Rodney and Jessie O’Connor always felt Taranaki would be a good place to raise a family, but it wasn’t until they reached that stage in life that they began to seriously assess the opportunities that the region offered, particularly in contrast to Auckland.

The couple were familiar with the region, as Rodney had grown up in New Plymouth, and they had moved back for three years a decade ago, but the chance to take over the family business – importing and wholesaling motorcycle parts and accessories – saw them return for good in 2016, along with their two young children. And they’ve been quick to notice the difference in their lifestyle.

“An obvious advantage is having family close by, willing and able to look after school pick-ups and holidays, plus it’s fantastic that the kids can spend more time with their grandparents,” says Jess.

A necessary condition for spending more time with family is having more time: something at which Taranaki excels.
“Our work life balance immediately improved. Our commutes are shorter, and our workplaces more flexible. It’s no more than ten minutes to work, as opposed to about an hour each way in Auckland,” Jess says.

While Rodney has noticed less of a difference in his commute – he’s still able to ride his bike or motorbike to work – he’s now got a nicer garage to go home to.

“Beyond lifestyle, proximity to family, and a shorter commute, it’s just so much more affordable”

“We now live in a near-new home, on a large flat section with a lovely big lawn for the kids to play on. Luckily Rodney liked it, as he didn’t get to see it until well after we’d bought it.”

“There’s no way we could have ever afforded a house and section like this in Auckland. We went from a small-ish 1960’s weatherboard on a cross-leased section, to a near new family home on a good sized section, in a really friendly and safe neighbourhood!”

“There are a lot of good areas in New Plymouth, the schools all seem pretty good, and the commute times are so short that we ended up choosing a suburb based on finding a house we liked,” says Jessie.

The family had been house hunting from Auckland before they made the move, with fleeting visits to view open homes. It was on one such visit that Jessie found the perfect house and put in an offer on the spot.

Without having to renovate their home, the O’Connors have had to come up with some new hobbies to fill all their spare time. Fortunately the region is well serviced with things to see and do.

“We’re doing a lot more outdoors, simply because of the range of great facilities nearby. There are events on all the time and a lot of activities for families, which has been a great discovery considering the size of the population. Things like the family art sessions at the Len Lye Centre are really fun.”

“The kids have loved it. They’re absolutely thriving here.”

“There’s no denying that Taranaki is smaller than Auckland, and you notice this when you go out to music venues and bars, and shopping for specialised products. We’re definitely saving money, and can get most things online if they’re not available here, or wait until we head out of the region.”

“But it’s a double-edged sword. The only things missing here are a lack of variety due to it being a small city, but if New Plymouth had the things it was missing, it would lose some of its appeal.”

“It’s such a beautiful place though, really arty and with some incredible landscapes and facilities.”

In offering advice to anyone else looking at making the move, Rodney and Jessie suggest starting with good, solid employment.

“We were to have a family business to move into, as Rodney’s parents were looking at retiring. If it wasn’t for that, it could be a struggle for both of us to find good jobs in our previous professions.”

Coming from a large manufacturing company with thousands of colleagues, Rodney is so far relishing his new role running a small importing business with just a handful of staff, while Jessie has applied her experience to the business’s marketing and projects.

“I’ve swapped heels for a warehouse! Our new workplace is vastly different form the corporate environments we left in Auckland, but we’re really enjoying the new challenges that come with changing career and running a business.”

And while it’s a bit unusual locating an importing business to be located in New Plymouth and away from the major freight hubs, the lower overheads have led to greater efficiencies.

“That’s yet another advantage of moving to Taranaki!” says Jessie.