The ability to work from home has brought a plethora of people and professions to the bay islands and, with them, a new breed of island motorcar.
So says Mark Newton of Russell Island, himself the owner of a 2002 Porsche Boxster, something he says attracts attention when he “takes the car fishing”.
He also owns two electric fat bikes, another point of local conversation.
“If I duck into the shops for five minutes, it takes me an hour to get away, because people like to talk to me about my cars. The Boxster goes like a cut snake,” Mr Newton said.
According to Mr Newton, his elite vehicle isn’t the only one driving around Russell Island which now has three Mustangs, an F-type black convertible Jaguar, multiple Harley Davidson motorbikes and Hot Rods.
“It’s nice to see and a good thing for the island,” he said.
“Once you would get a comment that the car is too good looking for the island. Well, that’s like saying I’m too good looking too.”
Mr Newton said the island had its own self vehicle inspection, something locals were always willing to help with.
He believed that the moves to live on the islands had seen more people bringing better cars there.
“It’s a different work force. It’s people who are self-employed and who think they may as well look at a view from their home office,” Mr Newton said.
Council candidate Shane Rendalls embraced the new demographic to the island.
“There is a car club here and an increase in electric bikes,” he said.
President of the Bay Islands Auto Club Inc, Ian McParlane, said on working as a school crossing supervisor, he noticed many new cars including Jaguar and Mercedes convertibles and a number of high-quality four-wheel drives.
“I’ve lived on Russell for 10 years and noticed that 10 years ago there were a lot of cars that were 15 years old and older and now there are a lot that five years old and younger,” he said.
“The cars are well kept and more modern. COVID has brought in a new crowd looking for quality homes and bringing quality cars. And more people are retiring here,” he said.
Mr McParlane also put this upsurge down to a higher police presence with four policemen stationed on the island, a two-person ambulance station and more government and council investments in parking, roads, footpaths and the jetty.
There is also a resilience centre, community centre and playing fields with new shops, storage units and a boost in housing construction, bringing more tradies to the islands.
He said the auto club had about 60 members and covered a range of vehicles including six tractors, motorised push bikes, motor bikes, hot rods, custom and classic cars.
These include a Rolls Royce, Corvette Stingray, Jeep, Austin 8 and Studebaker. “Most of these are kept and registered through the club for events and not driven around the island,” he said.