Business South Feb / March 2022

18 | T T Richard Loader The Invercargill Central Development will present a true CBD within the heart of the city. REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT - SOUTHLAND Southland Chamber of Commerce “The work life balance that Kiwis once had, but got lost in the system, still thrives down here in abundance.” Oysters from Buff, salmon from Stewart Island, lobster from Fiordland and wild venison from the mountain ranges, Southland is undoubtedly a food lover’s unbridled paradise. Replete with historic rural service towns like Gore, Lumsden, Riverton, Tuatapere and Winton, Southland’s major city is Invercargill with a population circa 57,000, a little over half the region’s total. Sheree Carey, Southland Business Chamber CEO and passionate Southlander says an easy and safe lifestyle are the magic ingredients known to those that live in the region. “You can whip home, have lunch, hang your washing out and be back at work in five minutes without the burden of traffic jams and draining commute times. You are two hours from the Catlins, the ski fields or great walks with Stewart Island and Milford Sounds on the doorstep. “There’s still affordable housing and there are great employment opportunities. For example, you might come out of Uni and start in a large Auckland firm. It might take you a couple of decades to make a partner but down here there are smaller firms with greater opportunities to progress careers much faster — and still enjoy that great lifestyle. “The work life balance that Kiwis once had, but got lost in the system, still thrives down here in abundance.” There is a lot of exciting development going on down South too. Invercargill ‘s CBD is being extensively overhauled with construction of the new Invercargill Central Development; a major new shopping complex that will breathe life into a city that was suffering from a retail sector that sprawled the suburbs. “Invercargill Central Development will present a true CBD within the heart of the city. HW Richardson Group is building a large head office on the corner of the new city block that will bring all their staff into the CBD. There will be a lot more vibrancy with people back in the city, rather that sprawled out.” Phase one of the development will be opened to the public in June this year, with anchor tenant Farmers opening its doors at the same time along with 25% of the stores. Another ten or so retailers have also signed up to move into the new revitalised area, adding to the spark and vibrancy. Two new hotels are also under construction; one belonging to the Invercargill Licensing Trust and the other owned by Geoff Thomson who operates the Distinction brand. Just announced, New Zealand’s first hyperscale data centre will be built in North Makarewa Invercargill. A partnership between Meridian and Datagrid, the plan involves building a huge cloud computer data centre connected by two new subsea cables at a cost of NZ $700m. According to Datagrid and Meridian, Invercargill’s cool climate, land space, remote location and its renewable energy capabilities make it an attractive location for a data centre. “That will involve about three hundred construction jobs and create a huge amount of opportunity for businesses and people coming into the region,” says Sheree. Southland all set for exciting future Ex-Barkers chief executive Justin Riley has also been appointed chief executive of an industry-leading endeavour to build a carbon neutral oat milk plant at Makarewa, which could be operating by the end of the year. “With all the projects underway, finding construction staff is a challenge as is the challenge of finding staff to resource them once they are completed. We need 80taff just for that one licensing trust hotel. “Every sector and every industry has a staff shortage at the moment and every region is facing the same issues. And when you have Omicron coming with 30% of your staff potentially out it will present issues.” While the lack of international tourism hit Fiordland very hard, and remains hard hit, Southland generally performed remarkably well against the backdrop of the global pandemic, and the challenges presented over the last two years. Underpinned by the agricultural sector, Southland has one of the highest levels of the essential workforce allowing businesses to operate, workers to work, wages to be spent and the economy to survive. “When you talk about a lockdown in Auckland’s CBD it looks a lot different to what a lockdown in Southland looked like. Southland has plenty to offer from food and entertainment to outdoors opportunities. Photos: Great South