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Things that will die

Written By: - Date published: 8:55 am, June 15th, 2020 - 90 comments
Categories: economy, nz first, tourism, uncategorized - Tags:

We are going to see towns die from this economic disaster we are in.

For three decades tourism has been the great tidal surge that has made many otherwise spiralling towns stablise, and in some cases expand.

Since international travel on any scale will not come back for years as Covid-19 rolls wave after wave of corporeal and economic death through the world, what happens to those towns that owed their life to international tourism is: there’s no future for them.

We have seen the effects on the size and strength of towns from the economic changes of the 1990s in Richard Le Heron and Eric Pawson’s  “Changing Places: New Zealand in the Nineties”. (Longman Paul 1996). There the lowered futures of such towns as Kaikoke and Balclutha are discussed.

Further back in time, we have had boom-bust economies that have left dead or dying ghost towns in Hokitika, Greymouth, and Dennison (coal and gold – and check The Luminaries for the detail of this), mid and south Taranaki’s Stratford, Hawera and Whanganui (dairy and meatworks restructuring), all the dead ports in the furthest flung places of Gisborne’s coast, tiny settlements up northland’s west coast that died after Kauri and Kauri gum and flax were stripped out and dairy continued to centralise (Dargaville all the way to Ahipara), and even those deeply emplaced in the alternative imagination like Kawhia and Port Waikato.

There’s now whole categories of them.

More recently settlements up and down State Highway 1 above Taupo are now at real threat as expressways detour around settlements like Huntly, Tokoroa, Ngaruawahia, Mercer, and Gordonton.

We’ve seen some in our history resist decline in style, like Patea.

But soon, those centres that had revived through tourism will find they just can’t hold their people.

The central Otago survivors had built new lives like Middlemarch (cycling and train excursions), and cycling through Ophir, Ranfurly, Lauder, Naseby, and Omakau will see the reasons for their previously successful businesses evaporate. The first to go are the young people, then the families follow. Then the schools shut. Then you’re done.

Also now at risk is the Mackenzie Country towns that follow the Alps to Ocean tour and the Asian bus tour packages – Mt Cook’s Hermitage is closed, and business is pretty much dead from Tekapo, Twizel, Pukaki, Omarama, Benmore and Duntroon, and it certainly won’t help the long term stagnation of Oamaru and Timaru.

Now, towns as big as Queenstown, Wanaka and Cromwell have built their booms mostly on the back of Queenstown International Airport, and the outlook for passengers in the medium term is just miserable.

Mayor Boult was one of the first to really open up and analyse the real damage the whole of that local authority faces.

Thankfully QLDC remains supported by internal capital flows and retirees into their villages and winter homes from Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, and Auckland, so they won’t evaporate like many others have.

Some have built-in momentum like Auckland – but as a whole we’re a small, recently established, far-flung, capital-poor, vulnerable place, so we’re effectively a small town of the world.

This is one of the only governments I can recall that has seen this pattern and done something at a scale likely to make a difference – in the NZFirst policy of the Provincial Growth Fund. Their lists of achievements for small local communities is deeply impressive.

Nor need I list the astonishing success stories of the last two decades that have little to do with tourism, such as Blenheim, Nelson, Richmond at the top of the south (horticulture and viticulture); Pokeno, the whole of the Coromandel, and northland south of Whangarei (expanded Auckland commuter and holiday radius), and others.

And of course many other centres will guts it out, and prepare well to reinvent and thrive.

It may still well be that we don’t know how lucky we are.

But each boom in our history has come with a deep bust.

The 1870s after the gold and after the wars.

1890s depression.

1930s global depression.

Late 1980s to early 1990s stock market and property collapse, and structural adjustment.

Now here we are. It’s the Covid-19 Collapse.

The skeletons of those boom-bust enclaves are around us in dead and dying towns.

Prepare to see more die.

90 comments on “Things that will die”

  1. weka 1

    Would be very cool to see NZF and the Greens bring their policies together. The problem here isn't the loss of tourism, that was going to happen sooner or later anyway (QL always close to the edge with the prospect of a few bad skiing years). It's that we've had our head in the sand over the fragility of a tourism based economy. This is the ideal time to look at what sustainable and resilient economies are, and I'm not talking about the greenwashed version of sustainability but in its actual, ecologically based meaning.

    So, local economies are going to provide better resiliency than ones that are wholly dependent on the global economy. They can still tap into the global and national systems, but by definition resiliency comes first from creating systems that that will sustain themselves. Think of global interactions as the icing on the cake.

    Replacing tourism with another set of economics that can also be fast undermined by big system collapse would be daft.

    Oh, and we really should be talking about earthquakes. Put all the things on the table and figure out what is going to work.

  2. weka 2

    Do you know where that photo is? Looking at it I see tradie jobs, carpentry and painting, apprenticeships, locals selling to locals, there's probably room for accommodation, community resource centre. That's the second thing I'd do after the repairs and maintenance, set up a community centre that is focused on creative responses to the covid economy, that brings in all the skills of the locals, how to fund projects, support networks and so on. Put some computers in there and get people linked up with other towns, and with the sustainability design networks. Also social enterprise networks.

    • Andre 2.1

      The image url says Ohura and it appears to match the google street view from 30 Ngarimu St, Ohura.

