Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Kiwi Expats Blog

Designing A New Life in Tauranga | Annmaree Kane's Homecoming Story
2 July 2018
Designing A New Life in Tauranga | Annmaree Kane's Homecoming Story

Though warmly welcomed in Australia, Annmaree and her husband, Kerry, always knew that New Zealand was home and after nine years across the Tasman, they were ready to return.

When searching for a new home, Tauranga stood out as a city that could offer something for everyone: proximity to rural sectors for her husband’s career, an urban environment and growing economy for her own career, and excellent schooling and lifestyle for their daughter.

Luckily, over the course of 20 years, Annmaree had stayed in touch with the Auckland-based commercial and office interior design specialist firm, STACK, at which she had spent the better part of ten years. This connection proved fruitful: since moving back in 2018, Annmaree has returned to STACK, setting up and becoming Regional Manager of their new Bay of Plenty/Waikato office while reacquainting herself with her Kiwi roots. 

Here’s Annmaree’s homecoming story.

Annmaree, what took you to Australia? 

My husband, Kerry, and I have always had itchy feet and moved to regional Victoria to take advantage of opportunities for Kerry’s rural service business.

Life in Australia was an adventure but not without challenges. We met some wonderful people and had the opportunity to see and do things we wouldn’t have done in New Zealand. We enjoyed having the delights of Melbourne on our doorstep. It was a novelty to turn left and arrive in Adelaide or head north and be in Canberra. It also gave us great career opportunities, especially for Kerry who has ended up following a very different career path.

Can you give us a glimpse into your career?

It’s been quite unconventional. After graduating from design school in Auckland, I went overseas and did everything but work in design. I came back to New Zealand with a wide range of skills and life experience and got a job working for a design company who specialised in commercial interiors, which set my path in the design field. 

Three colleagues from that company went on to set up STACK and I was among their first employees 20 years ago. Over a decade, I worked on and off for STACK in between having babies, our own business ventures and co-authoring a book with Christina Neubert called Living Green - the New Zealand handbook for an eco-friendly, toxin-free, sustainable life. 

Then in 2009, we packed up the kids who were five and nine, our cats and dog, and moved to Australia. I worked for an architectural design practice designing interiors for commercial and high end residential clients across regional Victoria and South Australia. Now I am back working for STACK.

Tell us about your new management role with STACK.

STACK is a firm of Commercial Workplace Designers and Project Managers who have been creating inspiring and functional workplaces for a wide range of New Zealand and international companies over the past 20 years. I have maintained a relationship with STACK right through those 20 years which I think is very special and a credit to them.

The directors of STACK had been thinking about setting up an office in Tauranga to support our regional clients for some time. They found out we were coming home and intending to settle in the Bay of Plenty so it all fell into place very quickly. It has been challenging setting up a new office in a city that I had previously only visited but Tauranga offers plenty of support to new businesses.

My role is Regional Manager across the Bay of Plenty and Waikato. The role is a great fit for me as it gives me the opportunity to work make use of my skills in design, project management and business development to develop and maintain relationships with our existing and new clients.

Where is the new STACK office?

I currently work out of co-working space, Ignition, on Grey Street. The central location is ideal and gives me the interaction with people I need daily. There are many construction related businesses currently working from Ignition so it creates a familiar working environment.

How would you describe the business community in Tauranga?

I have found the business community in Tauranga to be very welcoming and I have been able to develop business and personal contacts quickly. I contacted Priority One on my second day working in Tauranga. STACK saw joining Priority One as critical to the establishment of the office here. The Priority One team have been very supportive by facilitating connections and introductions to other businesses. I have also attend many events Priority One has hosted.

What brought you to Tauranga when you came home from Australia?

Tauranga was always on our radar. One of the factors in our move to Australia was Auckland’s traffic and busyness and we weren’t prepared to go back to that. We liked the idea of being able to take advantage of the coastal lifestyle, the affordability and the growing economy in Tauranga. As Kerry works in the rural service industry, we needed to find a balance between rural and city life to be able to support both our careers. Tauranga certainly offers us that.

I always wanted to eventually retire somewhere with a sea view. We’ve just got that view a bit earlier than expected.

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

We did assume we would return. Although we were always made welcome and became part of the communities we lived in, it’s never quite home.

There were many factors: the pull of home, significant birthdays, our parents were getting older and nieces and nephews were growing up fast. Also critical was schooling for our children. We needed to let our son finish school in Australia but get our daughter back to enable her to start NCEA. We really had a one-year window to either come back or commit to staying for another four years.

How are your kids adapting to life in New Zealand?

Callum has actually stayed in Melbourne for university and this has been the most difficult part of our move to deal with. I console myself with the fact that Callum probably would have been studying elsewhere in New Zealand, it’s just a slightly longer plane ride to see him.

Kenya, who is nearly 15, has taken a while to settle back into life in New Zealand – after all, she has lived longer in Australia than in New Zealand. Her biggest challenge has been adapting to a different school system, but she is now happily settled at school. The ease with which she can communicate with her Australian friends has helped with the transition.

Do you have any family living in Tauranga?

Coincidentally, there has been something of a mass family reunion with our move to Tauranga. My brother and his family moved here from Auckland a few years ago; my mother and her partner moved from Whangerei to Katikati. Having my sister and her family settle here was a complete surprise, they completed their move from Melbourne in a very short time, settling here quicker than we did. We still haven’t managed to all be in one place at one time but we are working on that!

Having lived in both the UK and Australia for a good part of my life it’s still quite novel to have so much family around. It was wonderful to be able to rely on family support to help with our transition. Without them, the move would have been very difficult especially with the extended time our family was split across the Tasman.

What has surprised you about Tauranga?

I am amazed at the number of people I have met who are returning expats like us and I’m quite inspired by the great opportunities here. I did wonder how living in Tauranga would compare to regional Victoria but there is a wonderful creative energy here in the Bay which I love.

What do you do to have fun here?

After living in the Central Highlands of Victoria for four years the proximity to the beach has always been a big drawcard. We spend a lot of time with our dog Skye. It’s great to be able to walk on the beach with her. I’m still waiting for my husband to get out his fishing lines and catch us some fish!

What do you love about living here?

The beach vibe and seeing the harbour and Mauao from our house brings me joy every day. Having such a large part of the central North Island within a short distance is great, there is so much out there to explore and reacquaint ourselves with.

After years of moving around I think we have finally found ‘our place’, our tÅ«rangawaewae.


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!


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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