Tauranga Welcomes You!

Sarah Thorner Crossley | Zespri’s New Senior Legal Counsel On Her London to Tauranga Move

Sarah Thorner Crossley

Lawyer, Sarah Thorner Crossley, left New Zealand in 2012 to see the world and pursue new career opportunities in the United Kingdom.  She set off on her adventure with her new partner, Benji Crossley, and only one suitcase in tow.  In 2019, the couple returned to New Zealand – married, with a daughter and half a shipping container full of stuff!

London opened opportunities for Sarah to specialize in trademark law and to get involved with the media industry, something she hadn’t considered before.  Deciding to move home to New Zealand after their daughter was born, the couple sought a place with lifestyle and career opportunities. Tauranga ticked all the boxes. Sarah is now working in-house at Zespri as Senior Legal Advisor and continuing her interest in media through her contributions as a Film Bay of Plenty board member.

This is her story.

Sarah, where did you grow up? ​

I had a nomadic childhood and lived in different places across the country from Auckland down to Invercargill, but I spent my formative years in the South Island and that feels like home.

Can you tell us your career story? 

​I started out in private practice in Wellington, mainly doing general corporate and commercial law. During this time, I started to get involved in trademarks, and my interest was piqued.

In 2012, I headed overseas with my new partner. I was ready for a change of scene and to see as much of the world as possible. I was also looking for new career opportunities.  I used the move to London as an opportunity to specialize in trademark law and secured a role at GlaxoSmithKline in the in-house trademark team and start focusing on this along with anti-counterfeiting work across the globe. 

From here I moved to FremantleMedia, a global production company known for shows such as The X Factor, American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent. In this role, I was able to continue focusing on broader intellectual property law issues as well as continuing with my corporate and commercial law experience and gaining new experience in the media industry.

Media was a new world for me professionally and one I hope to stay involved in now I’m back in New Zealand.

How did you know when it was time to come home to New Zealand? ​

I’m not sure I did know when I left London!  My husband and I wanted to find a place to settle and raise our daughter and we didn’t want to compromise on lifestyle or professional opportunities. Tauranga ticked all the boxes and was the obvious choice. Now that we’re getting settled and enjoy the odd dinner on the beach after work, I know it was the right decision.

What did you think moving to Tauranga would mean for your career?

​I wasn’t sure at first. I’m not familiar with the area and wasn’t sure what opportunities there would be here. However, after some research, I could see it was a thriving area with a lot of growth but still a strong sense of community.  ​I started looking for roles when I was still living in London. I  was in Tauranga on Christmas break last year, which gave me the opportunity to meet with some potential employers and get to know the area. 

I accepted a role in the Commercial and Business Law team at Holland Beckett, a fantastic law firm with offices across the Bay of Plenty. I chose this firm because they have a vibrant and progressive culture, offered high-level work, and are actively involved in the community. However, soon after joining an opportunity at Zespri came up and I knew I had to go for it.

Working in-house has always been my passion and I saw this as an amazing opportunity to learn about a new industry and use my skill set to support a business that was integral to the Bay of Plenty region.

What does your role as Senior Legal Advisor at Zespri involve?

​I’m still on a steep learning curve here. It’s a fascinating, multi-faceted business. I love that our focus is always on growers and grassroots involvement in the industry.

Have you maintained any involvement in media since moving to Tauranga?

When I first arrived in Tauranga, I started reaching out to people involved in the media industry locally. Anton Steel (CEO of Film Bay Of Plenty) was one of the first people I met. I was looking to get involved, there was an opening on the Film Bay of Plenty Board and the rest is history!  ​I guess I have a unique skill set on the Board with my legal background. I’m happy that I can contribute to supporting the local media industry and be involved in the community.

How has it been settling into Tauranga?

The first six months were hard. Winter was long and, due to bad planning on the move, we had two winters in a row. But, I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s summer and the city really comes alive! I love the gourmet food markets on Friday night and the different weekend markets around the city. We’ve got tickets to a couple of concerts over summer and I’m looking forward to exploring the area. 

How have you gone about meeting people and making friends? ​

Mainly through work and Film Bay of Plenty. I think the key is to get involved as much as possible. It can be awkward at first but then the familiar faces start to grow and new connections are made.

What do you love about living and working in Tauranga?

I can bike to work in less than 20 minutes. And the work/life balance is taken seriously here. We love the beach and that in itself can take up a whole weekend. We also go for bike rides at the weekends. The Mount is a perfect biking area – generally safe, flat, and very scenic. The thriving creative industry here has also been a pleasant surprise.

What advice do you have for Kiwi expat professionals moving to Tauranga?

​It’s a big decision – focus on what’s important to you both personally and professionally and then look at how and where you can achieve that. ​The move back can be tough. Be prepared for a ‘settling-in’ period. Life is different here and it’s easy to get caught up in the negatives (everything shuts at 5 pm, coffee shops at 4 pm, and fresh produce need to be bought seasonally unless you want to re-mortgage). But, the advantages far outweigh these!

What has moving to Tauranga meant: ​

For your career?​ New opportunities without compromising on ambition.

For your wellbeing? A healthy lifestyle change.

For your relationships?  ​We’ve become closer as a family and have also spent more time with our extended family.


Gets You Thinking Doesn’t It?

No one can tell you when you’re ready for a change of lifestyle…but when you are, we’d love to have you in Tauranga!

Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

Email us at info@priorityone.co.nz

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