Worth the effort

The drive to work each day is short compared to Paddy Browne’s move from Ireland to New Zealand – and he says life on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula justifies the journey.
Worth the effort

Although Auckland is still a small city compared to major international cities, its population is growing by more than 800 people each week. A long commute (travel from home to work) is more common now in Auckland, but Paddy Browne reckons living in Whangaparaoa is worth it when the weekend rolls around.

Whangaparaoa is a peninsula 40km north of central Auckland, and Paddy loves its relaxed charm and natural beauty. “Whangaparaoa is like an island, it's laid-back [relaxed]. When we first moved there, I saw these guys lying on the pavement and I had no idea why. After a few weeks, I realised it was a bus stop, and they were just chilling out [relaxing] waiting for a bus,” he laughs.

Originally from Donegal in Ireland, Paddy moved to New Zealand in 2012 to work for ADT Security. The company deals in security systems, and holds the contract for security at Auckland International Airport, where Paddy works.

This means leaving home at 5.30am each weekday. If he is lucky, it takes 90 minutes to drive to work. Usually, it takes two hours, and if there is an accident on the motorway, it can take three hours.

“But it's worth it for me. That's where I want to live, and on the weekend I want to spend that time somewhere I enjoy.”

Paddy first visited New Zealand as a side trip while backpacking around Australia in 2005. Afterwards, back in Ireland and Europe, he gained experience in fire protection systems, and business, military and airport security systems – including supporting some Kiwi companies through ADT Security. When the company won the Auckland Airport contract, they asked Paddy if he would like to move to New Zealand. He quickly said yes.

“It’s culturally similar to Ireland: good meat, good pubs, laid-back lifestyle. It was an avenue to progress my career in a company I was already familiar with, and a challenge to set up and design a new system.”

Arriving in late 2012, Paddy used the Trade Me website to find his first flat, sharing with an English couple in Mount Eden. At work, he helped install the new airport security system, looked after ongoing support and upgrades, and trained local technicians on how to program the system and deal with issues.

“Airports are like mini-cities, they are constantly evolving. They have to keep up with demand and look 20-30 years ahead, to cope with the need for more transport and retail space. Even though the original contract is finished, there's still so much future-proofing, and ongoing work and development.”

While standing in a queue to buy a coffee one day in 2014, Paddy began talking to Natalia, now his fiancee, who is studying to have her Russian qualification in electrical engineering recognised in New Zealand. For a while, they owned a mullet boat – a particular type of boat that was originally used to fish for mullet in shallow waters. Paddy says the boat, named Bluestreak and more than 110 years old, was a “real Auckland classic. The skipper’s wife, Pat Bowman, received the Sir John Allum Harbour Bridge Opening Cup in 1959 during the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. We've had a lot of history with it.”

Auckland’s unrealistic housing prices meant two of their landlords sold their houses to get the profits, so Paddy and Natalia had to find a new rental home each time. They currently live in a “comfortable house”, but both found many houses are not well insulated. “In winter time, it's very cold and damp,” says Paddy.

“Rents are very expensive here. You have to be quick if you find a house here, it's gone within a few days. Estate agents are very difficult: you have to see the rentals when it suits them, you can't look at anything at the weekend. There are a lot of people looking for a limited supply of houses. We were lucky to get the place we're in.”

On weekends, they relax and enjoy the area’s natural beauty. They take their dog Uggie for a walk along a local beach, go out for breakfast or coffee, buy food at the Matakana market, or go walking in nearby parks and reserves. During summer, they pick their own strawberries at farms in nearby Coatesville. Waiheke Island, with its vineyards, is also a favourite destination.

“I love camping here, New Zealand has the weather for it and there are great campsites too,” Paddy adds.

He advises potential migrants should do their research. “Find out what Island you want to live in, based on what your hobbies are. I have friends who would be more interested in living in the South Island, for the snowboarding, hiking and winter sports; other friends are into the sun and beaches of the upper North Island. They have all different, unique aspects and atmosphere.”

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