      • Sabine 2.1.1

        Ohura is a neat little place – right on the way to the forgotten highway. 

        it is also totally out of place – at least an hour on the forgotten highway to Stratford, with maybe 300 people living there. The last thing that was open when i rode in town for a weekend with likeminded people was the Cosmopolitan Club and they were open because the Hostel we stayed at told them to be open (they had the liquor lisence). 

        Not sure what can be done for Ohura – and i consider it an awesome retirment place. 

        However you might actually want to look at towns that are killed by their own people – those that sit on Councils. To mind come Tokoroa – oh btw, commercial rentals there ther price of Auckland – i know that cause i tried to rent there a few years ago. Spoke to one landlord who owned a whole streetside of commercial properties – most of them empty – oh no i can't lease that to you, i have plans for it in six month time. Lol, the place is still empty. I think they call it landbanking. 

        Go to Rotorua – who even in the biggest tourist boom, could not rent anything downtown, cause the commercial prices are the same as in Auckland. 

        Go to Whakatane – ditto as Rotorua.

        Gisborn, ditto as Rotorua

        Whakamaru – heck that one building that i mentioned 4 years ago is still empty – now five years – lease price asked 25.000  anual ex outgoing ex gst ex rates ex building insurance ex anything. 

        Te Kuiti, Te Awamutu, Turangi, Taupo (where it appears most of commercial downtown is held by 4 families) – a tiny little shop not even 50 sqm was quoted to me as 20.000 annual rent ex everything. 

        I have raised this point so many times, unless the Government does not remove loopholes that allow Landbankers, Speculators and corrupt Council people to write of losses on 'unleased properties'  these guys will never have a reason to rent anything. And thus, whole towns fall into disrepear, creative people who could, would and should stay in these villages/towns to make their lives and would loe to makes their lives don't. Because they can't make the rent, the outgoings, the taxman, the council fees, and all the other assorted bullshit that they are to make, inclusive pay them.

        Maybe someone can sit down the Academics of the Labor Party, The Green Party, NZFirst and National and do some basic math with them, at least then they will have an incling of an idea just what the tiny subsistence level businesses have to put up with and why they can't be arsed anymore.


        • Andre

          right on the way to the forgotten highway

          Remind me to never go road-tripping with you. It's a long out-and-back detour off the Forgotten Highway, unless you're coming from the north on 4 and really want to avoid Taumarunui (admittedly a wise choice).

          As to commercial rents – yeah it's seriously fucked up how high they are here. I've never tried to run a business with that kind of vampire continual suck on cashflow right from the get-go, so I don't feel I've got any insight to add. Beyond that just looking at it would put me right off from even trying.

          • Sabine

            whut, you don't take the scenic route? 

             it's like you go straight, straight, straight, n then you there – give or take a few hundred kilometers. 

            yes, i do take detours, Yes, also on that time we did come from north. 

            And yes, commercial costs, compliance costs, and all that is what keeps people from doing their own thing. And i can't find fault with that. Also, then a country who literally has 'representatives' (it from all Parties, with nice degrees but no common sense and knowledge, that can't understand why subsistence level businesses – and most that cater to small towns only do so in order to raise a wage for themselves and maybe one or two people working there – have less to no savings in their business accounts once all the bills, wages, lease, tax has been paid.  Mind but these are the same representatives who over many years on the taxpayers tit have never anything done to change that. So go figure. 

    • McFlock 2.2


      Lots of jobs to do – the question is whether there's any cash to pay for them.

      • Sabine 2.2.1

        nope. Neither in any of hte other little towns around. 

        Reason, hard to get there, only get there by car/motorbike etc. Ohura looked like this since the Forrest workers left and since the Prison was closed. In fact the prison was a hostel when i stayed there in 2012 and then it got sold, not sure what it is now. 

        But it is at least an hour either which way to go anywhere.

        Ohura Valley Primary is a co-educational state primary school for Year 1 to 8 students with a roll of 6 as of March 2020


        People don't move there unless they want a hassle free retirement. 

        [not quite sure what was happening with the links there but I’ve tidied them up a bit – weka]

        • Sabine

          not sure either. lol….:) one of my botched copy paste thingies? cheers for cleaning up.

        • bwaghorn

          I believe the hostel is owned by the 7th day adventists or some such . I lived there for a while ,the place had a college once ,and atleast one car sales yard !!!! Brdore my time there  .

          The main killer has been the agrigation of farms into larger and larger holdings.  

          • Sabine

            Not sure about that, last i know the hostel was owned by a local family – but not enough money coming in with people staying at the prison and their little 'fish n chips' they ran on the weekends. So they put it up for sale.

            Yes, i can see the death of small farming not helping a rural town. In saying that, Farmers ask for a certain price on their land, and then they can't complain if it goes to industrial agriculture or overseas held forrestry businesses if they are the only ones able to afford the asking price. My humble opinion.  – And the cost of farm land is like the cost of commercial properties something that holds NZ'lers back from starting their own venture and maybe reviving a dying town.

            Sometimes the people that live and run these towns don't actually want it revived. Why would they, they chances are are well of to live there, with a littel excursion to town every now and then, and thus all is good. Tokoroa, Taupo, Rotorua, Te Kuiti, Te Awamutu, etc etc etc all larger towns, all with the same problem. A few holding the land, and basically fucking over everyone else. 

