Just the right lifestyle
The first year in West Auckland was a honeymoon period, the second year was the hardest, but time just flew by. Now, a Manchester family of five all say they can’t believe they’ve been here four years
It had to be a family decision. Dan Percival and his wife, Jackie Neville, were keen to leave Manchester for a new lifestyle but they had three children to consider. Holidays in Croatia were great but migrating there didn’t seem practical. Canada looked too cold, Australia too big and hot with wildlife that could eat you.
In 2007 the family went to a New Zealand Expo in Manchester. “It seemed just right,” Jackie says. “The scale of the country, similar climate, fantastic scenery and above all, how hospitable everyone was – even the children were impressed.”
A big part of the family discussion centred on a better lifestyle for the children – Jenny, who was 19, Sam, 14, and Charlie, 5. “The thought of all the space and access to sports appealed – without all the political correctness and health and safety rules gone mad that we have in England.”
Jackie and Dan left the children with relatives and made a short visit to Auckland, which seemed the most likely place to find work. Armed with a book on the best places to live in Auckland, they toured in a rented car. While visiting relatives of friends, Jackie and Dan took a stroll on scenic Titirangi beach in Auckland’s western suburbs. They loved the beach and the houses set among native bush.
Back in Manchester, Jackie and Dan found their thoughts turning to Titirangi. After months of sorting out paperwork, they applied for permanent residency under New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant programme, with Jackie, a qualified architect, the principal applicant. The couple considered trying to arrange jobs in advance but in the end just took the plunge.
They sold their house and Dan set off ahead of the family to get accommodation and look for a job. Jackie and the kids packed up, sorted containers, arranged transport for their chocolate Labrador called Millie and cat called Fish, and dealt with last-minute chaos.
In Auckland, Dan felt lost. “Although I was staying with very good friends, I was in pieces. Everything was wrong about the place. The number plates were wrong; the signs were wrong. It rained for seven weeks – what was I doing here?” However, he had rented a house and found part time work by the time he picked up his family from the airport. The rain stopped and everything began to look up.
“My uncle Paul, who moved to America 20 years earlier, summed it up best for me on Facebook. He said: ‘First it will be horrible, then it will be strange, then it will be okay, then it will be home.’ ”
A real estate agent and mortgage adviser in England, Dan found New Zealand’s real estate setup did not appeal to him. He decided to switch careers to recruitment. “My skills were about matching people with houses and I felt I would also enjoy matching people to other people – to roles and jobs.”
He found a company prepared to hire someone without experience in the job and without New Zealand experience. Four years later he is in his third job but is happy in recruitment.
Jackie says that, ironically she was one of his first clients. Dan sent her CV to Auckland Airport, leading to her getting a management job similar to the one she had in Manchester. “Once they realised what I was doing at Manchester, they decided that they wanted me.”
One difference she has noticed in New Zealand is that people have broader roles at work. As manager of passenger products at the airport Jackie is part of a retailing commercial team but her role is around making improvements and developing service products for passengers.
One of her projects has been to develop and oversee the running of the premium Emperor Lounge, a quiet refuge for international travellers.
The move to New Zealand brought different challenges for each member of the family. They shifted from one rented house to a second, then bought their own home, making it three moves in one year. Bringing their pets helped them settle but made it harder finding places to rent.
At first, most of the friends they made were through the boys’ schools, Dan says.
“After that the circle just increases of course and then you get to work and you make new friends there as well.”
On balance, Dan feels the whole move has gone well. “My uncle Paul, who moved to America 20 years earlier, summed it up best for me on Facebook. He said: ‘First it will be horrible, then it will be strange, then it will be okay, then it will be home.’ ”
The family has the kind of home they’ve always wanted but could not have afforded in England, Jackie says. “I love the fact that while we're still in the city, we're living out in the bush. We've got privacy and a sea view.
“I guess the first year was a bit of a honeymoon period. Neither Dan nor I were working so we had time with the family. It felt like a holiday. Then we were both working and we bought the house. The second year just flew by. But I think it was our hardest year.
Both say their advice to other families considering migrating to New Zealand would be: “Just do it.” “I'd certainly recommend you come with a few pounds and possibly have a month off to just look around,” Dan says.
Dan has visited family in England and some of them have visited Auckland. The kids have no problem staying in touch with old friends on social networks such as Facebook. Jenny, who was distraught when she left her old home, settled quickly and got a job.
Sam says high school in New Zealand opens up a lot of new experiences – especially in sports. “I've taken physical education every year so far and this year it's taken me surfing, rock climbing and snorkelling and to the hot pools in Waiwera which is a nice thermal resort.” Charlie had to start school and make new friends all over again. He had been through it in England, where the starting age is four, but in a few weeks he was quickly back on track.
Dan, who had not fished since he was a boy in England has taken up fishing again. Jackie plans to learn to sail. They intend to apply for New Zealand citizenship.
Four years and what a difference
“I felt pretty sad because I had to say goodbye to my friends and it was a very emotional time.”
“It’s sunnier here. There are more trees and forest. My favourite thing about New Zealand is that we get more time outside for sports and that sort of thing.”
“When I found out that we were coming to New Zealand, I was 13 years old. My mum and dad told me and I was shocked – I didn't really know much about the place but it was exciting and I was happy to come on an adventure with my family.”
“The best thing about New Zealand, for me, is the sense of freedom that you have as a 17-year-old. You can learn to drive at 16 and get yourself places and go do activities with friends. You can go to the beach which is 10 minutes away. Go kayaking, abseiling, rock climbing. There's just so much to do. You never get bored.”
“When we left England, I had started uni, made a load of new friends and really enjoyed what I was doing – and I had a boyfriend. All those fun things you do when you're 19.
“I cried all the way to the airport, all the way on the plane and for about the first three days here as well. I think my Mum was ready to pack me up and send me back home.”
“Even if I went and lived in other places for a little while, I'd still come back here I think. This is where I want to be. Manchester is awesome – it’s where I grew up but New Zealand is home now.”