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Walking on the wild side
The rugged bush and beaches of New Plymouth are a pleasure to explore for Austria-born David Haberkorn.
Walking on the wild side
There's lots of green. Lots of walks. Lots of parks. You can go up the mountain in the morning and go to the city in the afternoon if you want.
I'm David Haberkorn and I'm originally from Austria, and I work here now in Taranaki for Powerco as a GIS specialist.
Yeah, usually start quite early, because I have no traffic in the mornings. Usually takes me five minutes to get to work. I usually start off with just grabbing a coffee and checking all my systems.After I finished high school and military service in Austria, I came here for travelling. Back then I sort of fell in love with the place and after I came back from my travels I sort of thought 'yeah, better study something good to get some points, so I can come back some time and maybe live here'.
Well, we are actually a power distributor. We have around 330,000 poles, thousands of kilometres of lines and cables all over the North Island; and that's where the GIS comes in. GIS stands for 'Geographic Information Systems'. It's basically a digital mapping system that shows all of our assets.
David's particular skillset in geospatial technical skills is something that is in much demand in New Zealand and particularly for our industry. So to be able to find someone like David that had that skillset, and when we talked to him was willing to look at New Zealand, was fantastic.
I'm quite lucky that we sort of have flexible hours. Though I try to make the most of my lunch breaks, either going to the gym or going for runs.
Pukekura Park, it's just right in the middle of the city. A nice little park with a couple lakes in there and heaps and heaps of little
tracks in the bush and very nice vegetation. Gives your brain a bit of a break and fresh energy for the afternoon.
Yes, I usually finish off around 4:30 in the afternoon and go home. Or, I drive out to Karo, where my girlfriend lives at the moment.
That'll change in the near future. Yes, Carol is moving in with me, which is right, of course.
The house we bought is the 1940s type of house. I quite like older houses because they have lots of character. It's got a deck; that's something very important to have in New Zealand to give you barbies only. And a big shed for me.
I bought my bike on Trade Me, I think, four years ago. Because I sort of always wanted a bike. My dad used to have a bike and my uncles have bikes. That was on the bucket list, I wanted to tick it off.
And I bought this specific bike because it's capable of off-road. That's something that I enjoy doing. Get out of the country and see places that you wouldn't see travelling with the car.
Most days of the week I take the dogs for a walk. We have many areas here that are for walking but the beach is quite good, it's just five minutes down the road.
Their names are Lexie and London. They are very active dogs and heaps of fun with them. But they are quite the clowns sometimes.
So my advice for someone moving to New Zealand would be: do your research; have a good idea of what you will expect here. I came in here on a work visa which was okay, but I've had colleagues which came in on a residence visa and I think that would have been preferable for me. Because it would have made some things easier, like setting up your KiwiSaver, getting a mortgage. That sort of stuff. Those would be the main things that I would recommend someone coming here.
David Haberkorn already enjoyed hunting and tramping (also known as hiking) before he moved to New Plymouth. But he says the landscape here has a unique atmosphere.
“The bush [native forest] here is quite wild compared to forests in, say, Austria or the Netherlands, because everything there is quite regulated and managed. Many places in New Zealand feel very remote; often you won’t meet another person for hours, or for a whole day, depending on where you go,” says David.
New Plymouth’s black-sand beaches are exposed to the Tasman Sea. “They can also be quite wild in stormy weather - After a storm we sometimes find interesting things on the beach, everything from dead sharks and seals to other sea creatures.”
There is a phrase in English called ‘playing the long game’; it means working steadily towards a long-term goal. David fell in love with New Zealand after spending nine months here in 2004 and 2005, so he returned to Austria to study a degree that would give him the right skills to get a job here. After completing his Master of Science in geo-information science in the Netherlands, and applying for jobs here, he got an interview with electricity and gas distributor Powerco. Playing the long game paid off.
Since moving here in 2012, David has worked for Powerco as a geographic information systems specialist. Powerco has approximately 330,000 poles distributed around the North Island, and thousands of kilometres of lines and pipelines – David is part of the team that uses computers to map every pole, cable and fuse in order to monitor and fix them as needed.
The company organised temporary accommodation for David when he arrived.
“So much happens in your first week. All at once you meet heaps of people, you start your new job and you try to find a place to stay, buy a car; it’s very intense.”
After two weeks he moved into a ﬂat (shared house) with colleague Krystiana Wetton; he now calls her his big sister and describes her family as his “second family”.
“I got lots of support from them: they showed me around lots of places, introduced me to other people, shared local knowledge. Krystiana has two dogs that I have known since they were puppies. I usually take care of them if she’s not around and I walk them a few times a week,” says David.
Pukekura Park is a bit like Central Park in New York; it is right in the middle of the city.
“After work, most days I take the dogs for a walk; the beach is just five minutes down the road, and you meet other dogs and people. During daylight saving [when the sun sets later in the evening], I go for a ride on my motorbike, or for a walk with my girlfriend Darelle, then we start up the barbecue to cook dinner.”
New Plymouth suits David well. There is less traﬃc than Auckland, and the city offers plenty of walking tracks and green spaces.
“Pukekura Park is a bit like Central Park in New York; it is right in the middle of the city. It’s a nice little park with a couple of lakes, the Bowl of Brooklands venue and heaps of walking tracks. In summer it hosts the Festival of Lights, where the park is lit up with light installations and art, and has free gigs [music concerts].”
He and Krystiana bought a house together last year. “It’s a pretty simple, small house, but it has lots of native rimu wood in it and it has a deck, which is something very important to have in New Zealand,” he says.
“We put in new carpets, we polished the ﬂoors and painted the whole place. We still have renovations to do for the bathroom and kitchen.”
Living in regional New Zealand has given David the opportunity to do certain things that were not realistic in Europe.
First, he bought an off-road car to drive in remote countryside; he also goes hunting with a friend for deer, pigs and goats that will end up on the dinner table.
“I always wanted to have my own shed, because my dad used to have a great shed at home and so did my granddad. I started off maintaining my mountain bike, and now I do as much as I can on my motorbike, and there are always things around the house to repair and build.”
Apart from missing friends and family, and Austrian bread, David only notices small differences in culture and humour. He also got sunburnt very badly in his first few days here, because he did not realise the sun was so harsh here.
“My advice is just be prepared, do your research, have a good idea of what you will expect here. I came here on a work visa, which was OK, but I have colleagues who came on a resident visa, and that would have made some things easier for me, such as setting up KiwiSaver and getting a mortgage.”