Tauranga Welcomes You!

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Kiwi Expats Blog

From New York to New Zealand | Deb Peake's Homecoming Story
18 November 2016
From New York to New Zealand | Deb Peake's Homecoming Story

Deborah Peake’s work history is rather enviable. Her Kiwi 'can-do' attitude led her to work alongside some of the biggest names in advertising in both London and New York. She’s travelled the world, wining and dining in the best restaurants on offer. But New Zealand was always the place she called home and spending two years working in Beijing evoked memories of her blue sky childhood inheritance. After paying off her mortgage on her London property, Deborah moved to Tauranga to start a career in real estate and to enjoy the blue sky possibilities of home. 

Deb, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Auckland. I dropped out of a Bachelor of Commerce at Auckland University two years in after deciding I would like to work in advertising. I started at the bottom as a PA and worked my way up. 

Luckily for me I’ve always ended up working for very good brands and so when I decided that I wanted to explore the world, London beckoned as one of the advertising capitals. I had been at Saatchi’s in Auckland so I rocked up to the Saatchi London office and a few months later I started as an Account Executive. 

Saatchi London was still very sloaney at that time. I was interviewed by multiple people, including one who said outright that ‘most of their clients had been to Oxford and Cambridge and they liked to hire people who had also been there’. 

Can you tell us about your experiences in the advertising  industry?

Advertising really allowed me to explore the world.  My travel for work has been extensive, although at times fleeting. Certainly, being in London allowed me to do more OE travel than most people do. It also meant I got onto the London property market.

Visa issues loomed and I was eventually thrown out of the UK and decided  to move to Sydney.  Just before I left, I was seconded to work with Bob Isherwood, the Worldwide Creative Director of Saatchi. I became his account person and a year after leaving Sydney, I was back in London. Bob had hired David Droga to run the creative operation for Saatchi’s flagship office and he wanted me to help him get established in the role.

These guys were/are at the top of their profession globally and it meant that I was surrounded by brilliantly creative and professional people who were all outstanding achievers. It was fascinating to see people like Kevin Roberts, Maurice Levy and their peers operate, seeing what they will and won’t do and the discipline it takes to be a top performer.

Whilst it happened by circumstance, this career move really marked out a steep change in my life. Global travel became the norm, staying and dining in all the best places.  Spending the second week of June spent at the Advertising Festival in Cannes became routine. It was a pretty epic lifestyle. 

Around this time I started coming to New Zealand each Christmas to visit relations in Tauranga. 

How did you end up in New York and what was it like working there?

My work with David Droga moved me to New York and all the clichés about living there manifested. It is a concrete jungle, you are only one person away from the person you want to meet and yes, if you work hard you’ll make it. I love New York. It is a 24-hour city and we did great work transforming the business there.

However, I always felt that when I was watching the news, it wasn’t the world news but the ‘American’ news. For the first time in my life I felt I may not be fully aware of something, although I had no idea what.

My New Zealand tenancies to want to see something green and vaguely related to nature had always been there, so two years later when my boss departed to set up his own business, I decided I would go back to a European-based lifestyle in London. 

What eventually drew you home to New Zealand?

I started developing global new business for one of the WPP global networks, working primarily with Procter & Gamble (a fantastic business in so many ways), Nokia and eventually Nestle in China. I had joined Kea and the New Zealand Business Women's Network and I had a small group of Kiwi friends in London. All of us were plotting our return to New Zealand, whilst trying to make our fortune beforehand.

There was one more twist before I was to return home and that was my two years in Beijing. Having been made redundant due to budget issues in London, I was then rehired two months later by the same company to run a small digital agency in Beijing. It got me closer to New Zealand and you would be crazy to not grasp a China-based career opportunity with both hands.   

It was a fascinating time work wise, but tough as well - long hours, a massive cultural learning curve and horrendous pollution. ‘Kiwi Drinks’ via the embassy every month maintained my Kiwi connection amidst the Chinese grind. The biggest thing I came to appreciate was the fact that I’d been raised in a country where the sky was blue. I can’t tell you how physically depressing it is when the sky is constantly grey. I now totally understand why any normal Chinese person would want to emigrate.

