New Zealand Law Society - Lawyer amazed by the world wanting to live in Kaitangata

Lawyer amazed by the world wanting to live in Kaitangata

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Young Dunedin lawyer Alice Sanders can't believe the overwhelming global response to a local community idea to attract more people to South Otago township Kaitangata – population 800.

Since news that the former coal town – known locally as Kai - was promoting a handful of $230,000 land-and-house packages was picked up by the world's media, more than 9,000 people worldwide have made inquiries.

Alice Victoria (Alice) Sanders
Timaru, brought up in Otago. 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Otago University in 2013. Admitted in 2013. 
Solicitor with Downie Stewart, Dunedin. 
Speciality area
Commercial and rural.
Alice Sanders
Alice Sanders

Dunedin law firm Downie Stewart, where Alice is a solicitor, joined Clutha Development, Big River Homes, Hoamz Realty and the Kaitangata Promotion Group in a project initially offering eight sections in Kaitangata for the land and house deal.

"I've had inquiries from Brazil, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Australia and America." 

Five have already been signed up and a list of interested vendors with empty sections in and around Kaitangata – ten kms east of Balclutha - is being drawn up.

"The best thing about this is it is a complete community thing… Vendors are proud of their community and want to help their community… We could have another 10 or 20 more sections because a lot of sections in Kai were never developed," says Alice.

"This is now an opportunity driven by the community to revitalise the community…"

There are a number of jobs in the area – for example Silver Fern Farms' Finegand freezing works which employs up to 900 people - already busses in workers from Dunedin – 80 kms away - every day.

Approaches are being made to employers to ensure that if people want to move to the area they can get a job.

A number of inquiries are from people able to work from home.

"The positive response is amazing," says Alice, whose email has been flooded with mainly offshore inquiries.

She says Hoamz Realty has also been processing inquiries – mainly from within New Zealand - flat out since last weekend.

Alice says about half the inquiries so far – about 4,500 - are likely to be genuine.

"I've had inquiries from Brazil, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Australia and America… All over… And a lot of inquiries from Kiwis keen to come home…"

She says the promotion idea was sent through to Housing Minister Nick Smith but he wasn't interested. "That was before the project went global… He will probably revisit it now…"

A proud South Otago-ite, Alice says she was approached by good family friends involved in Kaitangata who asked if Downie Stewart – which has an office in nearby Balclutha - would be interested in working with the promotion – and it jumped at the opportunity.

"Part of the idea is that when we have all the processes in place it would be a blueprint other communities could use… Kai Promotions are working through the best application process, considering everyone interested and ensuring the best protection for vendors and buyers…"

"It's taken off… I can't believe it… No-one expected this to happen… It's neighbours looking after neighbours…"

Born in Timaru but from an Alexandra farming family now based in South Otago, Alice is the first lawyer in the family and the first to go to university.

Her partner, a plumber, also works in Dunedin, where they are Highlanders fans. "You have to be a huge rugby fan when you come from my family – they live and die by rugby…"

"I was attracted by the challenge of law… My family went through some family succession issues when granny passed away and it resonated with me how hard it was to deal with that and understand what was happening…

"I like being able to translate things for my clients and make going to the lawyer not as uncomfortable as going to the dentist…

"Six months recently hiking round South America with a lawyer friend taking in Peru, Bolivia, Rio, and the Inca Trail, sparked an adventurous streak so I have started doing a bit of tramping…

"It's eye opening, hard and awesome… I've done part of the Kepler Track, and planning for Welcome Flat on the West Coast's Copland Track…"

"I've ridden since I was five, have a naughty horse and have done a bit of show jumping and eventing… I did an equine course for a year at Telford Rural Polytechnic which was good and gave me a break before going to university…

"We have social netball with a few people from work, most are lawyers and its heaps of fun… I run around and laugh…

"I go to the gym regularly but trying to maintain a work life balance is hard when you are young…

"I read autobiographies, travel, career type books and enjoyed Paulina Simons' Bronze Horseman series… I read some of Lee (Jack Reacher) Child but it didn't click… Maybe I should join the lawyer club of Lee Child readers…" [Nine of 86 lawyers profiled admit reading Lee Child.]

"Mum tried her hardest to get me to play the flute, piano and clarinet… I could play but not well and didn't keep it up… I was more at home working on the farm with Dad than stuck in front of a piano…

"Musically, I like Guns N' Roses, Rod Stewart and what's popular at the time…

"I watch The Block on TV and anything with David Attenborough… We've just got Netflix and I have to watch Making of a Murderer, about a law case in America… Everyone in the world has watched it apart from you and me…

"I've just bought a little Mazda Familia, it's good and hoons along… I use to have a brown Toyota Corona with one pink wing mirror…

"I'd like to have the Queen round for dinner, she would be good for a laugh… and she could bring her dogs and horses… Her and Muhammed Ali, because he was so inspirational in his self-belief and the way he promoted himself…

"In another job I'd like to be a farm consultant… I grew up on a farm and it would be great to be out in the open talking to farmers about anything they need done – a kind of right hand man…

"I'm based in Dunedin and the firm has a fully-supported office in Balclutha… With my family in South Otago I travel back and forward a lot, especially now with the Kaitangata project under way…

"I view that area as my community…"

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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