Construction project manager moves to New Zealand
“I have a great life here.” Building a medical centre at the top of a New Zealand ski field has been a career highlight for British construction project manager George Simons.
And that’s just one of a series of firsts that George has notched up since arriving in New Zealand in mid-2016. He has also helped with the seismic upgrade of a bank, built his first car wash and set up his first business.
“I really enjoy the variety of my work in New Zealand,” says George.
“I have a great life here. I’m paid more, I work less and the weather’s better.”
Better work relationships
George had been working in London and Northampton when he decided he wanted something new. He chose New Zealand because friends he’d studied with had worked here and loved it, and because he’d met lots of friendly Kiwis working in the construction industry.
Rather than move to a main centre, George decided to look for work in the South Island resort town of Queenstown. He’d heard Queenstown had all the benefits and none of the drawbacks of a big city.
When George arrived in Queenstown he bought a car, printed off 15 copies of his CV, had interviews for six jobs and was offered three of them.
George accepted a job as a project manager and quantity surveyor with Cook Brothers Construction, a national business dealing in both commercial and residential construction.
While the role is similar to jobs he held back in the UK, George has noticed a difference in the type of relationships he has at work.
“As a project manager, you’re dealing with other people’s money and that often involves a lot of arguments. In the UK, it was quite confrontational – I had arguments every day,” says George.
“In New Zealand, relationships are highly valued and views are less entrenched. People often know each other, so they tend to be friendlier.
“I find I go home at night feeling much less stressed than I did in the UK.”
George dealt mainly with site managers in the UK, but in New Zealand, he’s required to directly manage workers on site.
“At home, I often just sat at a desk dealing with professionals all day. Here I am out on site a lot more, which has meant I’ve needed to gain a deeper knowledge of every area of construction,” he says.
“There’s more of a team mentality on site, which is a lot more fun.”
George says he’s found that young people working in construction in Queenstown are paid more than in London.
As well as his day job, George runs a successful scooter rental company with friends in Queenstown.
George says he appreciates the importance Kiwis place on a good work/life balance.
“Back home, I used to get calls at all hours of the day and night. Work often intruded into my personal life,” he says.
“Here, I sometimes go over my hours but I’m not expected to be available on weekends or evenings.”
Short commutes are another bonus. By moving countries, George has cut his daily commute down from 45 minutes each way to 10 minutes.
He also loves having the great outdoors on his doorstep – literally. George is a keen mountain biker, and the trails start just outside his front door.
But perhaps the biggest plus about living in New Zealand for George has been the friendly, laid-back attitude of Kiwis.
“People are so welcoming here. They really go out of their way to help you.”