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Participants had noticed that there were more remote workers based in Ohakune, particularly so since COVID.

"A lot of families have worked out, especially post-COVID, is that they can work from wherever. So we've seen a number of families that have moved from Auckland that have come down here, that have had a holiday home and they’ve tested it out and seen if it's going to work for them and they've actually moved and bought here. Relocated here."
"That is exactly how we ended up here. Like I said, we spent heaps of time here but we bought a house because we'd been saving up for ages, gave up on getting anything in Auckland. So, we spent COVID here and loved it and then moved in. So, I work from home, I have my own business. "

It was considered that relative to other places in New Zealand, wages tended to be lower in Ohakune. People were attracted to the area for the lifestyle but found it difficult to remain in the longer term. This observation was also raised in the context of recruiting and retaining health and social service professionals in the area:

"The challenge is wages. They make peanuts. We're here to give you an experience of living a "lifestyle," we're going to sell that. So it's like, ok, cool. I'm going to get my lifestyle experience, but I can't afford to live here. So they bugger off."
"Wages are low, living is high, cost of living is high, groceries are high, resources are low. It’s the nature of the value, I think, we can say that every hospitality or service industry employee they’re only worth minimum wage, or maybe a dollar over, but what they’re producing is much higher."
"I think hospitality pays alright? In most places."

Similar to 2020, the key types of employment available in Ohakune were considered to relate either to the primary sector or the service sector and tourism. While it was considered that there was plenty of work available, also in a similar fashion to 2020, participants noted that work in the area was often lower paid, part time or seasonal work with relatively little opportunity for career progression:

"You serve the people that come here in the weekends. But there are not always full-time jobs. Most of the people in the service industry are not rate payers. In that industry you can't afford to buy a home."
"There are a lot of people in the tourist industry in our town. A lot of employment in the hospitality field. And a lot of college kids doing dishes, kitchen work after school."
"It can be permanent."
"The restaurants would struggle if it wasn't for the college students."
"Forestry, planting, market gardens. There's heaps of work."
"There’s enough work here, if you need work here, to get a job. If you want to work outside."
"NZDF, the defence force. That's underutilised, I think. We've got plenty of money to put people into prisons but why don't they use that money to start cadets again? Compulsory Military Training, I’m all for that. If you haven't got a job to go to after school, you go army navy or air force. Then you will get a job, you'll learn a trade. You might not like it but it installs discipline into you. Cuts any vaping out, any foul language."
"We place so much of our resource in that part of the community which is here part time. Quick development, replaceable jobs. We tend to focus our regional resources on things that are part time rather than committed and sustained."
"I struggled to find work for two years when we came down here. I do admin, I would have thought every business does admin and that it would be easy. I wasn’t fussy, I would have taken on any job. I ended up cleaning, which was fine. But doesn’t quite pay the bills. I now work for a company that is based in Auckland and I just work remotely."
"There’s a lot of self-employed businesses that do their own admin. A lot of small businesses."
"I heard the other day that now, cleaners are getting paid $45 an hour."
"That’s actually the highest paid job here."
"I’m thinking about giving up my job and going cleaning!"
"That’s not a random comment! The demand is there."

A similar sentiment was expressed as that in 2020 where it was considered that the supply of labour in Ohakune was not always available or willing to work. Some participants felt a contributing factor may be that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to advance to better pay or conditions in some work.

"There’s no succession planning, we could probably do better with that. But also there’s no training providers to train staff. Nothing here. I have talked to other businesses, and everyone would love if some could come here and we’d all train together. Just leadership, the basics, that sort of stuff. I think that would help the community with employment."
"Someone said before that there are plenty of jobs available but it’s whether people want to work, honestly. You get workers and then they don’t want to come to work. Everyday. No shows. And it’s the locals, the kiwis. They just don’t want to work. I feel like they… they don’t want to work."
"Our region, MSD blew their budgets on unemployment benefits, the flexi wages trying to get people into work, where they pay the employer a certain amount to guarantee that person 30 hours. But if they person doesn’t show up… you don’t pay the 30 hours."
"There is a lot of work but I do think a lot of that work is lower level work, but there is work there. And you have to start somewhere. The level of work, heaps of it, but it’s not well paid and that’s just the way it is because of the type of roles they are. They’re not worth anymore."
"There’s not a Mitre10 mega who needs ten management staff. That’s the kicker, there’s no level of succession. There isn’t an opportunity for succession."
"Our philosophy was to hire locally first. Zero qualification, zero experience but if you had an Aotearoa address or a passport, you got a job."
"We hired without referee checks, no interviews. Everyone gets a chance. But it gets to three or four chances and I can’t do anymore. Now that the border is open we can get foreigners."
"(Redacted business name) has 12 people recruited, 12 people started. Four people left halfway through the training because they couldn’t be bothered."
"From a slightly different perspective, in terms of the region. So, for five years I was commuting to (Redacted business name) and I got sick to death of it. The reality was actually that my job was worth ‘x’ amount there, but $45 grand less here, but I wanted to come home. So that was the… I’m very lucky, we have a small mortgage, we could afford to make that choice. But that was the reality of the decision. This is a lower wage demographic."
"And that’s how it’s always sold, the ‘lifestyle’ for the lower wages. It doesn’t work for me to have a mortgage here, but oh, well, we’re here for the ‘lifestyle.’ Please! Spin it all you want but I still can’t afford to pay the power bill."
"I pay people way above what they should be getting, but that guarantees me that they will work their butt off and ring me the next day asking for more work. But it took me ten years running my business to get in the position to make a full income off it. But if you give them the right incentive, a good wage. But a lot of businesses can’t afford to pay that good wage. You pay the right money you’ll get good staff. It’s casual, I need them when I need them, but you’ve got to be prepared to pay a lot more."

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