It’s a region known for its breathtaking natural beauty and vilified primary industries. So where does Buller’s acclaimed innovation hub fit into it all? Michael Andrew went to find out.
In May 2018, a Japanese businessman named Hiroki Koga stepped off a plane at Westport airport and blinked in the West Coast gloom. He’d left Tokyo three days earlier, but his plane had been delayed and diverted several times due to a typhoon over the North Pacific. Finally arriving in Westport after 60 hours of travel, he was collected by local man Ben Dellaca, who drove him across the Buller River Bridge and into Westport, population 4660. As they cruised along the deserted main street, past the twin rows of closed and quiet shops with the air smelling faintly of coal, Dellaca noticed Koga looking around in astonishment, before he quietly whispered under his breath: “Where the fuck are we?”