Grandmother of seven Brenda Maraku used to travel from Waverley to Wellington every week for work.

She needed the job as a leader at a mental health counselling service, but she missed her home and family.

Phillip Cassidy moved back to his home town Patea a year ago to look after his 90-year-old step mum and spent six months on unemployment benefit while he looked for work.
Now both have had their lives turned around, finding employment in the South Taranaki region where "jobs just weren't available".

They work at a new call centre, Connect Global, which opened in Waverley last October and Ms Maraku and Mr Cassidy both agree the company has opened up opportunities in the town.


"When a person has a job they gain confidence and, with that, comes empowerment which spreads to the people around them ... they gain things that maybe mum and dad couldn't give them," Mr Cassidy said.

And that was exactly the aim of Connect Global chief executive Serena Fiso when she came back to her home patch to open the business.

Patea woman Mrs Fiso and her husband Siuai started their company with the vision of creating employment and education opportunity in Maori and Pacific communities.

Ms Maraku said she was considering moving to Wellington for her job but it worked out cheaper to travel the three-and-a-half-hour trip twice a week.

"Connect Global has made me available for my family 24/7 ... and it has made many jobs available for our local people," she said.

Mr Cassidy left Patea in the 1980s to move to Australia where he worked as a nurse, caretaker and tour guide.

"After the closure of the Patea freezing works, the town took a huge hit," he said.

"A country town that used to be thriving, it has become a forgotten town."


The unemployment rate in South Taranaki in the December 2016 quarter was 6.8 per cent - 1.6 per cent above the national jobless rate.

That makes the Fisos arrival all the more significant.

Mrs Fiso, who retains strong family in Patea, said after the closure of the freezing works in September 1982, jobs in the area quickly diminished. The freezing works had provided work for nearly 1000 people during peak season.

The call centre employs 10 staff - eight from Patea; two from Waverley - and handles customer calls for Genesis Energy. Due to the client's opening hours, staff begin their eight-hour day at 2pm.

For Mr Cassidy it is the ideal situation as it means most of the day is free for him to take care of his step mum.

"This job has given me a reason to get out of the house and I actually look forward to work. The people are great and work is rewarding," he said.

Ms Maraku said she would return to work in mental health one day but working in her home town with her family and a great environment meant everything right now.

Connect Global was established 14 years ago and has its head office in Porirua. Last year it opened an office in Ruatoria and it now employs 66 staff in total.

Ms Fiso couldn't believe the interest they received from South Taranaki before they had even advertised the jobs.

"We received a lot of interest - people from Patea started applying as soon as they got word we were opening. That puts regional job availability in perspective."

She plans to grow the company and keep the focus of providing jobs in regional New Zealand.