Last week I found myself passing through several regional towns as I headed to Taupo to present at a conference. Some like Matamata, Rotorua and Taupo were vibrant and busy with tourists. Others, like Tokoroa, are showing the signs of tougher times with peeling paint and shops shut along the main road. You have to visit regional New Zealand to really appreciate why the provincial growth fund is so important.
On the way back from Taupo, I stopped in Tokoroa. It is a lovely town that serves a great coffee and only three minutes from town is a world class mountain bike park. Meanwhile, you can still buy a three bedroom house for $152,000. Given this, I can’t quite comprehend why the local council is struggling to fill a $90,000 role. This story is being repeated all over the country, but the growth of tech has the potential to turn this around.
Initiatives like T3W (Te Tira Toi Whakangao) are examples of how tech can make a huge difference for regional New Zealand. A M?ori community led, Government enabled project initiated with early support at NZTE, Callaghan Innovation and Te Puni K?kiri, T3W is working to help build 100 M?ori tech companies creating 2,500 jobs, operating from 30-40 regional tech hubs based in M?ori communities.
Another great example is Hack Tair?whiti which brought top tech talent, entrepreneurs and tech exporters to Gisborne to combine with local whanau for a 48 hour hackathon to solve some big challenges. The direct outcome of this event has included the relocation of some of the international staff of leading tech exporters to Gisborne.
Likewise, as organisations like global ecommerce giant Shopify, and local leaders like Spark and Vodafone, set up remote customer service jobs it is getting easier to work remotely or from regional New Zealand. The importance of technology for regional New Zealand cannot be overplayed.