Wikipedian-at-Large moves to the Coast

After traveling the country as a roving Wikipedian Dr Mike Dickison moves to the Cool Little Town of Hokitika.

By Mike Dickison

It was 2019, and I’d recently spent a year travelling all of New Zealand as a roving Wikipedian under contract from the USA. Well, not quite all – I hadnʻt yet managed to visit the Coast. And several people from the West Coast pointed this out to me, and suggested I come explore and write about it for Wikipedia.

Mike Dickison (Credit Genesis Buckley).jpg

Photograph by Genesis Buckley

It was 2019, and I’d recently spent a year travelling all of New Zealand as a roving Wikipedian under contract from the USA. Well, not quite all – I hadnʻt yet managed to visit the Coast. And several people from the West Coast pointed this out to me, and suggested I come explore and write about it for Wikipedia.

I approached libraries and museums and Development West Coast, and ended up spending six weeks travelling from Westport through to Fox Glacier taking photographs, researching local history, and improving Wikipedia articles. And while I was doing that I realised I had never properly visited the West Coast at all.

I grew up in Christchurch, and the Coast was the place you went for summer holidays – but it was quickly clear that I'd barely ever left the main highway.

The West Coast is full of hidden corners, and secret treasures, and beautiful stretches of wild country that most New Zealanders don’t ever appreciate.

At the end of the six weeks, Natasha at the Westland District Library asked if I would ever consider moving to Hokitika. It turned out that there was an 18-month contract, run by the National Library with COVID response money, to support extra staff in public libraries, recognising the critical role of libraries in supporting the community and providing reliable information.

This sounded right up my alley, so I became a digital librarian and moved to Hokitika in November 2020.

Since getting here I've realised the great advantages of a cool little town like Hoki; friendly people, great cost of living and pace of life, and on your back doorstep the wondrous natural world of the West Coast.

Now that high-speed fibre has been rolled out the whole length of the Coast it's become very feasible for someone internet-based to move from the city to Westport or Hokitika and keep running their business, with much lower overheads. And in these days of enforced working from home, people have realised that turning up to the office each day is no way to live.

I'm very lucky that I'm two blocks from the beach and when I'm on my computer I can hear the waves crashing and look out on a sunny garden (it really is much sunnier here than legend would have you believe).

I can take my lunch ten minutes down the road to Lake Mahināpua and eat my sandwiches looking at kōtuku. Where else in the country – in the world? – can you have that sort of lifestyle?

MIke Dickison (credit Kelly Haraki)..jpg

Mike at New Zealand Aotearoa WikiCon at Gatherer, Hokitika

Photograph by Kelly Haraki,