In the biggest cities in the world there is a sense that you are at the cutting edge and that you will see the latest technology released, the biggest bands stopping by and premieres rolling out red carpets. We probably can’t replicate all of those things here in New Zealand, but what would it take for Ōtautahi Christchurch to become a world leading innovation and tech hub?
There is a clear shift in focus from the past and what you grow or produce to what you dream and create. Technology has altered where value can be found. Attracting the best in the world to come to Christchurch would help us challenge the status quo and the dangerous assumption that what has brought us success in the past will continue to do so in the future.
To really thrive and grow we need to attract the right people to come to Christchurch and join the ecosystem here – why would they? I already wrote about the changes in “vibe” in Christchurch after the earthquakes, and the impact that they had for Spinoff in this piece. But let’s explore that question a bit more and focus in on why people might look at this as a place to move.
I recently interviewed Mark Prain for seeds podcast – he was involved in setting up the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. He talked about New Zealand becoming an “incubation nation”, which is one of the reasons they offer fellowships to eligible people to come to New Zealand on three year Global Impact Visas.
But what do we emphasise and how do we actually attract those disruptors who can contribute new ways of thinking and doing things? I’ve been reflecting on that a lot recently and the points below come from having lived as an expat overseas for 11 years in Tokyo, London and Sydney, before making the decision to return to New Zealand just a few years ago and base myself here in Ōtautahi, Christchurch.
So what are the key things that might help?
So what might be a few of the key things which would be attractive to those who are considering New Zealand – and in particular Christchurch – as their destination? I think there are some key points that would resonate with the type of people that would add value to our community:
- Emphasise what we are not – our weakness is our strength. We need to turn the lack of population and remoteness from the rest of the world into a real draw card for those who want to have a unique base from which to both work and play (see the next point).
- Provide a playground – What other country combines the best of Europe within just a few hours drive? The natural beauty of New Zealand has been played on the big screen enough where those we want to come are already familiar having ventured here by the side of Frodo with the Ring. Mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciers, skiing, surfing, hiking – all that is so accessible compared to most parts of the world.
- Progressive regulation – to foster innovation and embrace change the regulatory system needs to adapt quickly. We need to ensure that the speed with which changes were made in Space law recently are replicated for other areas such as blockchain, AI, driverless cars, cryptocurrency, big data, privacy, social enterprise …
- Emphasise convenience – when I was in London there was a one hour + commute that involved two buses and a lot of gridlocked traffic. Often it felt like it would be faster to get off the bus and walk (sometimes it was). Here there are commutes but they are nothing by comparison and technology makes virtual meetings more normal too. While people here may comment on a 20 minute commute to the vast majority in the World that is nothing.
- Cost of housing – It may seem expensive to those here but it’s not when compared to the Sydneys, Londons and Tokyos of this world (and even compared to Auckland). The salary may be a bit lower but if the house price is half or even less what is in other places then that makes a huge difference.
- Embrace our past – The unique events in the last decade of earthquakes, fires and shootings have created an environment which is unusual in the world where people have been given the chance to see beyond the usual Western drivers of success. It’s caused them to question what they are doing with their time on this Earth and means this could become a place where new ways of doing things are embraced. Can we embrace our past and the learnings that have resulted in order to forge a different future that is world leading?
- Promote community – there is a growing ecosystem of entrepreneurs, artists, community builders and others who are promoting and encouraging each other in what they do. Providing opportunities for them to connect and collaborate is important. A contribution towards this are the plans for a Christchurch based Impact Unconference in 2020.
- The distance – for those who have googled “moving to New Zealand” and found this article we need to be honest – it is far away from most everywhere. But on the other hand – it is far away from most everywhere! Take that how you want…
Is there much going on already?
At the time of writing this just last week was the Canterbury Tech Summit – literally hundreds of people attended the sold out event (picture above) to hear world class speakers. The tech scene in Christchurch is there and growing and will become increasingly important.
Just some of the stories of local people involved in tech that show this from seeds podcast are:
- David Carter on Canterbury Tech
- Ben Reid on AI
- Stella Ward on Health Care in the future
- Miranda Satterthwaite on promoting STEM
- Rob Lindeman on the HIT Lab
- Tech for Good Panel with Tim Jones, Georgia Robertson, Menno Finlay-Smits, John Ascroft and Dave Lane
- Joanna Norris on Christchurch
- Will McLellan on co-founding EPIC
Those are just a small sample – we need to be proud of these stories and help to promote them and share them with others so that people can picture themselves in the story of living and working in Ōtautahi Christchurch.
It’s time to get ready for the future…
…that our children will face and become a global leader in ideas and technology. That will only come with the right mix of people based here and more arrivals adding to the mix. We used to talk about the ‘brain drain’ – what if we become the destination for the best from other places and had a brain gain? Doing so will ensure that we are able to adapt and welcome the future and perhaps become that “incubation nation” that people look to as a globally leading digital tech hub – a true innovation nation, with Ōtautahi Christchurch leading the way.
[What have I missed? Overemphasised? Why did you move here? I would be curious to discover that so leave a comment and let’s see what else emerges that can be added to this article …]