New life down under

THE BARKER family from Suffolk were all set to move to Spain - until a drive through New Zealand changed all that. JAN MORGAN reports from down under, on their new life.

THE BARKER family from Suffolk were all set to move to Spain - until a drive through New Zealand changed all that. JAN MORGAN reports from down under, on their new life.

JUST over a year ago, Terri Barker, her financial advisor husband Peter, and 24-year-old daughter Katie from White Horse Road, East Bergholt were all set to move to Spain.

Then an old work colleague of Peter's wrote and suggested they head out to New Zealand for a holiday, where he and his family had recently moved. The Barkers thought they didn't have anything to lose by going for drive around what was being described as 'God's own country.'

So Peter and Terri, both in their early 50s, landed in Auckland, hired a motor-home and started driving.

“We fell in love with the country after just three days, we quickly decided we'd move there instead of Spain!” said Terri. “We had been so set on Spain because it was a cheap place to retire to; we had even found a house and put a deposit on it. But at the same time we couldn't sell our house back in England as it was near a pylon and it was putting people off. It eventually took two years to sell.”

After a month of sightseeing, the family returned to England and immediately applied for permanent residency.

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The plan for an early retirement went out the window, because to qualify for residency Peter had to get a job. Once again Peter's friend, Mike Cole, came to the rescue and found him a role working in the financial sector in New Plymouth, a small city on the west coast of the North Island which is guarded by Mount Taranaki and beautiful native bushland.

“We qualified using the points system, which was easy because Peter has a degree and had the job lined up - and we speak English!” Terri said. “By that time we had sold our East Bergholt house and with the exchange rate being what it is, we were bringing in sufficient qualifying funds. We were a bit worried about the distance, we have ended up being 24 hours away from England, but now we're here it doesn't seem so bad.”

Terri talks to her mum back in East Bergholt every week which help allay any fears of distance. They also have a son, Paul, 27, who lives in London.

Terri feels life in New Zealand is like England was 30 or 50 years ago, and said: “Everybody is so friendly and the beauty of the country just bowls you over. I mean what more do you want?”

Peter said: “I love everything about this place, but - and there is always a but - they talk about 'whingeing poms' a lot (always in jest), yet they complain about everything from government to roads to sport. My solution to all of this, is that I would send any Kiwi who complains about this place back to the UK and make them live in any large town or city for 12-months to see their reaction.

“My only real surprise in coming here is the Maori issue. I thought the country was all about 'One nation' Kiwis and that there were no race issues. This was one of my reasons for leaving the UK as I felt it was becoming too divided and racist.

“The Maori had been treated appallingly in the past and now New Zealand is trying to make amends, quite rightly. However the issues and claims are going on forever and my general feel, entirely based on my short time here, is that the majority of the population want it to be sorted sooner rather than later. It is in danger of becoming divisive rather than reconciliatory.”

Terri has found the local tendency to never arrive anywhere on time, suits her well.

She also loves Christmas barbeques in the sun, having her own vegetable garden, and her kiwi friends. “I'm not one of those ex pats that only seeks out their own kind. I help the Red Cross deliver meals on wheels and also help out at the hospice charity shop where I've made a lot of friends.”

Of course the kiwi accent is far removed from her own.

She said: “They tend to squeeze their vowels. I remember once I had an appointment at the opticians and it was for ten past ten. When I went in the nurse said 'you're late you should have been here at 10 to 10.' They had originally said 'teen to teen' and I thought ten ten!”

For Peter there has been one disappointment: “There has been an increase in violent crime in the last couple of years, but you are talking about coming from a very low base and it has shocked the whole of New Zealand. Let's hope it is just a blip. This is not a violent country, on the contrary.”

Terri added: “I feel we've really settled in. We've just celebrated our one year anniversary here and I rarely feel any homesickness. We have a better lifestyle, we live in an open plan detached house which has a tin roof - which is strange when it pours with rain as it's very loud - and we have a great garden. I definitely think we'll stay!”


Have you changed your life radically? Is it all you hoped it would be? Write to Star Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email