Last time I wrote one of these - well over a year ago - I’d been in New Zealand for 8 weeks, had just had my staff induction at AUT and was contemplating my first foray outside Auckland. It all feels a long time ago. What have I learned since then about New Zealand, and about myself?
How does change happen?
I moved here for work, for a job where I am expected to make changes happen. I am responsible for the university’s submission to something called the Performance-Based Research Fund. It works like this:
A friend of mine who used to live in Auckland remembers Parnell – if a neighbourhood were a person – as a sophisticated woman in her 50s who attends fine art gallery openings, sends her kids to Kings or St Cuthberts, and vacations each year in the south of France. Let’s call her Maude.
I think it’s safe to say Maude is still alive and well in Parnell. She’s reading the New Zealand Herald at a corner cafe while waiting for her friends from the dramaturgical society. But a few tables over are Kevin and Terry, 40-something silver foxes with cashmere sweaters who are discussing which fintech startups to invest in. And across the street at an altogether cooler cafe started by Rasheed (who already has two gastro-pubs in Ponsonby and an artisanal bakehouse at Britomart but wants to start something uniquely chic and authentically Parnell), there is a line outside where Steph, Nic and Alycia are waiting to have their weekly brunch catchup. Nic has been promoted to team leader at the bank this week and Steph is telling the others about her recent work trip to Queenstown. They shuffle to one side to make room for Trish who is wielding two poodles and a newfoundland (she does dog walking while doing her masters) and Bev and Gary who go jogging together each weekend while their wives do barre body. On weeknights the concept bars are full of folk who lean in explain over the jazztronica about their cousins who know Heston Blumenthal, and on weekends families and couples turn up for a change of scene, to look around the local shops or to stroll around the nearby parklands.
Or at least, these are my first impressions after a week living in Parnell.
The research and innovation office at AUT is on the top floor of a building in Wakefield St. It offers a commanding view of the Auckland skyline out one side, and glimpses of the harbour and the slopes of Rangitoto Island from another. (There are of course two other sides, but one of them is occupied by a group doing animation, games and VR, and the other has a commanding view into the dishevelled living rooms of student apartments next door, which is a much less compelling way to open a paragraph.)
As exciting as it can be to embark upon a change and all it represents, moving itself can be a tedious and taxing experience at the best of times – moving countries even more so. That said, as an Australian, New Zealand is probably the easiest international move one can make – you can more or less turn up with your passport and stay as long as you want. Your Australian ID is sufficient for most things, there's access to reciprocal healthcare and, to a certain extent, a shared language and cultural reference points. Even so, there’s still the matter (and expense!) of moving your stuff, getting it cleared through customs, finding a place to stay while you get yourself organised, and then figuring out where to call home in an unfamiliar town.
One of the best things about this move therefore has been the relocation assistance provided by AUT, for which I feel very fortunate.
I’m writing this from a neat little cafe with a nice view of the Auckland skyline on Karangahape Rd (or K Road, as the locals call it). We landed in Auckland a few nights ago and have moved here for a new job that I start next week at the Auckland University of Technology. Since we’ll be living in New Zealand for the foreseeable future, I figured I’d make time to keep an occasional journal of how we go settling in and observations on living in a similar, but different, part of the world to Australia where I have spent most of my life.
It’s the first question everyone asks, but not, I suspect, exactly the first thing everyone thinks.