            • Descendant Of Smith

              Not to mention many of those small towns have very high average age populations and so many in the population will either die off in the next 20 years or move closer to medical services/younger family members.

              Without jobs and good medical services there is little else.

              If you wanted to kick start them again putting hospital services back would be a good start.

          • francesca

            I'd agree with that 

            I've watched the move from farms being livelihoods to farms being  businesses.

            The back to the land movement 46 years ago helped to repopulate dying rural towns here and there .Sheer movement of people was  followed by school rolls increasing, small service businesses starting up , an expanded medical centre, small tourism ventures, a picture theatre 

            The place became more attractive to retired people.First came the people, then came the jobs.None of them hugely paying, but enough to live on well  without too much of the consumer trappings 


      • weka 2.2.2

        If we start with jobs and how to pay for them, we will never design a sustainable local economy. Start with the people, then the skills in that community, then the infrastructure. Look at who needs to make a living and how much. Look at reducing people's cost of living eg if they grew more of their own food, if their housing costs dropped, if their utility costs dropped how much do they need to earn to be ok?

        And build in worker rights along the way. What if a collective model will work better because it keeps the money in that community (as opposed to an external investor/shareholder model).


        • Molly

          Collective worker model has been thriving in Mondragon, Spain for many years.  Even with the provision and funding of a university. 

          There have been changes since I heard of it a few years back, but gives some ideas about how to achieve a good workers collective still, and how it may then develop.

          • greywarshark

            Thanks for that Molly – we need to look and follow the courses that others have taken, from the grass roots up.   We have always had ideas above our station in NZ, but apparently they only led to having a house with a view over the sea and money in the bank, and devil take the hindmost.    Hardly the attitudes of true social democrats.

            And so it came to pass when unionists managed to gain better conditions they turned into self-centred businessmen.   When feminists managed to gain a better platform and conditions for some women who achieved higher status and stature for the university educated, they turned women without goals into low paid sweepers and often welfare weepers.

            Let  people who want a reasonable living for all, and the right for others who want more to be helped to achieve more.    Inia Te Wiata was funded for overseas training through I think the then PM speaking for him and backing him.    There was room for topdown help in those days, which should be common now.  

            There is gold in them there people who in economic terms are not being fully utilised.   We would be happier if we enabled people to work, and slowed technology stealing jobs.    For every job lost to some new idea, that business must start a new one that can employ the newly unemployed.    We are not to be culled like rampant rabbits.    We must act as a concerned people together,  country-wide, assist our good entrepreneurs and not let everything be sold to some other country or be subsumed and disappear into another business.     It hasn't worked for us as a way of doing business, we must change or more die off or turn criminal, rejected as citizens by the unthinking, irresponsible, uncaring and the greedy.

        • McFlock

          Not sure how much of it is a "start with… then…".

          Small towns need families. Families need jobs (at least at the moment). Jobs need industries, usually local (the occasional remote professional emailing in the day's product notwithstanding).


          • weka

            right, so start with the families.

            By all means use conventional economics, but it won't be a sustainable or resilient system.

            • McFlock

              OK, so how do you make living in a one-horse town more attractive than living elsewhere for families?

              • weka

                Ask the families that already live that what makes it attractive to them? Why did people used to like living there? Not just the jobs, but what else?

                Some people like living in a one horse town, and some might surprise us with modest needs rather than a big plan to grow the town.

                There's a marae there, what do local Māori want and need for their people?


                • McFlock

                  So we started with a list of maintenance jobs, and now we're all about consultation with the locals of that specific town.

                  • weka

                    Not following you there.

                    • McFlock

                      It just seems that your comment at 2 doesn't have the same approach as

                    • weka

                      Ah. Comment 2 wasn't a list of maintenance jobs, it was about what people might respond to esp locals (generally, given I don't know the community. So I would start with the community, but to do that that particular building if it was repaired and painted could become a focal point for the community resilience and organising. People like things that are maintained and look nice. That process requires skills, so may as well teach some people who want the skills in the process (how to paint, use a hammer and so on).

                      But it's still about the people. Rather than seeing a failed town that will die without tourism, see the people and the skills and resources that they have and how to support them.

                      I don't know that community, so am talking generally. Am curious about who Janet is and what she does.

                    • McFlock

                      Most towns began for a specific reason: a particular industry, or as a colony to exploit local resources. 

                      Maybe they had gold, or were a day's coach ride between two places people wanted to go, or had a water supply to refill steam locomotives.

                      But cities suck money from the regions, and people follow the money. Community spirit helps people fight to keep the school or find a new industry to create a few jobs (that might be the difference between prosperity and decline), but it won't keep people in a small town when they see bigger opportunities elsewhere, especially if they're not tied to the land via ownership.

                      Automation doesn't help – not just the main industries that gave rise to the village (e.g. mining or agriculture), but banks and other service outlets, and the means of transport to take consumers to the nearest hub town that has a Warehouse and maccas.

                      Without one or two key employers or industries, a small town's existence is precarious and frankly decline is inevitable, imo.

                    • weka

                      Without one or two key employers or industries, a small town's existence is precarious and frankly decline is inevitable, imo.

                      Not seeing anything incompatible with this and what I am saying.

