At first glance, Wellington did not seem an ideal place for Belinda Naudé.
Belinda was born in Zimbabwe and lived in sun-baked South Africa for 25 years. She prefers warm and still weather that leaves her fine hair unruffled. “When my daughters told me it was cold and windy, I said ‘No!’.”
That was nearly three years ago. Today Belinda is happily settled in Wellington and does not mind so much when the capital city’s famous wind blows her hair about.
She moved to New Zealand from Pretoria for a better quality of life and to give her twin daughters Desiree and Chantel more career opportunities, she says.
“My daughters took me to the dining room table one day and they said, ‘Mom, this is where we have to go’, and they showed me all these beautiful pictures of New Zealand.”
The country’s scenery, food and people have lived up to her expectations, she says.
... everybody was just walking around freely. We thought to ourselves, ‘Is this safe? Can you actually do this in New Zealand?’ We were really glad you could.
“Wellington is beautiful, with the hills and the vegetation. The waterfront is beautiful too. When I get on the train to work and see the harbour, it excites me.”
Belinda and her daughters enjoy walking forest tracks in Belmont Regional Park and Tinakori Hill, and love visiting the Wellington Botanic Garden in the city. “We used to stop and photograph little mushrooms and beautiful ferns on our walks, that sort of thing here is really awesome. But the best thing is there are no snakes.”
They love the quality and variety of food in New Zealand, she says. “We eat salmon just about every week. We couldn’t eat salmon in South Africa; it is too pricey.”
Making friends has been easy as people live closer together. In Pretoria she lived on a lifestyle property – a larger land holding that is often home to animals too – and commuted for up to four hours a day.
“There was no time for friends. Here I have made lots of friends with the people I work with. We get together often, we go for hikes, we go out for lunch and a group of us went to New Plymouth to a garden festival last year. That was great fun.”
Belinda works as a test manager for Qual IT – a quality assurance consulting firm. She got the job while still in South Africa and the company helped her apply for a work to residence visa.
To move to New Zealand as a skilled migrant you must be under 56 years of age. Belinda was 55 so she had to act fast.
“I really did the visa process very thoroughly because I knew I could use all the information and references later [for my residency visa].”
Belinda and Chantel arrived in New Zealand on December 31 – New Year’s Eve – in 2016. Chantel came under a visitor visa. They flew straight into Wellington and while the “freezing cold” temperature was a shock, they were immediately impressed with their new home.
“We wanted to go to the waterfront and watch the fireworks. We were so surprised, there were babies in pushchairs, people with small children – everybody was just walking around freely. We thought to ourselves, ‘Is this safe? Can you actually do this in New Zealand?’ We were really glad that you could.”
Belinda did a lot of research about living costs before she arrived, supported by Qual IT. The company also set them up in an apartment in the city for a few weeks while they looked for accommodation.
“They sent a taxi to pick us up from the airport. All the shops were closed but there was food in the fridge which was really cool. We didn’t have to spend a dollar the first day we got here. The support was phenomenal.”
Finding a place to live was a challenge, as there is a shortage of rental housing and they did not have any rental references because they have owned their Pretoria home for 25 years.
But Belinda soon found an apartment, where she stayed for 18 months while Chantel studied vet nursing in Palmerston North.
Desiree finished her graphic design degree in South Africa and moved to New Zealand last year. Belinda and her daughters then shifted to a two bedroom house in Petone, in Lower Hutt – across the harbour from Wellington city.
Chantel now works at a veterinary clinic in Tawa, while Desiree has recently headed overseas to study for three months.
They love living in Petone – a relatively sunny part of Wellington – and enjoy walking down Jackson Street (the main street) and along the Petone Esplanade.
They have had problems with damp and mould in their rental home, Belinda says, but the landlord has recently installed a heat pump and is replacing the roof.
Belinda and her husband - who has remained in South Africa for work but plans to join her in New Zealand - will need to sell their Pretoria home to be able to buy a house here. “The property market is crazy. And at our age we would not want to take out a huge mortgage.”
The family’s health costs are also higher in New Zealand, she says, as their health insurance covered most of their medical costs in South Africa, including dentistry.
You may need to wait to see a specialist or have an operation in New Zealand but the quality of healthcare is very good, she says.
New Zealand is not perfect but it is still where they want to be. “The high cost of living – housing, food, transport - was always a concern for us. But you get real quality of life here, you can live freely and you do not need to look over your shoulder every time you walk down
Belinda and her daughters were granted residency in July last year under the skilled migrant visa category. “We celebrated big time.”
She says the move has been a success because they embraced their new home – hair-raising weather and all.
“If you do not embrace the change, you are not going to find happiness and see the good things here. We knew it was going to be different, we knew there were going to be challenges and we knew we just had to fit in, and we did - very, very easily.”