Wellington business owner moves company - and all his staff - to West Coast

19 April 2023
Joanne Naish
When Greg McDonald told his staff he wanted to switch Wellington for the West Coast he was surprised by their response.

They all wanted to move with him.

“Who wouldn't want to move here,” McDonald said.

“The fishing, the hunting, the walks, the scenery. I've got good friends that are here.”

McDonald runs Top of the South Marine Coatings – a company repairing boats.

He started the business in Picton, then sold his property in Blenheim and bought one in Runanga near Greymouth. A contract to work on an electric ferry then took him to Wellington where business boomed.

However, the West Coast kept calling.

Greg McDonald

He called a meeting to tell his staff of his plan to relocate to Greymouth.

All five decided to make the move as well.

“[It’s] great. I mean, they can buy houses here, they can achieve, and hopefully we can achieve as well.”

Arnie Gaskin joined the company in Wellington as part of a boatbuilding apprenticeship.

When McDonald announced he was moving to the West Coast, Gaskin did not hesitate in making the move too so he could finish his training with him.

Gaskin had worked in the marine industry for 25 years in Auckland, Australia and Wellington as a deckhand and engineer before taking on the apprenticeship.

He already felt at home on the Coast, where it was possible to buy a house with one income, he said.

“I love the Coast. I’m looking at buying a house here because it’s easier and cheaper than in Wellington. I can afford it down here by myself.”

McDonald said the move meant he could expand his business to build new boats, as well as repairs. He also wanted to take on more apprentices and coach people doing their own repair jobs.

”The main advantage for us is the cost of the property and the cost of getting the shed,” he said.

“[In] Wellington there was no sheds available. We've been waiting for three years trying to get a shed, whereas here there’s hopefully, fingers crossed, we've got a shed lined up.”

The business was operating temporarily in central Greymouth but was in talks to get a shed at the port where the Grey District Council is building a $3 million new slipway and 18m-high shed funded through the Government’s provincial growth fund (PGF).

The new shed will have capacity for three vessels.

The PGF also provided $750,000 to allow the slipway and lagoon at Greymouth Port to be dredged to 4m.

Development West Coast chief executive Heath Milne said he was thrilled to welcome McDonald’s team to the region.

“Their decision to relocate from Wellington to Greymouth highlights the growing appeal of regional New Zealand for businesses and families alike,” he said.

They were some of the 398 new jobs created on the West Coast in the year to February.

Milne said the region was one of the few places left where homeownership was a realistic and attainable goal.

The average house value on the Coast was $355,905, compared $953,850 nationally, according to Infometrics. The region had the second-highest average salary in New Zealand at $69,700 and residents had to spend only 23.6% of their income on their mortgage, compared to 49.2% nationally.

“The West Coast is an incredibly attractive option for those in pursuit of financial stability, a better quality of life, tight-knit communities, and a chance to break free from the rat race,” Milne said.

Originally published in The Press

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