On reflection, my tough time in China probably solidified my thinking that I would return to New Zealand, however I popped back to London first, focussed on paying off the last of my mortgage. There was no one factor that triggered my decision to return home. Something snapped, it was immediate and it was clear. I would go back to New Zealand, buy a house in Tauranga and sell real estate. 

What drew you to Tauranga?

On my trips home I’d always found Auckland sprawling and increasingly soulless. Post-China, I wanted to be in an environment that would be much more conducive to a balanced lifestyle. I’d been visiting Tauranga on an annual basis more or less for 20 years, I had family here and something about it just appealed.  

What has surprised you about Tauranga?

Although Tauranga has transformed amazingly in the last 20 years you’re still only 10 minutes to most locations in town. These people don’t know what a real traffic jam is! I look at the Auckland traffic on the TV in the morning and know I’ve totally made the right decision. I’ve found people friendly and the pace more conducive to a better quality of life.

Is this the most sophisticated city in the world? No, but you have a world-class beach and if you really feel the need to shop, the internet delivers to your door. The pace at which a delivery from John Lewis arrives in Tauranga is terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. Yes, an injection of culture would great, but for me it’s not a deal breaker. 

The growth of Tauranga is impressive. I remember driving past what is now the Lakes and it was just farmland. Ten years ago my cousin had her wedding in Papamoa, and basically it stopped at the roundabout, now it’s nearly at Te Puke. Ironically the thing that seems to have changed the least is the centre of town – it still needs an injection of energy and uniqueness, as far as I am concerned.

What are you doing career wise?  

During my time away I also became a qualified non-Executive Director, so I’m a member of the Institute of Directors and I find that very rewarding. However, working in the corporate environment is a completely different challenge to starting your own business, trying to make your living and employ others. It’s this side of real estate that I find very motivating. I’ve been incredibly lucky to come back into a business like Eves that has phenomenal, world-class training. 

Coming back into the New Zealand property market was a real eye opener, particularly as I came back just as the Tauranga property market was going completely crazy. Luckily for those buying into the market it is currently slowing down slightly, versus six months ago.  It’s a good time to buy.  If you’re selling, prices are still slightly increasing and holding firm, so it’s also a great time to make a move with the industry still eager for stock. 

What advice would you give to other Kiwi Expats who are thinking of making the move home?

I’m a firm believer that it takes 12-18 months to integrate into a city. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts. I’d also say don’t leave it too late. It takes energy and time, and with Europe and the world in the state that it’s in, now is as good a time as any. My advice on moving to Tauranga?  Do it!  Know how you’re going to make a living and go for it.

How do you feel about your life in Tauranga?

I managed to secure my own slice of paradise near Kulim Park in Matua, so I’m very happy.  People ask me do I miss the UK and I can honestly say that I don’t.  It’s clear to me now that I was ready to come home, even though I did not necessarily recognise that. And guess what?  The sky is the right colour every day.


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!

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

2. Subscribe to our montly e-newsletter to receive stories just like this one about people who have already made the big move you are thinking of making. 

3. Have a story to share? We love sharing your sea-change or homecoming stories. Email me at kathryn@priorityone.co.nz to start a conversation.

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz


Looking for work in Tauranga?

Send me your CV and a 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesess who are on the lookout for good people. Priority One is not a recruitment agency, but as the economic development agency for the region we seek to make connections for people where we can. There is no charge for this service.

Email me at annie@priorityone.co.nz.

Annie Hill | Priority One
Communications/Project Manager

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You


Ready for a better work/life balance in a vibrant, growing, sea-side city?

We'd love to have you in Tauranga!


Contact Priority One

Contact Priority One

Need help?

Send us your 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesses who are on the lookout for good people! info@priorityone.co.nz

Tauranga Welcomes You

Tauranga Welcomes You


Ready for a better work/life balance in a vibrant, growing, sea-side city?

We'd love to have you in Tauranga!


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About Kathryn

About Kathryn


Kathryn Overall is the friendly voice behind the 'Wish You Were Working Here' stories and Facebook posts.  Each month she chats with returned Kiwi expats,  Auckland imports and New Zealand immigrants who have moved to Tauranga, collecting their stories and advice to share with you. 

CLICK HERE to read her own story of reluctant homecoming!


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