Regional Rundown: inside how the Hawke’s Bay, Napier and the Wairarapa communities stay connected

More than two million New Zealanders live outside Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and more are packing up for the regions each day.

A relaxing lifestyle, lower cost of living and strong sense of community are luring professionals from all fields, and strengthening the creative, collaborative and connected communities that cover our islands.

Known for award-winning wines, gourmet food and a vibrant arts scene, Hawke’s Bay, Napier and the Wairarapa are marked on any holiday-makers road map of New Zealand. But over the last few years the region has noticed a trend of big city workers moving in for good.

The average house price in Greytown is now on par with Wellington, and in the two years to April 2018 South Wairarapa house prices rose nearly 50 percent – the second highest increase in any New Zealand district.

The fertile plains and hilly coastlines, mixed with a vibrant arts, culture and business scene are proving a luring combination.

“With our great weather, beautiful landscapes, amazing food and wine, and minimal traffic issues, who wouldn’t want to move?” Julia Kay says.

Kay, managing director at Hastings marketing firm Creative Marketing, says predominantly two types of people in the marketing field move to the region – those who have done their time in big city firms and want to consult, and those who are working their way up the career ladder but are starting families and don’t want to work crazy hours.

With a large and growing number of successful local businesses, Kay says the best opportunity for creatives and those businesses is to work in local partnerships and tailor relevant and relatable content.

Kay says a number of local businesses are getting great results with digital channels and there is a big push to go online, although a number are still using more traditional ways of communicating with audiences like radio, TV and print.

In the central region of the North Island, more than a third of residents watch more than 23 hours of TV a week and are 19 percent more likely to be heavy television viewers than the rest of New Zealand. Residents are also 18 percent more likely than the rest of the population to read six or more issues of a newspaper in a week – with 22 percent of residents doing just that.

Andy Walker, the managing director of rural specialist agency TRACTA, says the benefits of being located in the rural centre of Hawkes Bay far outweigh any challenges his team has with distance. And with clients located from Auckland and Christchurch to Australia, being in a major city wouldn’t help anyway.

Walker says a lot of his audience are farmers, who are “quite unique”.

“They’re isolated, reasonably staunch, self-reliant, welcoming, practical, and subject to huge change and government and local authority regulation.”

That’s on top of being at the mercy of the weather and exchange rates.

“For farmers, local media consumption is quite high as they are more community-minded than the average. They’re also huge consumers of farm publications, online and traditional.”

Walker says the farming audience is very active online, more so than people appreciate, as are fresh produce consumers.

“There seems to be a line of thought that farmers are digitally unaware. I recently heard a host on 7 Sharp say ‘it doesn’t seem right, a farmer using a cell phone’.

“That shows how stereotypical we can be.”

NZME general manager of the Central Region Glen Smith believes regional audiences view their local media as a connector to what’s happening in their community and says established and credible media brands with localised content have a high level of trust.

Smith grew up in the region and cut his teeth in local media before working in metro markets domestically and abroad.

Taking the role in the Hawke’s Bay, he says he wanted to make a contribution to the industry and the people in the region by building capability in the business, growing local businesses’ ability to connect with audiences, and competing on a local and national level.

“But most importantly ensuring that our audiences stay connected with news, sport and entertainment offerings in their local market and outside the region.”

The region boasts more than ten print titles, has a range of radio stations, and digital platforms are proliferating. Hawke’s Bay Today has a subscription rate of 85 percent and readership is increasing, which Smith says is a really good indicator the local newspaper is still a major part of how residents like to start their day.

“The local paper isn’t our paper, it’s their paper and the readership takes note in print and seeks accountability and gives support in social.

“They’re searching for local news, sport and entertainment information that affects their everyday lives.”

He says audiences are also engaging with strong digital platforms, and there is a high demand in the regions among the affluent audiences for higher quality, rich and more in-depth content.

The community newspapers get great support from Regional, District and Local Councils around public consultations and events and are seen as an important communication tool with localised distribution and content.

A recent Mitre 10 Mega campaign for kitchens, where the local NZME offering changed from an ad in the paper and on the radio to production of video, radio promo, digital, social media, print and brand engagement, showed the possibilities that lie ahead with targeted and integrated regional marketing using new and traditional platforms.

“This type of service has only really been available in major areas, but the game changer now is to increase capabilities in the regions to be more effective with our client’s investment,” Smith says.

In short: cosmopolitan regional communities can be up-to-date about what’s on offer to them from local, national and international brands, and regional businesses can target exactly the people their products are made for.

The Regional Rundown series will explore the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay/Wairarapa, Nelson/Marlborough, and Otago regions. To read the profiles, click here.

This story is part of a content partnership with News Works.

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