                      If a really small town needs this eg a town of 150 people, then it's still important to use both a sustainability and a resiliency frame. eg can that key employment be sustainable and resilient. Or, if it is not, how can the community be made more resilient if/when the employment fails?

                      The idea that small towns inherently need more people to live in them doesn't make sense to me. Some might, some people there might want that, but others may have other solutions. 

                    • McFlock

                      But for a lot of dying towns, resiliency and sustainability of the major reason for their existence is a horse that bolted long ago. The mine is dug out or uneconomical, the timber gets shipped elsewhere, the mill is closed, and the farms are owned by corporations so the "farm managers" have no tie to that particular land.

                      So young people leave and don't return.

                      People can have all the skills and will in the world, but without some reason for people to stay there the town will become another collection of ruins.

                      Industries come and go to a town and a region. It's not just about extracting everything from a region (e.g. working out a mine), technology changes demand and profitability and employment levels. Snow machines lengthen the ski season, combine harvesters lower the number of farm hands needed.

                      Financial centres are monetary black holes – things are pulled into them. Towns that aren't financial centres need to have enough diversity in industry to keep orbiting around the black holes.

                    • weka

                      Are you saying that you believe jobs are the only reason people live in a place? I'm guessing you don't believe that, but it's hard to understand your argument otherwise.

                      If a town became a town in the 1800s because of the gold rush, or farming, or a mine, or whatever, I'm not sure how that is relevant to the town now where people live there because it's beautiful, or they grew up there, or they love it, or their family is there or they planted an orchard and want to stay and tend it. Many people live in places and have a connection with place that transcends economics. This doesn't mean they can't be economically coerced to leave, it just means that the mine or whatever isn't the reason they want to be there. They'd be happy living there and earning a living a different way.

                    • McFlock

                      Jobs aren't always the sole reason someone lives in a place, but they are essential for most people. And if you want to change that, it's not a community change that's needed. It's a full society restructure. There are many reasons for the restructure, but "so people can live in a nice but small town" is a pretty tangential way to advocate for that change.

                      Tending an orchard is all well and good, but if the crops don't pay the bills you either need to change what you grow on the land, eliminate your expenses, or move somewhere else. Because money.


                    • weka

                      scratching my head. Where do you think I've said people don't need jobs/an income?

                    • McFlock

                      You asked for a clarification of what I was saying. I provided it.

                      Some motivations "transcend economics", as you put it. But the deciding, primary, and often overwhelming factor for most people to stay in or leave a town is economic: jobs. You're more likely to leave a town if you're unemployed but  have a job offer from elsewhere. You're less likely to leave if leaving means giving up a good job.

                      A community centre won't pay the bills. A job will.

                    • weka

                      What you are saying seems self-evident, in that people need a way to live. But economic coercion aside, people often stay in one place for other reasons. eg people will do a job they don't like much rather than move, because they want to stay near family.

                      I think you are arguing a false dichotomy. A value of the community centre is this situation is to provide a focus for how to keep the town well, and obviously that includes people having income.

                      Neoliberal and trad left politics say that the paid jobs are the thing, and it's expected that people should move to where the jobs are. Which destroys communities. That's by definition neither sustainable nor resilient. If the overriding purpose is seen as jobs alone, then there's little value on community or family. That's pretty much the situation we are in pre-covid. I'm suggesting that we approach the problem differently, make the people the most important and use sustainable/resiliency design to make sure that they are ok (again, obviously, that includes having income).

                    • McFlock

                      I'm not saying that people should move to where the jobs are, just that they do. Yes, if jobs are the only reason people move to a place, that means the community starts from scratch. But they will build communities – like every factory town, or settlement below a hydro dam has.

                      You place a bunch of people together for a long time, they'll need bars and/or churches. Their kids will need schools. They'll build parks and sports teams. Ideally, all those things should be planned (and more) when the settlement is built, based on what's available and what the people will want and need.

                      But some towns have been built only on work and the community has followed, people going into what they saw as wilderness with picks and shovels, and a hundred years later there's still a bustling town (albeit based on different industries, usually).  Not sure how many towns have started and thrived without some sort of industry from the outset.

        • Sabine

          Unless you can guarantee that people can live in houses, have three square meals a day (and not just some gruel), have heat, light, warm water etc – and how to pay for it, people will have to work. 

          Poeple will happily stay at home ( see level 4 in NZ) if all the above mentioned costs are covered. And unless you have a plan for that, people need jobs and people will only move to were jobs are. 


          • weka

            Who said anything about people staying home? (although obviously working from home is an option for some).

            • Sabine

              i used this as an example to illustrate my point. Namely that unless someone who has the power to do so needs to assure that people can live – literally surive – without work, if you want them to move to a dead end like Ohura. 

              It has 6 kids in school roll, 6! That should give you an idea how many young people live there. Not many. And hte reason is that without money they will be homeless, without food and all of that. 

              Once the government is happy to pay people to move ot a place like that they might do so, and then they may even create jobs first for themselves and then for others.

              Currently however we can't even do that for towns that are on main roads, have some access to public transport and have not a mainstreed that has been unoccupied since the late 90's early 2000. 

              Again, i point to the wage subsidy and people staying at home (as commandeered by government and enforced by police and people calling the police at those flaunting the rules) as an example, as without the wage subsidy people would have insisted in going to work to you know to pay bills. 


