The Big Move
I’ve been poised to announce this news for some time but it wasn’t until the last week or so that everything has been finalised. So here goes. I am within weeks of leaving Australia permanently. I will be making the hop across the Tasman to New Zealand, to the South Island. I’ve already plonked the kiwi symbol on the blog, along with Made in New Zealand.
What the? I hear you mutter. There are many reasons for this decision but primarily:
- I believe in climate change (anthropogenic or simply a natural warming cycle, doesn’t matter, it’s going to heat up). I believe Australia will be in for a pretty harsh time – ongoing drought, diminishing water supplies, hotter weather, wilder weather patterns and so on.
- Australia has changed. Yes, things move on, I know that. I’m not a rusty old goat yet. And I like the mix of all the different cultures here: we now have far more variety in food that we did when I was a kid. But I don’t relish the thought of the population growth that Australia will be going through: from its current 22 million to a projected 35 million in 2050. I’m not great with big cities stuffed full of people, which is why I actually live about 2 hours out of Sydney, in the bush. To accommodate the growing population, Sydney is densifying – building high rise apartment blocks along the Pacific Highway for example, which leads into Sydney from the northern suburbs. So there go the quiet leafy streets and quarter acre blocks I grew up with. I visited the street I grew up in recently. It used to be lined with blossom trees that flowered pink and white in summer and modest homes with large front and backyards. All gone. Replaced by huge McMansions spreading from fence to fence and the surrounding area has sprouted apartments that march up the streets towards the main arterial way.
Readers of the ThinkingShift blog well know that I often blog on a darker future – one full of skirmishes over water and food and how tensions will rise due to climate change. Readers will also know that I’ve often talked of living a simpler life – growing my own food, having my own water source, being frugal and away from the hideous shopping malls of contemporary life.
And so after much searching, we have settled on New Zealand and particularly the South Island. I prefer cold weather and I’m sure to get hit with a lot of that in NZ, along with wind! At one point, we were seriously considering Portugal but the economic state of the country had us worried along with the bizarre antics of the EU when it comes to privacy. We considered Spain at one point and also Brazil (my hubby is Portuguese). But in the end, we decided on New Zealand because it is less likely to be hit by climate change (although there will be some heating up), it has a much smaller population (around 4.3 million, which is roughly Sydney’s population size), higher rainfall and is just a gorgeous looking country with very, very friendly people. We have a chance there of having property where we can grow our own food and live a more sustainable life.
I will be living just out of Christchurch, in a village called Oxford, which has around 2,000 people who live mainly on farms. I will be surrounded by dairy farms, deer farms, alpaca farms and, of course, the ubiquitous sheep.
I am swapping a really lovely, architecturally-designed home that overlooks Lake Macquarie and is nestled in the bush for a fairly run-down wooden house. But the land is magic – it’s flat, has a view to the Southern Alps and the previous owners were growing their own fruit and veg. Within the property, I cannot see another neighbour’s house. I can walk up to the main street of the village, which has everything, and every Sunday, all the farmers from the district come in and sell their produce in the local organic market. There is not a shopping mall in sight. The nearest one is in Christchurch and I doubt I’ll make the trek into Christchurch too often. And I’m quite excited that I can walk to Seager‘s and attend the Cook School – Jo Seager is a celebrity chef who moved from Auckland to Oxford in 2006.
So it’s about a more sustainable, quieter lifestyle. Eventually, once we understand the landscape, how the sun moves, how cold the winters are and so on, we will knock down the existing house and build a small home from rammed earth and generate our electricity from wind power. I hope that we will do this within two years.
This is a HUGE decision, particularly because I will be leaving a job I’ve been in for 7.5 years (in Knowledge Management). I’ve never not had a job. And no, I am NOT retiring – I’m not old enough and I don’t think I’d want to. I have plenty of schemes for things to do, not the least of which is to restore the property to what it once was – a horse farm. On the property are run-down stables and an all-weather arena for training and exercising horses. The irony here dear reader is that I know nothing about horses and have never ridden one in my life but give me 10 out of 10 for chutzpah – I have the confidence to believe I can learn and do it. The previous owner will be helping me and she will remain living in the area so I can call on her, phew.
I’ll have to learn about cows too – a local farmer has already asked us if he can plonk his three cows on our land in return for fresh milk and he also wants to use one of the paddocks to grow lucerne hay – a big thing in NZ I’ve discovered.
So I’ll have to swap the corporate clothes, shoes and handbags for sturdy boots and farm clothes (not sure yet what this looks like but I’ll let you know!). I will continue my KM work, most likely through the odd consulting gig or workshop.
There are some things I’ll miss about Oz:
- the wonderful wildlife. I feed wild rosellas and lorikeets every day. We have a wallaby that visits from time to time. But the new owners of our house are dead keen environmentalists and love birds, so I know they will be looked after.
- the sun and bright blue sky. Although I hate hot weather and the 40 degree days Sydney can experience, I do like the shiny, happy, bright blue days. I’m not sure how much sun Oxford gets but I suspect nowhere near as much.
But what I won’t miss is:
- having to travel on third-world, tired, rattling old trains (yes, CityRail I’m talking about you) and having to fight to get on or off a train amidst the hordes of tired travellers.
- bogans – do they have bogans in NZ? The area where I currently live is just outside of Newcastle and seems to be populated by bogans. I hope to never see another mullet again.
- the broad Australian accent with its “how are youse?”, “she’ll be right mate” and the inability to pronounce words like knife and life (which become knoife and loife).
Meanwhile, I am busy brushing up on how to speak New Zillund. I’ve been using this guide to practice, along with learning these slang words (I now know that a tramp isn’t a homeless person walking the streets).
I have some advantage as my parents, grandparents – heck, in fact the entire family – were from New Zealand (via Wales and Russia) but too long in Australia has resulted in (so my relatives told me) the dreaded Strine accent. Australians are quick to laugh at the Kiwi accent but the Kiwis can sling a shot or two at the Aussie accent let me tell you.
I will be starting a second blog – The Daily Oxford – which will chronicle my adventures, musings and observations of life in rural NZ. I’ll get that blog going soon and provide the link. I’m sure it will be full of photos like “Kim falls off horse as horse tries to run away”; “Kim tries to figure out how to grow zucchini”; “Kim stares at goat hoping it will milk itself”.
I’ll be posting photos of the property on the new blog too. We’ll be leaving Oz in early May. Our entire house load of stuff will arrive one month later after a leisurely crossing of the Tasman by cargo boat. We were going to be living on mattresses in the Oxford house but a friend has asked us to mind her place in Christchurch for a month – it’s a gorgeous house, so I’m quite excited. I know I’ll have internet connection there and also in Oxford so downtime for this blog and the new one shouldn’t be too long. In fact, we’ve gone with Telstra Clear who managed to link us up to Internet, home phone and cell phones all in one afternoon. That included me carrying on about how I didn’t like my new mobile number and could they please issue another one. Fast, no fuss service.
So farewell Oz. Hello Land of the Long White Cloud – Aotearoa.