If you have ever stepped into the West Coast Vets clinic in Hokitika, you will have most likely met our Practice Manager and one of our local owners, Tara Hewitt.
Smiling from behind the desk, it's a welcoming feeling – especially when you can feel quite nervous about bringing your furry friend in for their visit. We recently caught up with Tara to discover what her role is within the clinic, what brought her here and her life on the mighty West Coast.
Tara, how did you end up here in Hokitika?
We have been here since 2014. Simon and I had a clinic over in Canterbury and this opportunity came up when we ourselves were at a bit of a crossroads.
Originally, Simon and I purchased a club practice in 2003 over in Darfield. In the beginning, it was just Simon and one other vet – I ended up working in town just to help pay the wages back then! We built that up to a five vet practice which we worked hard for and were incredibly proud of, we had a great team there. It was hard back then to get vets too, so we knew we were doing alright as a team.
Sadly, due to some health issues, we looked to the future and wanted an exit strategy for our clinic. We sold to a larger company, and shortly after we were offered this opportunity on the other side of the Alps! It was a big leap of faith, but we liked the network of support that comes with being part of West Coast Vets and we haven’t regretted it for a minute – it’s been an awesome place for the kids to grow up, we have an amazing team and the community is just so lovely.
What do you do as a Practice Manager?
Day-to-day is whatever the day throws at us! On paper, I am involved with HR, as well as Health and Safety. Often it means I am also helping wherever is needed, stocktakes, reception, ordering. It's a great position to feel needed and be flexible with each day, each team and knowing what’s going on.
Tara is lucky enough to bring her Jack Russell (Jeff) into the clinic in the position of “Welcoming Committee”.
Moving to the Coast, was it a big change?
We will never forget when we first got here, it rained for about twenty months straight. Many of our clients were saying “you brought this with you!” but it was a great time to learn how resilient the locals are. I remember Simon saying during this time “I think I am solar powered” as we were learning to adapt to the elements – but we did and it’s part of what makes the West Coast so wonderful.
The West Coast community has been so welcoming to be a part of, everyone waves and says hello, we just love living in a small community. The kids settled into one of the great small local schools here so it was an easy transition.
Outside of work, what do you do for fun?
Skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. Now that the kids are growing, we are beginning to realise the kids are now faster than us! This is after years of us dragging them up ski fields and along trails! We have finally come full circle and they are overtaking us, it's a great feeling.
Mountain biking here is great on the Coast. There are some great tracks just from the end of our road so we love having such easy access to the outdoors, which makes life so much easier for some work/life balance.
What do you love about the Coast?
The weather is exciting and dramatic. You get big rain showers, big thunder and lightning and huge seas. It's never dreary, something is always happening. Apart from the weather, the community is lovely. Being isolated is a concern but I feel we rally together more because of it. We have always been blessed with wonderful neighbours. The clinic is a great place to work, our team is fun to be a part of every day and we really do have awesome clients.
It can be quite a high-pressure environment, how do your team cope?
We definitely have it on our radar here. Looking out for each other can be hard, especially when we are busy. But we encourage our team to take a step back, get together and have a bit of a laugh. Our clinic has a Flourish Calendar for reference up on the wall, which is a helpful visual reminder that we are all in it together and Here for Good. Also making sure to take the time to check-in is so important.
We regularly get locums come through, we have had some really great people come and work with us and that can also help freshen the team dynamic and allow us to not get too bogged down.
We had an opportunity to go back to Darfield at one point, and we decided against it. This is where we want to be.