simple ham sandwich from a lake-front cafe can set you back a whopping $10 (this was what sticks in my mind from the last time I was there), with almost 70,000 points. Oamaru, the “Steampunk” capital of New Zealand second (I’m pretty sure Steampunk technology isn’t internet compatible, though) is second, 37,000 points behind.

Napier is 14th

There are, apparently, conversion factors to be taken into consideration here – towns with smaller populations (like Wanaka and Oamaru, for example) appear to get more points per capita / hashtag, than bigger population centres. But this will start to even out as the competition proceeds, so we’re told.

Under this basis, let’s all just hope the likes of Otira don’t get too involved, or they’ll smoke the lot of us!

All the hashtag noise has also been a bit of a distraction from recent problems Chorus has been having with the government and the Commerce Commission over “unbundling” and the rolling out of New Zealand’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (“UFB”) network.

It has been interesting to note, too, that while the promise of gigabit internet speeds has been raising a lot of interest, the usage and uptake of “the next big tech thing” – Ultra-Fast Broadband in New Zealand has been a pretty slow. Despite the government and providers strongly promoting the use of UFB and installing the infrastructure for it around large portions of metropolitan New Zealand over the past few years, it has been gaining momentum only recently.

Rather than making the most noise, I’m all for the winning town being the one with the most substance.

Napier deserves an opportunity like this.

We have the port, airport and roads facilitating the transit of goods – export being our biggest earner and the servile tourism industry being a big portion of the region’s economy, but a poor earner for those involved.

Inject gigabit internet technology into Hawke’s Bay and I think we could foreseeably overtake at least one of those sectors. In doing so we would also massively increase the number of skilled workers, increase the wages, in doing so local boost consumer spending and launch the region’s economy into the stratosphere.

Regardless of what happens in the competition, whether Napier becomes #GigatownNapier or not, I still think this is a great opportunity for Napier and Hawke’s Bay.

I went along to the first that Napier “Gigatown Education Seminar” hosted by Ryan Jennings and I was impressed by the passion and drive I saw and heard from everyone at the event to see this sort of thing happen for Napier.

For too long Napier has been chained to the past. Over recent years I have felt we are just out of reach of that one thing that will get Hawke’s Bay out of its current economic doldrums. This is a great opportunity to thrust ourselves through the present and into the future.

Be it with Gigabit internet speeds, or with Ultra-Fast Broadband, this is a great step in the right direction and an opportunity that cannot be wasted!

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