              • weka

                maybe people don't need to move there and the issue is about the people that already live there and what their needs are.

                One person's dead end is another person's backyard.

                But if an objective is to increase the number of families, then the points about resiliency and sustainability still apply. I'm over looking at these issues through a conventional economic frame alone.

        • Sanctuary

          OMG. Growing your own food? Are you serious? You know who grow their own food to live on? Third world subsistence farmers. It is hardly a prescription to keep NZ a rich first world nation with flash hospitals and a fully functioning government.

          There is a mighty difference between being an enthusiastic backyard farmer with a compost heap, a worm farm and a beehive turning out a great crop of tomatoes and some spuds at Xmas and actually depending on that food to live.

          • weka

            You need to get out more. Also maybe clean your ears out. The point I made of people growing their own food is to lower their cost of living. I know many people that do this and they then need to work less hours in a week. This is a lifestyle choice, but it's also economics where we count unpaid labour, and where those people who are good at growing food sell excess produce locally, providing food and keeping money local. Instead say of handing money to multinationals and middle men.

            But, I also know quite a few small scale market gardeners, who likewise provide local food, and keep the money local.

            It's true that there are lots of hobby gardeners in NZ, many hold critical knowledge about how to grow food in local climates and micro climates. I also know people who grow nearly all of their own fresh produce, have ways of storing it, and there are others who are cropping or growing food forests. Those people are experts in resiliency and food production. They understand concepts and pragmatics of future proofing our food supply. These are the people we are going to be dependent upon alongside farmers if we have a hard crash, or even just a 1930s style depression.

            They are experts, and they've been in circles of people thinking about this shit for a long time. That expertise then extends into many other areas including building, tool making, food preservation, dressmaking and so on. They also often know how to create jobs for themselves.

            You come across as either very ignorant of the state of play of relocalised food in NZ, or you have a political position that is aligned with globalisation, or both. Either way you missed multiple points in what I was saying.


            • weka

              Oh, and they generally live good lives, which belies the implication in your scathing comment about subsistence farming.

    • Molly 2.3

      Agree with you here, weka.

      A possible suggestion, creating a electric-vehicle charging hub in these towns, to kickstart the economy as travellers stop in to recharge.  Last time I checked, the cost of these fast-chargers was approx $50K.  Creating a workshop in a small town that provides these charging points specifically for this purpose, would start the ball rolling, provide ongoing training and employment opportunities, and give one small town an industry. 

      Another – reboot companies like Methven tapware, who for years provided the tapware for state housing.  Which still works.  Do the same for any NZ supplier for basic house building materials and fittings.  Provide them with a government procurement contract so that they have a certainty of orders, and then use those suppliers in your designs for NZ state housing. 

      Invest money in providing bespoke pre-built homes, that can use technology to produce kitset or modular homes that require very little construction time on-site to be weathertight and/or habitable.  Put these production units in smaller towns, and use them as both educational, training and production hubs.

      There are many industries that could be identified to help build resilience, while supporting small communities.   A further benefit is that a lot of these places are not over priced regarding housing.

      Two benefits to lowered housing costs in these areas, is that people MAY have reduced costs to contend with while creating enterprises, and secondly that if people employed also have reduced housing expenditure their income can be spent more aligned to their needs and interests.

      As always calculating the social return on investment and procurement decisions would give a better indication of where our money reaches, rather than only how it is spent.

      It is not a given that these towns will atrophy.  It is likely, if we keep to BAU.

      • weka 2.3.1

        Nice one Molly. There's a coffee/snack cart by the charging station too.

        Govt and local body getting their shit together around tiny home regs would mean that there could be seasonal work in the area too.

        Housing seems central in all of this. The economics completely change if people aren't losing so much of their time in waged jobs to pay high rent/mortgage.

        The production/training/localisation thing seems full of potential.

        • Descendant Of Smith

          Jobs are more important than housing.

          Taumarunui which is close to Ohura has plenty of houses for sale:


          Just no jobs.

          • Molly

            The housing cost was mentioned as an addendum to creating industries in these places, that would  – after time, go on to support service and support industries. 

            However, he whole problem needs to be identified and solved from the perspective of supporting individuals, families and communities, not just by creating businesses and hoping the rest will work out.



    • Molly 2.4

      Teaching people how to produce food productively and profitably with small holdings would reverse some of the current disconnect between productive landuse and community building.

      Jean-Martin Fortier is a Canadian smallholder that has a small (2 acre IIRC, lot) that provides for his family and employs others.  The small holding design is such that fossil fuel machinery can be avoided (along with the expense) and it may be a way for those interested in producing food, to do it without getting a substantial mortgage or a need to find a vast amount of arable land for lease.

      Ideal for a collective in terms of funding and working.


      • Molly 2.4.1

        Tourism BAU really needs to be critically looked at to see whether the benefits are outweighed by the costs, financial, environmental and social.  Or we redefine tourism to make sure the benefits are shared…

        Imagine a NZ where instead of the Big OE, we had young people traverse the country, visiting these small towns and maraes on the way. 

        Contributing to both in both monetary and volunteer work, while getting to know their country intimately would be a benefit to those communities, and in developing greater understanding of our places, histories and people.


