Moving to Auckland during a worldwide pandemic wasn’t part of my career plan, but when the right opportunity came along, my wife and I decided to take the leap.
We left Cape Town, South Africa in 2021 when I was offered a job in the Building Services team at Beca, one of Asia Pacific’s largest independent advisory, design and engineering consultancies.
My role as BIM (Building Information Modelling) Coordinator – Hydraulics and Fire Protection in a large organisation gets me involved in some high-level projects across New Zealand and Asia-Pacific.
I also get to work with a few fellow expats from South Africa who joined the Beca team recently, as well as a diverse mix of people from other countries, with knowledge I can tap into. The work culture is not too different, but I do get more of a work-life balance here in Auckland.
A contact at Beca, who I had worked with before, told me they were recruiting and extended an offer that was too good to turn down. We were lucky the company has a team that organises relocations for employees from overseas, including help with the logistics and legal documentation, which made it a smoother process.
As well as being an excellent career opportunity, we saw moving to a new country as an adventure. Although we love our home country, we had always thought about working overseas, and New Zealand was one of the places we would consider if an opportunity arose.
We originally thought we might go to the South Island with its beautiful scenery and mountains. However, my work is based in Auckland, and we were happy to discover that it has its own unique beauty, with its wonderful beaches and outdoor lifestyle.
Safety was another important aspect of the decision. Moving to a country where we are less stressed about crime, where we feel safe going for a bike ride or a walk, was a key motivator.
Beaches, biking, and beyond
My wife and I both love the outdoors and spending time in nature, whether it’s hiking, mountain biking or any water sports. I recently got into snorkeling and Goat Island in the Matakana Coast area is a great place to get started; the water is incredibly clear.
We live in Orewa on Auckland’s Hibiscus Coast and after work I can take a dip in the ocean – we are less than 10 minutes’ walk to the large white-sand beach.
The neighbourhood is quiet and peaceful, and there are lots of walking and cycling paths to enjoy in the area. The west coast black-sand beaches at Piha and Muriwai are quite different and are great destinations for a day trip.
Mountain biking is my main outdoor sport and I’ve regularly visited Riverhead Forest and Woodhill Forest, which has especially well-maintained trails. There’s also a purpose-built mountain bike park that is on my to-do list, and I am looking forward to the many trails still to be explored throughout the country.
There are lots of places I’m looking forward to visiting in New Zealand, particularly the Coromandel for its beaches and scenery, Rotorua for its big mountain biking scene, and Mt Ruapehu for skiing – which are all a short drive (3.5 hours or less) from Auckland. My list for the South Island is longer than my arm, and the mountains and alpine environment is what I’m most looking forward to experiencing.
Moving over and settling in
Although COVID-19 inevitably caused some delays, the visa process from Immigration New Zealand went smoothly. My company’s relocation team handled most of the admin around getting my visa (initially a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa; now a Work to Residence Visa - Talent (Accredited Employer)) and a partnership visa for my wife, as well as the shipment of our belongings to Auckland.
With the shipping delays, we were lucky enough to rent a furnished place until our things arrived. Before we purchased a vehicle, we used the bus network to get around; the public transport system is well developed, especially if you are coming from a country where it is basically non-existent.
Finding housing was the biggest challenge and whether you are renting or buying, take the time to visit different suburbs and get a feel for the neighbourhoods. Suburbs closer to the city are more expensive – Orewa is a bit further out than we originally planned but I bus into the city centre and it’s working well.
Another thing to consider is whether you want to live in a suburb with a high proportion of expats or become part of a new, more multicultural community. That will be different for everyone, but we wanted to join a diverse neighbourhood after coming all this way.
Moving to a new country is a big change.
Regular communication with family back home definitely makes things a little easier. It is, of course, easier to relocate if your company sponsors your move and takes care of the admin with Immigration New Zealand – but that isn’t possible for everyone. My advice is to get all your documents ready in your home country before applying, such as your birth certificate, marriage certificate and police clearance. Also be aware of the housing situation and the price of renting; it takes time to find the right place that fits your budget.
When things were closed due to COVID-19, spending time on the beach and in the water helped. Getting outdoors and enjoying activities helped us to settle in – make the most of Auckland’s natural surroundings.