Wednesday, December 26, 2007

NZ Herald 8 May 2000 Planet Southland

Hello Hello Planet Southland here, calling Planet Auckland.

We need more people. You have lots of people. Could you send us some please?

That is the gist of my message… Here is my sales pitch:-

This May Monday morning the sun is pouring onto a landscape so bright and clear that it makes my eyes hurt. The vivid green of the autumn pastures is only matched by the sapphire of the Ocean. I can see the mountains of Western Southland eighty miles away. The garden is literally vibrant with birdsong.

If I get in the car and go down to the lighthouse at Waipapa, I can join in with the sealions as they loll and socialise in their equivalent of Club Med. If I go up to Curio Bay I can spot a yellow-eyed penguin, or a pod of Hector’s dolphin. I can walk along the coast and see petrified tree trunks, and reefs that were rivers frozen into stone long before Gondwana drifted north.

How’s the sales pitch doing? But isn’t it freezing, you say? I’ve seen snow twice in twenty-two years..It’s certainly cooler than Auckland. Latitude at Slope Point is equivalent to Nantes, a city well south of Paris. You really know you’re alive, out in the sweet fresh air. That’s how it is so clear, and so healthy for people, plants and animals alike. Bad for bugs.

Rainfall? Less than Auckland, actually. That is apart from Fiordland where you can’t live anyway as it’s all National Park. Yes about two thirds of this province is Conservation land, a lot of it classed as World Heritage. Great opportunities to lose and find oneself in the bush. Another selling point?

Landscape and climate -OK - but what about society and economics? Yes you get real people down here - people who look you in the eye and mean it when they say Gidday, How’ve you been? Variety - you get to know all sorts, all ages, all walks of life.

You get to go to meetings too, oh boy do you get to go to meetings. Everything is DIY from ambulance driving to tourism development, and we are so democratic we get ‘consulted’ on everything..hence the need for more people - we are getting meeting-ed out!

Now to the economics. Two sides to making ends meet: expenditure and income.

Expenditure, yes housing is unbelievably cheap and of good quality. The cost of a coffee and sandwich is about a third the Ponsonby price, schooling, transport, rates, tradesmen, entertainment, sports clubs, yes all are far cheaper. Not quite so many choices in entertainment but plenty of everything else.
Travel -hmm - that’s a weak point. It does cost a wee bit to vist the ageing parents or the kids at varsity.

Income - The crunchy bit. Not so many six-figure salaries, but there are a few. We have major meat, dairy, fishing and forestry processing enterprises, an aluminium smelter, an enterprising Polytechnic, and a number of engineering/manufacturing companies.

Farming itself can make a very decent income, so long as the scale and efficiencies are present. Those dairy farmers who have migrated from Waikato and Taranaki in recent years have been pleasantly amazed by the immediate increases in production.

Then there is horticulture which has vast untapped potential. We’ve got things going there with the Crops for Southland movement which is trialling dozens of potential new crops and at the same time doing a detailed soil and temperature map of the province. Just let us get those transport costs down!

Next is tourism a fast-developing industry. And what about tele-commuting?

Do you see why we need you? Climate, landscape, a varied society and the economic opportunities are all there for those with imagination, skills and attitude. Above all, what a great place to raise a family.

And it’s not really another planet, so come on down and see for yourself.

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