Watch a selection of the great stories of people who have made Southland their home.
Southland’s people, employment opportunities, and enviable lifestyle make for an inviting new home. If you are thinking of making the move to work and live in Southland, or are planning your next holiday, then you’ll find all the information you need on the Southland New Zealand.
To see why so many people chose to make Southland their home, watch some of the great videos made by James Jubb of Studio Jubb in conjunction with Southland District Council.
We are Southlanders
To celebrate our first 20 stories here is a highlight of what Southlanders and living in Southland is all about.
Milford Sound charity ride
Meet some real Southland heroes as they take on the 286km ride from Invercargill to Milford Sound raising money for Heart Kids Southland. The video is a tribute to true Southland generosity. Why don’t you join in? No need to put on your Lycras - just help Southland kids and their families fight heart disease.
Southland Surf School
This story takes us to Riverton where we talk to Jess Terril who is living the dream in Southland.
Welcome Rock Trails
This video follows Tom O'Brien as he shows us around Welcome Rock Trails' epic 27km of hand-built mountain bike and walking trails near Garston New Zealand. Discover why Tom O'Brien loves living in this amazing playground and how the trail evolved to encapsulate the local history and stunning views.
Escaping the rat race
Steve and Kelly Taylor
Meet Kelly the coffee addict and Steve the tattoo artist who have escaped Auckland’s rat race and put their roots down in Lumsden but that doesn't mean they have put their feet up. In the short time they have been calling Southland their home they have managed to renovate an old Masonic Lodge, establish a coffee roasting business, Roar, and setup Temple Tattoo that attracts locals and people from further afield.
Meet Dave Goodin, though born in the North Island he has chosen Stewart Island/ Rakiura to create a very unique visitor experience. People from all over the world visit Dave’s studio, Rakiura Jade, to carve their own special memory of this amazing place and its people.
Tour of Southland
A must for every New Zealand cyclist
Welcome to the epic Tour of Southland a must for every New Zealand cyclist. It isn’t just the stunning scenery, the challenging terrain and the unpredictable weather conditions that have made this the most prestigious cycle race in the country. The Tour of Southland is part of our local history and the community involvement of all ages have marked this annual event on our calendar as a celebration of our people and our places.
South Sea Spray
The southern street art event
Be inspired by how the historic town of Riverton made a group of New Zealand's finest street artists feel at home and gave them a real taste of Southland hospitality in exchange for a unique makeover. The street art event organised by South Sea Spray and DEOW (Danny Owen) has managed to bring together the contemporary and combine it with the area's rich heritage to create a stunning selection of murals that have transformed the town.
Farm Fresh South
A boutique dairy in Woodlands
Logan and Melissa from Farm Fresh South know everything there is to know about milk, but only 10 years ago they were as green as the grass they are feeding their cows. They moved to Southland from Motueka to turn an idea into an opportunity. After much hard work, their vision has become reality. Their small boutique dairy in Woodlands provides fresh raw milk 24/7 to the public. Once you had raw you come back for more.
The Penisula family creativity
As Southlanders we are known for being laid back and friendly but at the same time, there is a work ethic to make things happen. For Lyle and Debbie Penisula, Southland is the perfect environment for a creative family to thrive. After living in Hawkes Bay and Auckland, they have returned home to Southland to take advantage of the unique opportunities we have down here and contribute to an already strong community of creatives.
While Lyle has managed to pick up the brush again and relaunch his passion for the arts, two of his sons are involved in music and Debbie has her hands full with projects around Lorneville Holiday Park. The Penisula family creativity is on show in an exhibition titled Aiga Family at the Chiaroni Gallery on Don Street till the end of February.
The Pelesco family
For Mike Pelesco, Southland has proved to be the land of opportunity he was seeking. Originally hailing from the Philippines, Mike and his wife Coral have worked hard since arriving in the District in 2008 and now proudly manage a thriving 1500-cow dairy operation at Edendale. They’ve strived to create an idyllic country lifestyle for their family, which now includes two young daughters, to flourish.
“Working here in Southland you’ve got big opportunities and it’s up to you to climb up that ladder to where you want to be in the future,” Mike says. Although he admits he had to Google Southland initially, it was pretty much love at first sight so bags were quickly packed to embark on a new life and chase the quintessential kiwi dream.