        • greywarshark

          As one who had an OE time I think it is invaluable for experience to see some of the big world.    And also to look thoroughly at our own as you say, and get that feeling of being islanders together instead of isolated individuals often divided by quarrels – as with some of my relatives.

          • Molly

            I also spent some time overseas, but only later did I realise how little I knew of my own country and history..

            While we are in the current situation, we have the opportunity to create an alternative or addition for our young – and not so young – to understand their own place.


            • francesca


              woofing is pretty popular 

              Willing workers on Organic Farms

              4 hours work a day for food and lodging

              • Molly

                Yes, it is.  That already exists, and attracts like to like.

                Given our current history knowledge deficit in much of the NZ population, I was thinking something along the lines of people being able to visit marae, and other places on their travels, combining the trip/s with exposure to parts of their country they do not usually see or experience.



  3. RedLogix 3

    I think you are being too pessimistic about 'global tourism'. I agree that the largely unrestricted travel model we are used is going into a decades long hibernation, but there is every reason to think a SE Asian regional bloc would be achievable within a year.

    Not to mention of course, that kiwis are nomads by nature, and that if we can't travel globally we'll do it locally. And while NZ looks small on the map, it is big on the inside.

    • Ad 3.1

      Dubai: top 10 global hub for tourism and travel. 

      50% preparing to close now and 70% of all businesses ready to close in next 6 months (see Dubai Chamber of Commerce). 

      And it's not a highly oil reliant state.


  4. Sabine 4

    A friend from Taupo told me that 8 of the bigger tourist shops have already closed over Lockdown 4. They never came back. 

    So frankly i think discussing the fate of Ohura is a bit a smoke screen, when in reality it is some of the bigger towns that never invested in anything else but tourism that will die. 

    Ohura died when the prison was closed in 2005 due to the isolation and cost of maintaining it. 

    Now when the bigger Hotels shut, it will just be more empty eyesores that no one will come and do something with as it will be to expensive and the best one could do is demolish and liberate the land maybe for some truly affordable housing for hte locals that can't find anything suitable – Air BnB is still doing ok tho. 

    • Sanctuary 4.1

      Tourism was touted as a saviour, but mass tourism relies on some incredibly fragile economic connections and as Covid-19 has brutally shown us, is very vulnerable to the slightest disruption. Besides, most of the jobs tourism creates are low paid service sector roles which have simply turned many rural towns in low paid poverty traps where a minority of rent seekers and land owners operate a quasi-feudal economic system.

      The move to the cities is inevitable as long as energy remains as cheap as it does. If it makes economic sense to make all the coca cola in Auckland and truck it to Timaru and Dunedin, or you can ship beer from El Salvador to Westport and sell it competitively with the cheapest local products then urbanisation will continue to intensify. Cities are more productive per capita and more efficient in their use of labour. 

      You might be able to persuade the odd online business to relocate to a smaller town but that town will still need excellent (read at least on or adjacent to the main sate highway network) communication links which mean they'll still be paying premium rents – they'd probably get a better rental deal in East Tamaki than in Tokoroa.

      Small towns are artifacts of the economy that created them. Trying to save somewhere because they've got a neglected war memorial and dilapidated community hall with potential is pure sentimentality.

      • Sabine 4.1.1

        Yeah, nah, nah.

        At that you could write of many towns and larger ones too. I.e. Ashburton, Timaru, Dunedin, Queenstown, christchurch as all of these town are literally even too far away for Kiwis to go holiday too. Let alone work. 

        So as long as towns have decent communications networks, transport networks – road/train etc, they have potential to offer jobs and with that lively communities. 

        The issue however with many of hte towns that i listed is that already within the council members there is no will to change anything, after all they are good, so it can't be that bad right?  So why bother. 

        And unless you want to build out Auckland to be able to build a hovel for all of us 4.8 million plus a place were we get to work in that same town then,  we will need to rethink our towns – even if it is hard work. 

        And this should have been done a long time before Covid. 


        • McFlock

          We're still closer than Aus for a long weekend. And you won't need 2 weeks quarantine.

        • Molly

          " So as long as towns have decent communications networks, transport networks – road/train etc, they have potential to offer jobs and with that lively communities.  "

          Agree with you here, Sabine.  With technological advances the issue of small town isolation is reduced, and with a review of what benefits can be offered to individuals, families and communities by revitalisation we could see some truly innovative ideas and businesses begin to emerge.


  5. greywarshark 5

    Make lemonade out of lemons I say.    That image of the abandoned ghost town would be a wonderful film backdrop.    Let's invite the alternative film makers over, with protocols for health, to enjoy our clean, green lungs both countrywide and peoplewide.    Make spaghetti westerns, make deep and meaningful pieces on how people gather together, fight and love, when the world is falling apart around them.    Show some entrepreneurial spirit and one that looks for advantage.   

    Don't bloody drone on about why were film makers allowed in when others aren't.   

    Do say – that is enterprising – if it works let's follow up in other particular and business-gaining ways – marine engineers to do this.    Rail engineers to do that.   

    Let's get this country moving from within, not the neolib wealth-gathering, cargo-cult leaders and madmen crazed by the money and power they have managed to sequestrate through the ineptitude of dultard politicians and barely socialised economists who set themselves apart from the real world.

    • The Al1en 5.1

      "Alright, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade! Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons; what am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson* lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down… with the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!"

