Living in the UK and Europe, Jessica Parker always knew she wanted to return to New Zealand one day, but it was with the birth of their first son that the pull back to New Zealand became a lot stronger.
“We both love the outdoors and the relaxed New Zealand lifestyle, the lack of crowds and that it is a great place to bring up children,” Jessica says.
Now Jessica and her family – husband Mike and their children Jasper and Theo – are back in Jessica’s native New Zealand, though before Mike would agree to the move, he had to find a job to go to.
While the couple had spent time in New Zealand – Jess grew up here and they were married here – neither had ever been to Taranaki.
“We knew of Taranaki, but it wasn’t on our list of places to come to,” says Jess.
“To be totally honest, Jess’s comment was – ‘never been there, can’t be that great!’” confesses Mike.
“Even though I hadn’t been here before, I thought it was too far away. Why would you go there? Yes, I know that’s ironic given that I am from Hawkes Bay originally…” responds Jess.
But when Mike was offered a job in Taranaki, the urge to get back to New Zealand kicked in.
Mike’s experience in business development for an agricultural nutrients company saw him gain a national sales management role with Ballance Agri –Nutrients, a growing South Taranaki producer, though he is now working closer to home in New Plymouth, at the regionally-owned TSB Bank.
Meanwhile Jess has found a role in marketing and front of house management at the TSB Showplace – the region’s top events venue, building on tourism experience the couple gained in Turkey, running a hot air balloon company.
“People work very hard in New Zealand but the work/life balance is great and it is encouraged to have this balance,” says Jessica.
“It takes 5 minutes to get to work here in New Plymouth, in the UK it would take me at least 45 minutes, and that’s on a good day! For Mike it was an hour to an hour and a half. Now it’s a fifteen minute run at each end of the day,” Jess says.
Once the job was secured, the family hired a house in New Plymouth for their first two weeks, during which time they got straight onto finding somewhere to rent.
“We had done a lot of research online before we arrived, and set up viewings of some places for as soon as we got here.”
“We found a rental in New Plymouth in a great location – next to Pukekura Park. We started looking to buy a house in a rural setting, but after living so close to the park, town and the beaches, with the countryside just 5 minutes’ drive away we decided to keep our search to town.”
“It took us about 8 months to find the perfect house, but once we saw it we fell in love – the great location was a bonus!”
The family has put down their roots in a 100-year old villa with a big garden, views of Mount Taranaki, and situated in one of the city’s leafy suburbs that spans town and country and offer great proximity to schools and sports fields. And Pukekura Park.
“Of course packing up everything we owned to move to the other side of the world is a bit of a ruthless process. We chose not to move a lot of our bigger things, and a lot got thrown out, but Mike somehow still seems to have about 60 t-shirts.”
“We moved from a 15th century farm house to a 100 year old villa. While both have their own ‘special’ charms, the home we have here suits our lifestyle much better – lots of livable space both inside and out,” Jess says.
“Beyond the house there are just far too many advantages here to list – job opportunities, things to do, beaches are better, houses are more affordable, the unique nature of the region is like nothing else I have ever experienced anywhere in the world.”
Despite a warning from Mike’s first boss that Taranaki was drought proof – which of course meant they experienced 3 droughts in their first 5 summers – the family love the climate here.
“I only get to wear my winter coat about 5 times a winter and 3 of those are because I like the coat. It does rain a bit sometimes, but where doesn’t it, and you can’t have a beautiful green landscape without an occasional dollop of moisture.”
“We’re constantly blown away by the number of things there are to do in Taranaki, and many of these are free and really well organised and maintained. Family days out, museums, parks, festivals, exhibitions, walkways are all on our doorstep creating great opportunities with such ease.”
“We love it, though we’ve had to learn to be more laid back about life than we were in the UK,” says Jessica.
While they miss the pubs, easy access to Europe and friends and family – though not in that order – they certainly aren’t missing the UK’s traffic and the population density.
The family has found it really easy to slot into the community.
“People are very friendly here, and there’s a large expat community too, so we’re not alone. We’ve made some great friends here and have a great network of friends around us.”
“Now that Jasper has started school we’ve joined the school community too,” Jessica says.
“Mike has just been voted onto the school’s Board of Trustees and I am getting involved with the Home and School committee - there are so many ways to get involved in the community here it doesn’t take too long before you feel like a local.”
Depending on the season the family can be found in their garden, at the beach, at the bike park, or walking on the mountain or walkways, fueled by visits to one of the city’s many great restaurants or by a BBQ with friends.
“The day after we arrived in NP we went to the bank to order some cards and some cash. We couldn’t give an address or phone number because we still didn’t have them, yet still managed to walk out of the bank with $1000 cash. At no point had we been asked for any identification – this would never have happened in the UK!”
“I would have moved here sooner if I’d known how much we would love it. If you’re looking to move to Taranaki, just do it - you’ll have no regrets!”