Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Kiwi Immigrants Blog

Brunei to Tauranga | Aubrey Liew of Thomson Group Shares His Migration Story
17 September 2018
Brunei to Tauranga | Aubrey Liew of Thomson Group Shares His Migration Story

Aubrey Liew and his wife, Jen, arrived in New Zealand in April 2018, hoping to settle in Taupo.  Things didn't work out there and they are so glad they didn't!  Their job search led them to Annie Hill at Priority One, which led Aubrey to an engineering role with Thomson Group. Of course, this meant they ended up settling in Tauranga!

Despite some challenges finding a rental property and unexpected financial costs, Aubrey is loving his new job and he and wife are grateful to be enjoying the good life in this little slice of heaven they now call home.

This is his story.

Aubrey, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. Brunei is a small tropical country in South East Asia.  

How did New Zealand end up on your radar?  

We visited New Zealand two years ago for a wedding. We were completely blown away by how beautiful the country was. The people here are warm and friendly.  One week into our visit we seriously began to consider moving here. It seemed like a good place to put down some roots. We had considered migrating to the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia however we found New Zealand to have a good mix of what we wanted in life and we applied for a skilled migrants visa two weeks after we got back! 

What vision did you have for your life here?  

A contented, simple life - not perhaps the richest or the flashest of lives but certainly a good one. A cup of coffee and a good book by the sea. Time for friends and family. A bit of fishing, hunting.  Why, just the other day, I was sitting in my company truck alone during a site visit along Thomsons Track, eating my pasta lunch and looking at the Kaimai range. I was enjoying the quiet and thought to myself that life could certainly be much worse. 

What makes an engingeering career a good fit for you?  

I suppose what drew me to engineering was that I would be able to make a meaningful difference to the world. Its a good fit for me because while I have no intention of being the next Elon Musk, I like to know that what I'm doing benefits the society around me. It's good for the soul.  

What were your working conditions in Brunei like?

I worked in Brunei for about 12 years immediately after graduation - eight years in the oil and gas industry and four years as an electrical design engineer. I had relatively high pay with relatively high stress levels. Soul grinding, to say the least, after a while. Living in Brunei was a good but relatively 'safe' in the sense that work was steady and life was a known quantity. We don't pay income tax and medical is free. We have a good standard of free education and the cost of living is relatively low. The Sultan of Brunei does take good care of his people. Which of course usually begs the question, 'why am I here then'?' Because it was time for a change and a challenge.   

What was your experience of finding work in Tauranga?  

Fairly positive actually.  I heard about the job-seeker connection service that Annie Hill at Priority One (the economic development agency for Tauranga) offers. I submitted my CV and next thing I know I'm called for an interview with Thomson Group! Fast and easy. 

Thomson Group is a Bay of Plenty based engineering consultancy primarily focusing on electrical and controls infrastructure. Our services range from small site electrical audits through to total turn key solutions for our clients.

I am a Project Engineer. What that means is that I coordinate several groups of people, assist where I can and try my best to get the job done as quickly, cheaply and with the minimum amount of fuss.  

What do you enjoying about your new role?

Everything? I get to drive to Waihi Beach and Te Puke for site visits and enjoy the glorious views. The beautiful clean air is just an added bonus. In the project that I currently manage, I work with the Western Bay of Plenty District Council (WBOPDC) Utilities team making sure that the water people receive is clean. Most people don't realize how much effort it takes from so many people to provide something as basic as water. My small part helps, so it gives meaning and purpose to life. Further to that, working with the WBOPDC and its contractors has been a wonderful experience so far. It is truly a joy to work with technically capable individuals who are eager to get stuck in! 

How are you settling into your new life so far? 

It's going well.  We live in the avenues. It's an excellent location near to Tauranga CBD and easy access to anywhere in WBOP. Work is fun. Aside from that, I am starting to pick up fishing and look foward to summer activities! We also spend a lot of time with our Great Aunt Mary who lives in Tauranga. We have been cooking all sorts of things. Hainanese Chicken Rice, Kau Yuk (Pork and Yam), Siew Yuk (Roasted pork), Stuffed squid etc. 

What has been challenging about this move?

The most challenging thing about this move so far has been money, or the lack thereof. We knew coming into this that money would be tight, however, we did not realize what exactly that would entail. An example is our rental; when we moved we needed to pay the bond and an advance even before we received our first pay check. Rentals were difficult to come by at what we could afford. We had been rejected several times and were invited to view a few apartments. We got lucky and given a chance by our current landlord, despite our lack of rental history in New Zealand.

We didn't have a bed or furniture and had to buy all of that. Juggling all of those unplanned expenditures, plus having a new job and settling in general has been difficult.  My Aunty Mary who lives here has been extremely helpful in our transition. She allowed us to stay with her for a few weeks before we found our own place. This reduced the pressure for us to look for a rental initially. 

What advice would you give to other people considering migrating to Tauranga?

I suppose the best advice I could give to overseas people considering migrating to Tauranga is to embrace the Kiwi culture. It's on us to learn about our new home and become  a part of that. That doesn't mean losing our own cultural identity of course. It means that we can enrich the community with what makes us special while at the same time respecting the society around us.  

What has moving to Tauranga meant:

For your career? Less pay but more rewarding work

For your wellbeing? Less stress and a generally healthier outlook.

For your relationships? More time with family and friends, and especially my wife.

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



Contact Annie

Contact Annie

Need help? Contact Annie

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


Visit us on

Newsletter Signup

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!


You Might Also Like

Blog Sample 1

French-born Tauranga Entrepreneur Inspires Innovation

"It is a hard road being an entrepreneur. You need more than inspiration to get an innovative idea off the ground." ~ Pascale Hyboud-Peron


Continue Reading

Blog Sample 2

Meet Kathryn | Your Tauranga Connection

"I thought that going from Sydney to Tauranga would be akin to cruising down the pace-of-life highway at 100kph in 5th gear and then suddenly shifting into first. Perhaps, into reverse.”

Continue Reading

Blog Sample 3

Bring Your Job To Tauranga

Working remotely is the new black! We pick the brains of two returned Kiwi expats who have chosen sunny Tauranga as their home city to telecommute from. 

Continue Reading