When Mariana Melo first arrived in 2005 the only things she knew about New Zealand were that it was safer than her native Brazil, and the address of a backpackers in Auckland.
“Knowing so little about New Zealand caused a 6-hour holdup in immigration. Eventually they let me in (phew!) and I fell in love with the country,” Mariana says.
“What was meant to be a short escape quickly turned into my new "home" and a new world of possibilities! Brazil at that time had rising violence, and there was a constant threat of kidnapping. A friend in New Zealand told me to pack my bags and come, so I did.”
Mariana quickly found her way to Queenstown, where she fell in love with New Zealand’s active lifestyle, dramatic landscape and inspiring people. After a 2-year return to Brazil to complete her studies, she came back to Queenstown, before discovering Taranaki in 2010 when looking to move somewhere warmer and closer to the coast.
“It’s hard to beat Queenstown in terms of adventure activities, but living there didn’t give me the greatest impression of Kiwis. That changed completely as soon as I got to Taranaki,” she says.
Mariana easily transferred her skills and experience in the hospitality sector to an assistant manager role at New Plymouth’s Waterfront Hotel, a position she found through Trade Me, and is planning on starting her own coaching business soon.
“I applied for the only hotel receptionist job going in Taranaki at the time, which was at The Waterfront. I got a call from the manager while I was in the car driving up from Queenstown, was interviewed as soon as I got to town, and started work a couple of days later.”
“It was meant to be!” she says.
“Comparing working in New Plymouth to working in Queenstown, there are some big differences. The Waterfront is a family business, something I didn’t see in Queenstown. The job market there is much tougher too, especially in the hospitality sector.”
“I would need to write a book if I wanted to compare the workplace here in New Zealand to Brazil!”
Mariana lives in Egmont Village, around 15 minutes from New Plymouth, renting a 3-bedroom home with a rural outlook.
“It’s nice and easy, and very different to Brazil, where it would take me at least an hour in traffic. It’s better value than in town, and much cheaper than Queenstown, and being so close to the mountain is a bonus.”
While winter weather can be challenging, Mariana finds Taranaki’s summers great, with a lot to do.
“A town of the same size on New Plymouth in Brazil would only have the facilities we have in Stratford, if that.
It’s absolutely fantastic.”
“I miss the people, weather and food of Brazil, and the access to the outdoors that Queenstown offers, but the lifestyle here is just so much better - I’ve had to learn to slow down a bit. I’ve now got a healthier lifestyle based on time spent in the outdoors!”
Mariana gained residency in 2014, though found the process a very hard and long journey of accumulating enough points to meet the requirements for the skilled migrant category.
“It’s a lot of paper work, a lot of money and a lot of reading, though fortunately everything I needed was available at the Immigration New Zealand website - it’s all there in detail and simple, straightforward language. I also had help from both my parents and an aunty who helped me pay for the fees.”
“I knew too that my application wouldn’t be straightforward, as my job description isn’t a straightforward one. For example, applying as a teacher, a doctor, engineer, chef, etc, is always straight forward as the job description is pretty much the same everywhere you go. A job description for a Hotel Duty Manager, however, varies widely from one property to another. My boss and I had a lot of explaining to do!”
“It was a long journey, but worth it,” says Mariana.
“I decided I’d like to stay in New Zealand in 2006, so from then on every decision I made was 100% based on what would help me meet the criteria for residency (including diploma, jobs, etc). The process was stressful, made worse by not having a Plan B, but I’ll definitely be going for New Zealand citizenship as soon as I have the chance.”
Mariana’s so proud of her new home, she’ll often be found on weekends taking locals hiking on Mount Taranaki.
“People who have lived here their whole lives have often never been! The funniest thing is hearing them say ‘wow it feels like we are in the Lord of The Rings movie!’"