Making dreams come true
For Logan Dean from Custom Aluminium Southland in Tokanui, everything he needs to make his dreams come true is right here in Southland. When Logan first decided to become his own boss he was well aware of the risks that come with running a business but he did not let that put him off. Instead, he has resorted to a tried and tested strategy to make it happen, working your but off. But Logan is not a dull boy, being his own boss has given him the flexibility to make the most of what Southland has on offer and spend more time with his family. Without a huge mortgage to tie him down, he can afford a work-life balance that allows him to go hunting, fishing and diving and take advantage of the outdoor playground on his backdoor.
Straw Hat Gardens
Mike and Jen Ryder
Mike and Jen Ryder from Straw Hat Gardens got off the hamster wheel and swapped their busy lives for growing organic vegetables on a small 1.5 acre plot in Winton. They follow a bio-intensive vegetable growing method that allows them to be profitable on a small scale. This means no noisy tractors, no dangerous chemicals and amazing tasting vegetables. If you want to try their vegetables you can meet Mike and Jen at the Southern Farmers Market in Invercargill on Sunday mornings.
Open Orchard Project
This week Robyn Guyton takes us on a tour around the heritage orchards of Southland.
The Open Orchard Project has been involved in the planting of over 7000 fruit trees in Southland with the aim of preserving the rich diversity of fruit trees the settlers brought to New Zealand.
Robyn describes the project as an open-source collection of heritage trees that aims to preserve wide varieties of fruit trees that would otherwise be lost due to commercialisation. Some of the varieties preserved go back over 700 years and are now only found in Southland.
Trees are being planted around parks throughout Southland to make this heritage treasure available to all of our communities. You can read up on the project on the South Coast Environment Society website, http://www.sces.org.nz(external link)
Find out more about the project and get involved at the Riverton Environment Centre. Don’t miss the 11th annual Riverton Harvest Festival on 30 and 31 March.
Switzers Museum Waikaia
The little town that could
Waikaia is the little town that could. Project co-ordinator Mairi Dickson tells the story of a community coming together to accomplish the mammoth feat of building their stunning new museum in the northern Southland town of Waikaia. It took unwavering determination, passion, hard-word and a collective vision from Mrs Dickson, her hard-working committee and an amazing group of volunteers to finally open the $1.2 million Switsers Museum. Years of fundraising and the support of southern organisations including Southland District Council, the Southland Regional Heritage Fund and Community Trust South was required to make this dream a reality. Southland roving museums officer Jo Massey helped the committee to catalogue and organise their impressive collection into a story that is expertly told by museum designer Chris Currie with graphic art by Jackie Byers of Gore.
The new museum replaces the original Switzers Museum, which was established in the former Coronation Hall in 1988. Over the years the historic bottle house and courthouse were added to the site, in Blaydon Street, giving Waikaia a heritage precinct that will be the envy of any small rural community.
Waituna Creek rehabilitation project
Jane Bowan from DOC, the site lead for the Waituna Creek Living Water partnership between DOC and Fronterra is busy surveying the fish population at the creek to evaluate whether their rehabilitation measures have had an impact on the fish population. The Waituna Creek is surrounded by productive farmland which has raised some concerns around the ecological health of the creek and the lagoon it feeds into. The Living Water partnership aims to alleviate some of the stresses of farming activities on the waterway and improve the habitat so fish and wildlife can thrive. Robin Holmes a Freshwater Ecologist from the Cawthron sees this as a real opportunity to showcase increased environmental outcomes within farmed streams and see fish species flourishing.
Dean Whaanga the Whakamana te Waituna co-chair describes their vision for the catchment as a really great place for the people to come and enjoy. “If the land is healthy and the water is healthy then the people will be healthy.” For him the ultimate goal is to have prosperous farming that has a great balance with the natural environment, safeguarding biodiversity for future generations to enjoy.
Steve and Jo Daley
When we think of saffron we usually associate it with middle east countries and oriental food. Steve and Jo Daley from Te Anau took a huge leap of faith when they decided to give the crop a go in Southland.
It goes to show that sometimes when we take a risk we reap the biggest benefits. Even though the first harvest did not yield a huge amount of flowers, the quality of the saffron far exceeded the standard set by the testing bodies beyond anything ever recorded. As it turned out Southland with its strong UV light, make it the perfect place to grow the crop.
Munro Honey Co
A chance encounter with the local bee society left Steph Munro, well, buzzing! “I just become fixated with bees – I thought they were the coolest things out,” she says. Spurred by her new-found passion, Steph established the Munro Honey Co and now boasts an inventory of 30 hives nestled on farms from the Catlins to Bluff and is “the proud bee-mumma of 1.5 million bees”.