      Cave Johnson

      * Cave Johnson was the founder of the applied sciences company, Aperture Science, and was its CEO until he died as a result of moon-rock poisoning in the late 1980s

  6. Makarora, between Hawea and the Haast Pass, is another little tourist gem devastated by covid:


  7.  long term stagnation of Oamaru and Timaru. I do not know where or how you arrived at this comment. We will be affected by what has happened to the Airbnbs in Twizel and Tekapo and so will those who built and paid Jaffa prices expecting things to carry on but there are other strings to these towns bow's especially Timaru. It was a pleasant drive to Twizel last Monday no camper vans and people stopping in the middle of the road to take a picture or following a car that braked at every corner.

    • Ad 7.1

      Both are seeing modest population increases in the last census after many years of decline. 

    • Ad 7.2

      Both are seeing modest population increases in the last census after many years of decline. 

      Timaru showed population decline from 1971 (peaking at 30,000), down to 26,000 in 2013 and really not much after that. 

      Oamaru showed population decline from 1971 (peaking at 15,000), down to 13,000 in 2013 and a near-flatline to slow growth by the last census.

      • Mad Plumber 7.2.1

        I think you need to look a bit deeper than the census and look at the investment going on at the port for one and what is happening in Waimate and Gearldine regards investment. Fonterra is looking for more staff approx 100.

        Two hours drive to the lakes, salmon fishing in the canals and do not forget the ski fields, oh and it is only 10 minutes to get from Temuka to work in Timaru, love it.

        An old ex Jaffa



  8. millsy 8

    There is going to be a lot more people working from home, post COVID, meaning if there is a decent internet connection, then people can do their job from anywhere in the world. Even good old Ohura. Having Auckland white collar workers work remotely in these sorts of places seems to be the way forward.

    Start by rolling out decent telecoms out to these areas and go from there. No need to make things too complicated.

    • Ad 8.1

      The pushback is coming hard though. 

      The State Services Commission is requesting all government departments support their CBDs by making all workers come in at least 4 days a week. 

      NZTA and many others are already putting in more rigid rules about ensuring teams are at work in the office as much as possible.

      That's what a really low-trust worker-employer does to society.

  9. Pat 9

    Small town NZ has a limited and particular demographic appeal….families with young children (provided they can find employment) and empty nesters who are healthy enough to not need too much in the way of medical assistance…..that is a limited pool , internet or not (and an acceptance that property sale may be measured in months or years rather than weeks)

    • The Al1en 9.1

      It's funny, I've just sold my shithole in Hamilton and am now looking to buy a house in Westport. I would have preferred going over the Takaka hill, but I can't afford it, so will buy a house on a quarter acre section freehold instead.

      Mortgage free, I'll just have to find enough work to pay the rates and utilities, and f*ck me, they have fibre broadband, so streaming illegal tv streams is still on.

      Yes I'm an empty nester. Yes I'm (just) healthy enough (at this stage) not to need too much medical assistance. And yes, I'm not moving for the resale value. My kid wants to stay in Welly after graduating uni, so it doesn't matter where I live really. When I snuff it, the estate is all theirs anyway (unless I leave it to the cats and dogs home out of spite), so why not enjoy a relaxed lifestyle by the seaside removed from the rat race? Remembering whoever wins, they're still gonna be a rat.

      • weka 9.1.1

        West Coast would be one of the places I'd consider if I was moving. Will be interesting to see what the property prices in Takaka are in a few years time.

        • The Al1en

          I imagine Takaka will only increase, the only question will be by how much. I can't see them prices dropping. Even now, after covid, the prices have shot up this past year. I almost jumped on a couple of places in my price range a while back that are now totally beyond me.

          I'll just take what I can get and do the best I can with it.


      • Pat 9.1.2

        case is rested

  10. Graeme 10

    Sorry people but Queenstown won’t be going away.

    Government is propping up the property sector which is what makes the place go round. https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/queenstown/queenstown-housing-development-fast-tracked Te Pa Tahuna is going to put a lot of smaller residential units right in town and add to a lot of other developments at that end of the market. So will see a lot of people moving to Queenstown which will keep the town ticking over just fine.

    Mayor likes it, https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/queenstown/fast-tracked-project-‘good-news’ but he’s into any money the government splashes about. Large tourism businesses are pinning their hopes on government bailouts, smaller ones are just getting on with it and catering to a slowly recovering domestic market, which isn’t doing too bad for the middle of June.

    • Ad 10.1

      Excellent to hear about the turnover there.

      • Graeme 10.1.1

        Driving around it’s normal, heaps of traffic with commuter tail backs through Frankton, and parking in CBD is back to impossible  

        Real indication for tourism will be how the winter pans out with domestic market. Initial signs are that people are impressed with what they are seeing and coming back. Some stunned at just how good it is. 

        Property seems to be holding up. Real Estate agents next door were beside themselves when their power went off for a couple of hours yesterday, they had work on and weren’t happy. 

        • Ad

          I had been expecting a lot more pushback for writing a fundamentally negative post, and it's awesome to hear facts on the ground that aren't bearing it out. 

          Still, it would be nice if builders' prices came down.

