New Zealand (North Island)

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Aussie families are increasingly heading overseas to reap the benefits of international mining. But what's it really like? Mining Family Matters women spill the beans on living and working across the globe ...  

Aleah talks about life on the North Island of New Zealand

We spent a little under a year on the North Island of New Zealand in 2007/08. My husband got a transfer there with the company he had worked for in Roxby Downs, South Australia. So with immense excitement we packed up the house and headed across the Tasman to the most beautiful little town I have ever seen.

It was a relatively 'safe' overseas destination as far as it goes, but we were just excited to experience something a little different. Mining is a relatively minor industry in NZ so quite a few Aussies were sent over there at the time to help. This (of course like it is with Aussies as well) caused a few problems in the community about us 'taking their jobs' but it was all fairly minor and we didn’t have any major problems.

What a fantastic year it was, although stressful and certainly not free of problems. We found out after three days of arriving in NZ that we were expecting our first baby!! Trying to navigate an entirely different healthcare system, while dealing with such a major time without family, was a big adventure.

But just like Australia is full of Kiwis, so New Zealand is full of Aussies. We certainly didn’t feel alone, we just realised that we needed to be completely self reliant because we knew NOBODY! The locals were very friendly, especially as there were a lot of other mining families without extended family, so we made life-long friends quickly.

I was expecting to start work as a teacher straight away, but found it difficult to transfer my teachers' registration without a lot of time and money. Once it was all sorted it was a great experience and I loved working in the schools. In between working, having a baby and buying and selling a house, we travelled (everywhere!) ate amazing food, experienced fantastic Maori culture and quickly picked up the local lingo of 'chilli-bins, jandals and togs'.

What was awesome:

  • New Zealand knows how to have babies!! The system is FANTASTIC and I was so lucky to have experienced it. Midwife care with the same midwife all the way through to delivery and post natal care (not every day you can text your midwife at 11pm and get a reply and even a home visit …just to make sure all was well!) I couldn’t fault the system in the slightest.
  • Food may be expensive but goods and services (particularly car registration and repairs and phone calls) were a lot cheaper.
  • The country is amazing. Snow, beach, mountains, cities and the most breathtaking views all within hours (and some within minutes) of our home.
  • We bought a house (and sold it!) while we were there and we had no trouble getting loans etc despite being Aussies.
  • Travel back to Australia is cheap(ish) and easy.
  • You can buy alcohol and fireworks (around Guy Fawkes day) at the SUPERMARKET! Quite a novelty really.
  • If you have children, the school system is also fantastic and if you have little bush babies they’ll be happy to know that shoes are not compulsory at school!
  • In terms of what you are entitled to as 'non-citizens' it made not one scrap of difference. Healthcare, schooling, even voting is the same as if you were a New Zealand citizen. The tax system is different but quite easy to navigate without the help of tax agents etc.

What to keep in mind:

  • Definitely read the fine print in getting your qualification recognised in your job BEFORE you go so you can get the ball rolling before you arrive. Yes most industries have a 'mutual recognition' scheme with NZ but it is still lengthy and costly.
  • You need to have a thick skin when it comes to (relatively) mild cross-Tasman banter (and heavin forbid you’re an Aussie during rugby season!)
  • Get used to saying 'fish and chips' for them to laugh at you, and to defend pavlova as an Australian invention … it is something that came up with complete strangers on numerous occasions!
  • We found the social life to be fairly reliant on home parties etc. There's nowhere near the amount of community events (especially over Christmas and New Year) that we had been used to. So get on your friendly hat and get out and make as many friends as soon as you can. Try school, sport, church, whatever you fancy, because the sooner you make friends the better.

The last word: it is a unique and sensational place. So if you ever get a chance, I say go for it. You won't regret it!

Other great testimonials from overseas:

Q&A: what to expect when moving overseas

Ever worked and/or lived overseas for an international mining company? We'd love to hear your story!