Surveying new horizons

Migrant stories

“We came to New Zealand because of my daughter’s education” says Zavinee Senaratne. “In Sri Lanka education is very competitive and only the best can enter university because it’s absolutely free. We thought that there would be better opportunities for her here.”

"I have wonderful neighbours who helped me a lot when I first came here"

Zavinee Senaratne

Zavinee was worried that she’d have to send her daughter overseas to study so she and her husband decided that they would try to emigrate to New Zealand instead so they can all be together.

Zavinee’s husband Prashantha came to New Zealand in September 2008 as a visitor to explore opportunities for finding a job and moving his family here. They had a close friend in Auckland and Prashantha, a marine engineer with British qualifications, started applying for jobs. His skills were in demand and he soon managed to land a job at the Interislander Ferry company.

Their daughter, Nayanthara, was completing her A levels in Sri Lanka at the time. In August last year Zavinee and Nayanthara arrived in New Zealand to join Prashantha.

In Sri Lanka Zavinee worked as a quantity surveyor but she never thought she’d be able to get the same job here.

She was aware that the regulations here are different but was hopeful that having a British qualification would help her. One of Zavinee’s friends told her about the Settlement Support service available at the time through Upper Hutt City Council and she went to see Sydney Hon, the Upper Hutt Settlement Support Officer.

Sydney gave her valuable information about the New Zealand job market and told her about help available to migrants looking for work.

After approaching different employment agencies without success, Zavinee decided to approach employers directly.

“My husband took my CV to a construction company in Lower Hutt. They gave me an appointment and after the director interviewed me, he agreed to take me on,” says Zavinee.

Although New Zealand regulations, methods and procedures around quantity surveying are different from those of Sri Lanka, Zavinee was able to demonstrate that she could do the job, was a quick learner and was keen to gain new knowledge.

“We are so grateful to our wonderful employers, Armstrong Downes Construction Company and its directors Simon and Tony, and the Interislander Ferry Company, for trusting us and giving us the opportunity to work for them” say Zavinee and Prashantha.

“My employer suggested that I do a Weltec Diploma in quantity surveying that would help me become familiar with New Zealand standards. Around that time we got permanent residence which made studying here easier”.

Zavinee now spends one day a week at Weltec. She has to juggle her work, family life and study but she enjoys the challenge.

“People here are friendly and helpful and the lifestyle is more relaxed. I have wonderful neighbours who helped me a lot when I first came here.”

Although Zavinee misses living in the family home that she had designed herself, she finds that New Zealand has a lot of advantages. 

New Zealand is so green and not crowded. I found that strange at first, that there are not many people in the streets and on the roads.” As a marine engineer Prashantha has visited more than 55 countries around the world and he says New Zealand is one of the best countries to live in because it is so peaceful and people are very friendly.

Zavinee is now well settled in Upper Hutt and thinking about buying a house there. Her daughter studies engineering at the University of Auckland.

“I like New Zealand, I like that there is no class system here, everyone is equal. The only thing I don’t like that much about living in Wellington is the weather, it changes so rapidly but I hope that I will get used to it soon”, says Zavinee with a smile.

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