The small region attracting young families back

06 March 2023
Development West Coast
More and more young families are returning to the West Coast, drawn back by the region's lifestyle, affordable housing, and business opportunities.

Te Ahu Tama Meihana-Hosking (Tama) and his young family recently moved back from Australia to his hometown of Hokitika.

"My reason for moving home was to raise my daughter here," Tama said. "I had a pretty good upbringing here, and I want her to experience that as well."

Tama, a trained barber, has purchased the local barbershop. He saw a gap in the market in Hokitika and believes there is a need for his services. He plans to expand his business and take on a trainee at the end of the year.

“As a teenager, there was nothing really for me to look up to besides your standard trades like building, electricians, and stuff. I feel like there should be a mixture of things to offer young kids to get out there and do.

"Barbering is a job you can take around the whole world. You only really need a toolbox of stuff, so it's definitely a good job to get into," Tama said.

His partner Cassidy has also started a new business, a home salon called the Lash and Beauty Boudoir.

Tama's return home has been a fulfilling experience for him.

"There's a Whakatauki (proverb) that always resonated with me growing up, especially in the last few years. And it goes: E hoki koe ki ō maunga. Kia purea koe e ngā hau a Tāwhirimātea. So that basically means come back to your mountains to be cleansed by the breath of Tāwhirimātea (god of weather). And it happens, you know, you come back home and you love it," Tama said.

Tattoo artist Tony Wallace is another individual who has returned to the West Coast.

Born and raised in Kokatahi, near Hokitika, Tony moved to Nelson for 16 years before deciding to return home with his young family and start a new business, Reclusive Arts.

“The reason I moved back to the Coast is to make a lifestyle business. That I can work from home, still be a family man, because I’m right here.”

Tony has converted a sleep out at his home in Ross, twenty minutes from Hokitika, into a tattoo studio with the latest equipment from around the world.

Moving back to the West Coast has enabled him to work from home and spend more time with his family.

He also enjoys living on the West Coast as it allows him to pursue his outdoor hobbies like fishing, camping and growing his own vegetables.

“I guess the advantages of running the business on the West Coast is that the lifestyle is a little bit more affordable, a little bit more laid back and I don’t need to mass produce tattoos or rushing through multiple clients. I’ve got time to focus on personalized art pieces,” Tony said.

Development West Coast chief executive Heath Milne, said “moving to the Coast is a great way to get ahead in your career, get on the property ladder, while also improving your work-life balance.”

With an average house price of $355,905, well below the national average of $953,850, young families are finding it easier to get on the property ladder. Households on the West Coast only spend 23.6% of their income on mortgage repayments, while the national average is 49.2%.

The West Coast is also experiencing economic growth, with 209 new jobs created in the region in 2022 and unemployment falling from 4% to 3.5%. Economic consultancy Infometrics reports that the region's economic activity grew by 3%, outpacing the national rate of 2.8%.

“The Coast is a special place that attracts a special kind of person. It’s perfect for the kind of person who wants to be a weekday warrior, not just a weekend warrior.”

Heath Milne, Development West Coast chief executive

Milne adds there are some misconceptions about the weather in the region.

“Living in a rainforest we do get our fair share of rain. When it rains it rains, but a lot of that comes at night and you’ll have more than enough blue bird days to enjoy your new backyard.”

According to NIWA’s annual climate report, the West Coast outshined all of New Zealand’s main centres in 2022. Hokitika enjoyed 2,408 hours of sunshine – 157 more sunshine hours than Auckland.

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