She credits Southland’s unrivalled lifestyle, lower house prices and supportive community with giving her the confidence to set up her own business. Steph relishes the chance to do it all – building equipment, tending to the bees, honey extraction, filtering, packaging, marketing and even postage. The end result is a raw honey product brimming with goodies from propolis to antioxidants. “I really pride myself on having honest honey and unrefined honey just like the bees intended – and in a jar.”
The flying 12 year old
The flying 12 year old Cormac Buchanan is a Southland lad with an insatiable need for speed. Inspired by the legendary Burt Munro, he’s determined to one day etch his own name into the motorcycling record books. After a successful career in the speedway ranks, he made the switch to road racing last year and earned a place in the inaugural Oceania Junior Cup in Australia.
The only Kiwi rider in the ranks, Cormac is one of 26 kids now officially on the Road to Moto GP - the first step in his ultimate goal of riding at the sport’s top echelon. Propelled by a supportive community, he’s proof living in Southland is no barrier to competing internationally. In fact, it has its advantages.
A group of volunteers making history
Museums of Southland Project Ark has brought together museum professionals and local enthusiast volunteers in a bid to digitise and publish our Southland museum collections online and preserve our precious historical artefacts for future generations.
They share a vision of making our rich history available to the world through a museum without walls, open 24/7, accessible whenever, wherever. Right from the start, the museum volunteers got hooked on the project and kept coming back for more. The volunteers' deep knowledge of their communities, their passion and ingenuity combined with the expertise of four museum professionals is the potent collaborative mix that powers Project Ark.
The Wonky Donkey
Craig Smith in Monowai
When a clip of sweet Scottish granny, Janice Clark, reading The Wonky Donkey aloud to her baby grandson went viral, Craig Smith’s children’s book grabbed the internet limelight and became a worldwide sensation. Ironically, award-winning author Craig finds inspiration in his quiet and recluse home away from home in Monowai. His family connection to this pristine and isolated lake dates back to 1959 and he has been coming here to enjoy unspoiled sights and abundance of fish since he was a kid.
Small Prophet & Co Design House
Three creative friends
A group of three creative friends in the middle of nowhere who thrive on giving old things a new lease on life. They have turned an old building into a trendy café/ creative hub/ upcycling shop you would expect to see in Cuba Street Wellington.
Ironically this shop attracts people from the city to the country, rather than the other way around. The shop’s unique selection ranging from reclaimed furniture to art and clothing and of course the exceptional coffee and friendly vibe is well worth a visit.
Jade Maguire is a man on a mission to connect people with the environment – one seedling and one lesson at a time. Despite creating a unique eco-learning space in Colac Bay, he still hasn’t discovered his why. “I have this internal driving force that guides me to do all these things and I just don’t question it anymore. When you see the beauty of nature, especially when you’re in untouched natural habitat, there is this energy and this feeling and this connection that you don’t get anywhere else. So if I can share that with other people and try to connect them and see these things, hopefully in the future we will use that as our guiding principles in our decision-making processes.”
The corporate world never really felt right for Laura Douglas. So, ditching the high heels and inner-city living, she followed her passion to set up Real Country. Surrounded by a menagerie of “furbabies”, Real Country delivers everything from farm skills workshops to tourism shows and animal experiences.
Laura’s latest initiative – The Southern Girls’ Finishing School – is set to empower by teaching practical skills. “By teaching girls how to do unfamiliar tasks, that they can then have a go at and hopefully master, they’ll get confidence from being able to do those tasks,” she says. “Then the confidence they get from doing those things hopefully translates into an attitude change where they then believe they are capable of doing other things. I believe you can only believe in yourself when you have that confidence.” In conjunction with My Southland Story and Studio Jubb, Southland District Council’s Our People, Our Places series caught up with Laura to hear all about it.
When Tangaroa Walker opted to pursue a career in dairy farming, his boss recommended he “go where the grass grows greener”. After punching it into Google, he “tiki-toured down in my truck to this beautiful place called Southland”. Fast-forward nine years and this self-confessed outdoors man is living the dream. He’s even managed to combine the contrasting worlds of farming and social media, creating farm4life to share his passion and spread valuable knowledge about farming practices with a rapidly-expanding audience.
As Miharo Polyfest celebrates its 10th anniversary, we reflect on the positive impact it continues to have on our communities. People from all backgrounds have embraced this cultural extravaganza, firmly cementing it as an iconic Southland event. This year 146 groups, featuring 6800 performers, entertained the 30,000 people attending during the festival. Tu meke!