Regular visitors to New Zealand Marcia Haigh and Matthew Millard shifted from the UK in search of a new lifestyle. When they didn’t find exactly what they wanted in Auckland, they took a drive to Taranaki.
“We made the move from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in October 2012, and landed in Taupaki, Northwest Auckland,” says Marcia.
“We found that travelling into the CBD and back every day and the price of housing wasn’t the great kiwi lifestyle we had fallen in love with, so we started thinking further afield.”
The couple decided to pay New Plymouth a visit, and drove down on a day when the rain was horizontal and the city was far from its picturesque best.
“The next morning we awoke to glorious sunshine, blue sky and awesome views of Mount Taranaki. Two months later we were back for good!”
“Right away we both loved the feel of New Plymouth. During the day there was a real buzz and a vibrant main street with lots of museums to explore, and in the evening plenty of places to eat and go out,” Marcia enthuses.
“And then there’s the natural beauty of the place, from the awesome coastline to the beautiful mountain!”
While feedback about Taranaki from friends and family in Auckland wasn’t always favorable, Marcia quickly discovered differing opinions from those that had actually visited the region.
“Those who had visited only had positive things to say! There was no one thing that made us certain Taranaki was the right place - but the region had something that really got under our skin and it just felt right.”
“That said we do miss the UK’s public transport system,” says Marcia.
The move to New Zealand was years in the making, with a number of visits since 2001 slowly building their romance with New Zealand’s availability of space and relaxed rural and coastal lifestyle.
“We’d been talking about it for years and finally reached a stage of our life where if we didn’t do it we never would!”
The process of emigrating wasn’t as simple as they had hoped, largely due to Matthew working as a self-employed electrician and challenges in gaining trade body accreditation, but in hindsight was smoother once they were working directly with Immigration New Zealand.
“It wasn’t a cheap process, once you factor in the packing, getting a 20 foot shipping container across the world, all the farewell parties and the to-do list before we left, but has absolutely been worth the investment. Moving to Taranaki has proved to be more affordable than Auckland – housing, insurance and general costs are less.”
All up the process from application to gaining their visas took six months, and they arrived six weeks later, with the most stressful part being Matthew’s need to get work quickly to gain his trade registration. The couple have since gained residency and intend to go for New Zealand citizenship when it becomes available.
Finding jobs in Taranaki wasn’t too onerous, with both successfully using the SEEK, Trade me Jobs and Swap Sides websites. Matthew now has a role as an estimator with a New Plymouth electrical company, while Marcia is a Community Development Advisor for the South Taranaki District Council. They’ve found a number of differences between working in the UK and working in Taranaki, namely around the employment relations legislation and longer contracted working hours, though do relish the five additional public holidays they now receive.
“Our working day tends to start earlier - between 7 and 8am seems to be the norm here,” says Marcia, who has a commute of around an hour each way, although this is all in free-flowing traffic, often with spectacular mountain views.
“In Auckland it took me 30-40 minutes to drive to work, though often up to 90 minutes in slow traffic to get home, and in the UK we travelled 40 minutes each way. Matthew is less than ten minutes from work now.”
When it came to finding a place to live, Marcia and Matthew are now the proud owners of a lifestyle block on the outskirts of Inglewood.
“We wanted to live in a rural environment and have some space, and to be able to make the most of the milder climate than we are used to. Here the snow stays where it belongs – at the top of mountains!”
“The move from being city dwellers to living on a lifestyle block is the biggest change we’ve had to make since moving, but that’s why we came!”
The other main differences the couple have noticed link back to the effect that a much smaller population has had on the likes of roading infrastructure, public transport and even things like the size of their local supermarkets.
“NZ feels very familiar to us as Brits. We drive on the same side of the road, cars, clothing and other shopping brands are the same or similar. Out of town shopping outlets are similar. MITRE 10 looks like B&Q, Countdown & New World look like any of the big 4 supermarkets in the UK food sections. The Warehouse is a bit like Matalan, Pak & Save feels like Aldi. Some of the adverts on TV are the same with a kiwi voice over,” Marcia says, noting that Coronation Street is almost two years behind the UK.
Other than up-to-date ‘Corrie’ and their UK family and friends, which the internet has helped them keep in touch with, Marcia misses a few small things – Danish bacon, a local fish and chip shop and a particular brand of washing powder, but has shown great resolve in adapting to what is available.
While they have yet to get into enough of a routine to define a ‘typical weekend’ they are constantly amazed by how many activities and events are organized by the region’s councils, and can be found at everything from A&P shows, shopping events, garden festivals, international sporting activities, lantern festivals, festivals of arts and music, light festivals, mapped walks and runs and much more.
Matthew has joined the volunteer Coastguard, and beyond that they’re still extremely happy exploring their new home and learning how to keep 2 cattle and chooks.
“If we were to do anything differently, it would be to bypass Auckland and head straight to Taranaki, and maybe get jobs before coming out to help the immigration process.”
“Other than that, just do it!”