          • Graeme

            This government has done more for the property market in Queenstown and  Central than any in memory. Their COVID response has kept things afloat and NewZealanders are flocking home. Demand is still there and in some places like Dunedin it’s going off. 

            My reackon is that by Christmas we’ll be back where we were 12 months before with property and getting very close with tourism in Queenstown. 

            Why don’t you take a year off and build it yourself, figure you know a thing or two about the game

            • Pat

              "Property seems to be holding up. "

              Far too early to say…6 to 12 months and the view may be considerably different

            • Ad

              I'm not finding QLDC particularly easy to deal with. 

              And I'm wary of project managing from afar. Better  just to be the client just like a real JAFA.

              But the Covid era has been a great moment to re-think my direction and the reality of early retirement, if I can do it.

  11. Molly 11

    Was looking for a documentary I watched some years ago, on the revitalisation of some American small towns.  Was unsuccessful but come across some other interesting links:

    Forbes article:  To Revitalize Small-Town America, Focus on the Future of Work

    Ten minutes from downtown Holland, Michigan, there is a massive $300 million dollar plant that manufactures advanced battery cells for electric vehicles.  When it was first announced in 2009 that LG Chem would be setting up a subsidiary in the small town of 34,000 people, government officials planned for an economic revitalization.  They spared no expense to woo the Korean giant.  The local, state, and federal government awarded over $250 million in tax subsidies, grants, and concessions, promising that Michigan would become “the world capital for advanced batteries.”

    The plan amounted to spending $750,000 for a job that pays only $54,000 a year. And along the way, much of the money was wasted. A 2013 federal investigation found that employees were “paid to watch movies, play games or volunteer at local non-profits as production lines for battery cells sat idle.”  They concluded that taxpayers were to see little upside for their investment.  While the plant did go on to later hire hundreds of workers and produce some batteries, the program fell far short of expectations. Today, it serves as a reminder that top-down thinking is a recipe for disaster in the modern era.  The days when small towns could give corporations large handouts to create industry and stability are long gone.

    Instead, state and local governments will need to change their entire approach if they want to want to breathe new life into non-metropolitan areas.  They must prioritize people over industry, and workers over corporations.  They must focus on building for what’s coming next, instead of what has come before.  And that can be accomplished by understanding the transformation of the way we work.

    Grist article:  Artisans transform one small town's economy

    Tieton, Wash. — population 1,200 — sits on a plateau just above the Yakima Valley. A decade ago, it was just another economically depressed American farm town, one more victim of the corporatization of agribusiness. Successful small to mid-size farms had virtually disappeared, along with most local enterprise.

    Now, Tieton is a place for creative people to enact their visions. Almost by accident, an influx of creative enterprise is bringing a different kind of prosperity to this one-time fruit boomtown.

    Thanks to a loose association of artists and artisans that have set up shop, Tieton now shines as a hopeful example for hundreds of struggling rural towns across the United States. A long-abandoned apple distribution center now hosts a letterpress studio, a metal shop, a versatile gathering space, and a lamp production facility. The 40,000-square-foot warehouse space gets transformed to host various community events throughout the year, from concerts to weddings to celebrations of the Day of the Dead. From one of many formerly empty storefront spaces in the town square, Paper Hammer produces and sells stationery, handmade books, and other printed creations using techniques from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

    In all, about a dozen small businesses make up Mighty Tieton. Not including the artisans from out of town, 17 people are employed and learning to make beautiful and useful things by hand — almost all of them locals (association’s handyperson and event organizer Jeremy Howell, my friend who hosted us in Tieton, is one of just three exceptions). Seventeen may not sound like much, but this podcast episode about the town points out that if a project were to employ the same proportion of Manhattan’s population, about 140,000 people would be put to work. It doesn’t take much exploration in Tieton to conclude that the maker scene is reviving the look and feel of the town.

    NY Times article:  The Hard Truths of Trying to 'Save' the Rural Economy

    Still, there are compelling reasons to try to help rural economies rebound. Even if moving people might prove more efficient on paper than restoring places, many people — especially older people and the family members who care for them — may choose to remain in rural areas. What’s more, the costs of rural poverty are looming over American society. Think of the opioid addiction taking over rural America, of the spike in crime, of the wasted human resources in places where only a third of adults hold a job.

    And if today’s polarized politics are noxious, what might they look like in a country perpetually divided between diverse, prosperous liberal cities and a largely white rural America in decline? As Mr. Galston warned: “Think through the political consequences of saying to a substantial portion of Americans, which is even more substantial in political terms, ‘We think you’re toast.’ ”

    The distress of 50 million Americans should concern everyone. Powerful economic forces are arrayed against rural America and, so far, efforts to turn it around have failed. Not every small town can be a tech hub, nor should it be. But that can’t be the only answer.

  12. Hunter Thompson II 12

    The great tidal surge that is tourism brought a huge amount of rubbish with it that was dumped on NZ's roadsides and nature reserves and in our rivers. Ratepayers carried the cleanup costs.

    At least the environment will benefit from not being trashed by hordes of overseas visitors – and yes, I admit Kiwis could do a lot better in that department as well. "Clean and green" is just a myth broadcast by Tourism NZ.

    As for dying towns, maybe the oldies in the big cities will sell up and populate some of the smaller centres? That may depend on the town having a good hospital nearby.


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  • Statement on passage of national security law for Hong Kong
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