A Journey South: Part One - Reasoning
Originally published on LinkedIn in 2016
Recently my partner and I decided to relocate from Auckland to Dunedin in September. As part of our journey of resettlement, I am sharing my experiences and insights from our journey. The first part of my series is focused around our reasoning for taking a risk by resigning from our current jobs and relocating to a smaller city.
Relocating to a new city is not as simple as moving house or starting a new job. There are new networks to build and different ways of working. For those with families, there is the added task of finding new schools and settling children to new surroundings. These changes can be minor or more significant depending upon factors such as population, geography and culture.
For us we saw some challenges in relocating. For starters, we are moving from a city of 1.5 million people to a city of 125,000. This means a smaller pool of jobs available, which may mean we are waiting longer that we would like before securing our first roles.
Secondly, we are going to be moving over 1,400 kilometres (and a ferry ride), so transportation can be a significant cost. When you add on the cost of accommodation and setting up a new lease, the cost of relocating starts to really add up and these costs can double if you decide to turn around and come back.
We also need to build networks quickly in Dunedin, as hiring managers and employers rely on their networks to make hiring decisions. With a population of Dunedin's, the professional circles are even smaller, so you are quickly known by your good (or bad) reputation. The only way around this challenge and increase our employment success is to get down there, meet people and show what we can do.
Reason One: Family
Like many Auckland residents, we were not born in Auckland, and our families live in other parts of New Zealand. The good airport links across New Zealand from Auckland made it relatively easy to visit family once or twice a year. However as the thought of starting a family begins, the desire to be closer to wider family also grows.
The decision to move closer to family has not been easy either. One set of parents will be closer than the other with this move (Dunedin vs Napier). However we will appreciate being an accessible drive away from parents, grandparents and close friends that we want to have in our lives.
Reason 2: Lifestyle
We often talk about maintaining a work-life balance and having a healthy relationship between work, family and personal commitments. Unfortunately I have seen my WLB get harder to maintain as increased traffic pressure lengthens my commute.
While I have accepted this is now part of Auckland life (think of it as a tax for being in the economic hub), the idea of spending around 10 hours a week commuting is several hours wasted that could be better spent. In my case, this time could be spent with my partner or working on an interest like playing guitar (this is often the first thing that gets sacrificed in my life when things are not in balance).
In Dunedin, the commute times are significantly shorter. A good friend of mine tells me of his summer workday schedule of waking up around 6:30, checking the surf conditions from his balcony and going for a quick surf to wake up and get ready for his day. He makes it into work on time, and can still be home to cook dinner at a reasonable time if he works late. In a few years time, I want to be the father who is at home for his kids at dinner time instead of slowly making his way there from the office.
Reason Three: Dunedin's Culture
Dunedin is known for it's University and Scottish culture, which is once of many cultures bringing vibrancy to the city. The young bright minds of Otago University give it a smart and open-minded feel, which can be seen by some of the start-ups coming out of the city. There is rich culture in the city with its status as a UNESCO city of literature, the musical roots of the famous 'Dunedin Sound' and the amazing food that comes locally (who can beat a cheese roll or a bacon buttie from the Dunedin Farmers Market?). Then there is a technological element to Dunedin that is challenging other cities across New Zealand as being the innovation hub through the new Gigabit network, some great Dunedin-based startups that are being noticed around the world, and the support from the local community to bring ideas to life.
Reason Four: Housing Affordability
As first home buyers, housing affordability was going to play a big factor in where we choose to resettle.
The battle for getting into that first house in Auckland is getting more difficult every month. The more we save, the faster house prices rise, making that 20% deposit for a lower quartile house even less achievable. Our experiences with the instability of renting in Auckland has meant that owning our home was a must before starting a family.
While Auckland's average house prices are almost $1 million, Dunedin's average house price of $300,000 is less that a third of Auckland's. It means we can get into a house from our savings and start raising a family. The lower prices also give us lower minimum repayments, allowing for flexibility to pay back faster, survive on one income or undertake any major repairs to our first house without going through significant mortgage stress.
This gives you a good idea on why we are resigning, packing our lives into the back of a car and moving to a city where you need a wetsuit to use the beaches with no guaranteed work. Wish me luck!