Life throws up some strange coincidences.

May 17 was my last working day at the Northern Advocate, almost 10 years to the day that I had started as editor on May 19, 2008.

Ten years is too long. A few years back I was writing an editorial that referenced CEOs, and was about to mention that ideally they should turnover every four years or so.

I'm not a CEO, but I paused long enough to realise that I had been in my role for five or six years, and the editor pot should therefore be careful about calling CEO kettle's black.


I've been lucky enough to work in a profession that changes constantly, from day to day, month to month, year to year. So things stay fresh to a point.

But it's time for a change.

In 2005 when I became an editor I asked an outgoing, retiring colleague what the strategy was for countering the internet and free news online.

He shrugged, laughed and said "that's your problem".

Thirteen years it remains a problem, actually it's more a challenge, mainly because as a business we have given away our main commodity free online for years.

Reading habits change, and more people are getting news online. So one day, if we want to charge people for reading online, we need to give them bang for their buck.

Which will mean adding more reader value - it has to. So watch that space - newspapers around the world are confronting this conundrum, not just us.

Thankfully, the newspaper you are reading is healthy and doing well - the medium of print is strong in Northland.

A big part of an editor's job is to keep readership strong across print and digital platforms, and the Advocate has consistently been in the top two newspapers in the country for readership and circulation results.

Funnily enough, the other paper that is in the Top 2 is the Hawke's Bay Today - where I am now.

Those results don't happen without a good team and the Northern Advocate's staff are passionate about their region and their newspaper. And it doesn't happen without loyal readers.

Newspapers also need to support their regions, campaign, and act as an advocate. Our staff often look for an opportunity to live up to the name of their paper's masthead.

Whangārei Harbour is cleaner thanks to a conversation started by the Advocate.
Me actually, I'm proud of that and no one else is going to say well done, so bugger it - the journalist who picked up a newspaper ad and said "why the hell is the regional council giving the Whangarei District Council permission to dump more than 20,000 cu m of sewage in the harbour" was me.

(Don't worry - my trumpet is back in its case, well and truly blown.)

I'm proud of the paper's involvement in raising money for the Jim Carney Cancer Treatment centre in Whangārei. And yes, we lobbied for the Hundertwasser.

Because as a Northlander, myself and the Advocate's commercial manager Greg Alexander - who have both worked and lived in tourism towns - could see what a no-brainer it was as an economic driver for Whangārei.

And we watched in horror occasionally as the town nearly destroyed itself arguing about it. I look forward to walking down Walton St toward the Town Basin and seeing people milling around "the Hundertwasser".

So why leave? I had an opportunity emerge that I was lucky enough to take advantage of.

It wasn't an easy decision - we have friends and family in Northland, leaving is hard. But I'm not one for looking back and thinking "I should of ...".

Northland is a wonderful region and New Zealand is a beautiful country - and Hawke's Bay is my home for the foreseeable future.

Here's another coincidence, a family member got in touch after learning I was moving, to say that the Cooper family arrived in Napier when we emigrated from the UK. I had no idea.

Apparently we might have even owned a pub. No surprise there.

So in a way, I'm almost a local. My wife actually is - she was born in Dannevirke, and on my first visit to Hawke's Bay a few weeks back I bumped into people who knew her family. Small world.

Small country - which is why as a New Zealander I feel compelled to explore it. Especially after, like many young people, leaving it when I was in my early 20s for my OE.

Now, I want to see the country I left my town for, in the early 1990s.

I can't help but make one observation - I've lived in a few New Zealand regions now and Northland is lagging behind.

Other towns of similar size have surged ahead. No doubt they have medium to high employment, a healthy economy and functional local government supported by strong central government representation.

A self serving community fund that provides seed money for projects doesn't go stray either.

Neither does an iwi that is in the post-Treaty settlement phase.

As a Northlander, I have lamented why CBDs in our towns languish, why good ideas or propositions for towns or the region disappear into a black hole never to be seen again, and shaken my head at politicians who seemingly have no idea what their jobs are.

Too many on the take, and not the give, I heard someone once say.

That's changing though - Northland is in catch-up mode. We have central government funding boosting projects, and local government who can hopefully make the most of the opportunity.

People are moving to Northland because they see opportunity.

It's also the reason I'm leaving. But I'm looking forward to catching up with progress on my visits back home.