'Nelly-Welly' commute no deterrent

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 13:21 05/11/2012

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A burgeoning group of self-described "Nelly-Welly commuters" are proving you can live in Nelson and still have a career in Wellington.

Numerous people in the Nelson region see weekly or regular travel as a small price to pay for their tailored lifestyles.

They travel to Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch or Dunedin, packing out Nelson Airport first thing on a Monday morning, and return to their families or rural properties at the end of the week.

Jo Bertenshaw, the personal assistant to Air Nelson general manager Grant Kerr, said trends were hard to determine because she had no data on commuting numbers.

However, she met a lot of commuters while she was working in the Koru Lounge a year ago.

Wellington was the most popular destination, followed by Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.

"There were people travelling for all sorts of business - Government workers, corporates, lawyers."

Golden Bay Air co-director Lisa Sheppard set up an air service between Takaka and Wellington with her partner, Richard Molloy, six years ago, so when the time came to return to corporate life, she could do just that.

Ms Sheppard, who moved to Takaka when her 6-year-old was born, starts her new job as the Civil Aviation Authority's principal policy adviser in Wellington this week.

"There are no jobs like that in Golden Bay. Having the air service is pretty much what allowed me to do it. I need to be able to get home and over to Wellington quickly," she said.

And the commuters come the other way too.

Suter Gallery director Julie Catchpole, who has a husband and a 15-year-old son in Wellington, has been commuting from the capital to Nelson for five years.

"My job is quite a specialist area - not a great number of opportunities arise. I really enjoy working at the Suter, and I really enjoy working in Nelson," she said.

"I don't know if there are as many regulars that come to Nelson from Wellington, but people [from Nelson] certainly stream off the plane in Wellington on a Monday morning."

Golden Bay Air has about 100 commuting passengers, which Ms Sheppard said made up the bulk of its business.

"The majority of them have contract work, and they might go two or three days a week. There are more and more people realising they can base themselves in a paradise like Golden Bay and still have a working life in the city," Ms Sheppard said.

The air service went year-round with its first winter season last year, and regular passengers were offered discounts for the 50-minute flight to Wellington, with prices ranging from $129 to $189 per trip.

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Sounds Air administration manager Kim Whitehead said the air service's 7am flight from Nelson on a Monday, with a dozen seats available, was always full.

"They have formed a wee club, and they travel every week. Most of them come back on the Friday at 7pm."

Ms Whitehead said commuters made up the bulk of Sounds Air clients over winter, including people who went to Wellington for a day. Some bought chunks of 10 flights at a time.

Nelson woman Emma Scheib travels to Wellington every second Sunday for work as a research adviser with ACC.

She spends the week there, leaving her 3-year-old daughter at home with her husband.

Mrs Scheib said they chose to live in Nelson so their daughter could grow up knowing her extended family.

"I'd rather be with my daughter every day. However, I enjoy my job and it pays well compared to anything I could get in Nelson."

- The Nelson Mail

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