NZ’s newest tech hub isn’t where you’d think

How's this for work perks? Not all tech hubs are located in major cities, which is awesome if you're into a quieter pace and loads of nature. Image: Shutterstock

Not all tech jobs are in big cities. Tairāwhiti in New Zealand is shaping up to be an exciting place of innovation.

Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, the Tairāwhiti region holds a special place in New Zealand’s culture and history – and, thanks partly to growing tech innovation and investment, the country’s future too.

Over the past few decades, the main industries in the picturesque coastal region have been forestry, agriculture and tourism – but opportunities are opening up for people with STEM skills at startups and large tech organisations alike.

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In 2018, an AI-powered translation services company, Straker Translations, made headlines when it opened up a second office in Gisborne, the main town in the Tairāwhiti region – offering its employees an affordable sea change opportunity.

But according to Malcolm Mershem – Business Advisor at Trust Tairāwhiti which invests in the development of the region – Straker’s move to Gisborne is just one example of Tairāwhiti ’s journey to reinventing its economy.

Social wellbeing tech

One of many tech start-ups based out of Gisborne coworking space, Launch!, Riposte Analytics is an app that helps communities keep track of their wellbeing by inviting users
to report on their daily thoughts and experiences anonymously and safely.

Launch! is a co-working space for tech startups in Gisborne.

“Our mission is to make it easier for communities and organisations to measure the wellbeing of people so they can provide more relevant and timely support,” says data analyst Deb Hancock, who co-founded Riposte in 2016.

Manufacturing tech

Tairāwhiti is also home to a high-tech, fully automated wood processing facility that brings the region’s traditional forestry industry into the 21st century. The facility is owned by Wood Engineering Technology (WET), a NZ company that has engineered a new timber product that uses low-value logs – usually destined for woodchips – to produce a strong, sustainable, and high performance building material.

Medical tech

Tiarāwhiti boasts a $6 million medical research lab based at Gisborne hospital.

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Mātai – which translates to ‘the investigating revealing eye’ – is a not-for-profit research centre focused on advancing the capabilities of medical imaging using advanced technology such as Artificial Intelligence.

The Director of Mātai, Dr Samantha Holdsworth, hails from Tairāwhiti herself. “Through our work in Tairāwhiti, combined with expert support from our global networks, and by bringing the latest technology to the east coast, we will deliver health and social benefits to the community and to the country,” she says.

Space tech

NZ-founded aerospace manufacturer and small satellite launch service Rocket Lab has a launch site in the Tairāwhiti region.

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Tech 2020.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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