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Community Matters - Country dream a reality

 

Moving from the city to a rural community or small town is not for everyone, but for those who do, it often fulfils many of their dreams.

An international Gallup poll in 2013 found that New Zealanders were the most transient people in the world, with a quarter of the population having moved to a different part of the country in the previous five years.

Many factors influence this migration around the country – following (or leaving) family, change of employment, local economic factors, seeking new opportunities in bigger cities, retirement, natural events, and weather, among others. We are all familiar with the reasons many people are now leaving Auckland – housing costs, traffic, pollution, long hours of work and commuting, high cost of living, wanting a different lifestyle to raise a family, the desire for clean air, space, and a sense of community.

While Mangawhai has had a steady stream of new arrivals for many years, for some of the smaller areas in Kaipara the increased numbers of new people is a more recent phenomenon, as farms turn into lifestyle blocks. Communities such as Paparoa now have a mixture of established families and “newcomers.” Long time residents often have a strong sense of history, community and wealth of knowledge of the district and its people. Newer residents often bring in a variety of skills, different ways of thinking and create new opportunities for the area.

Sharlene and Tim Lord moved to Paparoa seven years ago with a dream and a young baby. They had family already living in the area and had visited often so knew what to expect on moving. Both of them had grown up in rural areas so the country was not unfamiliar to them. They feel very welcome and couldn’t be happier. They came for the lifestyle, to have a few acres to raise their family, and wanted to start their own business, after working for employers in Auckland and overseas. Sharlene found getting to know community members easy with a young baby. She found a coffee group and hasn’t looked back. She is now involved in a few local committees and is thoroughly enjoying learning from the locals. Setting up their own business, the Kaipara Cleaning Co, they have been able to balance their family, leisure, work and community commitments. They love getting to know the local people and getting involved in local activities, as well as having access to the east and west coasts, the bush and nowhere is too far away.

Jerome Demmer and partner Jackie Knight left Auckland two years ago and settled in Paparoa on a small block they had purchased eight years earlier. After travelling up regularly to build a house they too got to know the community before moving permanently. The attraction for them included the bush, and finding a sense of community where people have taken the time to get to know them. Activities are more easily accessible, and being a smaller area there is more opportunity to make a difference from their involvement in the community. Jerome works from home in an agricultural products business, and finds his clients appreciate that he is located in rural Northland.

Expecting newcomers to adjust to fit into a new environment is not unreasonable, we have all made adjustments if we have moved to a new place. But it is important to remember that the long term residents may also need to make some changes, to listen to new views, modify their thinking and behaviour, and take advantage of the skills and opportunities provided by the increasing population. In that way our communities can continue to grow and develop, and the similarities and common ground between us become more important than the differences.

 
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