Returning Kiwis see New Zealand as better place to conduct business

New Zealand has more Kiwis coming home than leaving for the first time in decades, and among the returnees are expats who believe being here is a better place to do business.

Business owner Frances Shoemack is one of those who's returned. Noting a lack of perfume companies using only organically-grown ingredients, the Kiwi winemaker set out to do it herself in Amsterdam eight years ago.

Working with a Brazil-based master perfumer, who also happens to be a Kiwi, natural perfume label Abel Odor was soon flying off the shelves of high-end boutiques and department stores and featuring in Vogue, Huffington Post and Forbes magazine.

"Even when we were a Dutch business, the New Zealand part of our story was so strong that we had articles written about us, written saying 'New Zealand business', which wasn't true at the time," Shoemack said.

But now it is a New Zealand business. Shoemack and her family have returned home - but not just because of COVID-19. It's more because she saw returning to New Zealand as the best place for the brand to expand beyond its base in Europe.

A GlobalWebIndex survey of 18,000 people found 82 percent said environmentally friendly companies are more important to them as a result of COVID-19. And in New Zealand, the country's effort in controlling the virus has had a particular halo effect on local brands.

"I think New Zealand has a reputation offshore for that clean, green purity and that really aligns very well with what we're doing, so I think it can only be a positive for the business," Shoemack said.

It's also been positive for jobseekers as the company starts advertising for Wellington-based staff.

It contradicts the fear that returning Kiwis are adding pressure to competition for available jobs - a perception that concerns Kea, formerly known as the Kiwi Expats Association.

"I think Kiwis looking to come home are definitely sensing a little bit of concern from Kiwis within New Zealand, and Kea would love to help influence that narrative to be a little bit more supportive and welcoming," Kea CEO Toni Truslove said.

She said many returnees have global experience they might not have brought back had it not been for the pandemic, but those that do come back often experience reverse culture shock.

"New Zealand is a very different country from the one that they left, and anyone who has moved back from overseas will understand how difficult it can be to reimmerse yourself into societal structures, networks, to understand the labour market. So there are a number of challenges."

But for those that see through the challenge to the opportunity, New Zealand is the world's oyster.