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Tauranga Welcomes You!

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Christchurch Couple Find Safe New Ground in Tauranga
16 May 2016
Christchurch Couple Find Safe New Ground in Tauranga


After living through the trauma of the Christchruch earthquakes, Kate and Casey Wilkes, retreated to Auckland in search of stable ground. Four years later they are excited to have found a beautiful piece of paradise to call their own in the beautiful Bay of Plenty. After all they have been through they have learnt the art of grateful living and they say they have found plenty to be grateful for here in Tauranga.


In Search of Solid Ground

It was the third Christchurch earthquake that broke Kate Wilkes.  

The Auckland born graphic designer had followed her boyfriend (now husband), Casey Wilkes, down to the 'Garden City' in 2008, two years after their chance meeting on the dance-floor at a work conference. They enjoyed two years of their new life together before both their city and their relationship was shaken to the core.

Quake One

The first earthquake in September 2010,  struck only one day after Kate and Casey bought their first home. Dealing with impact of the earthquake on their badly timed house purchase added stress to the shock.  Fortunately the house wasn’t too badly damaged and the couple were able to move in, however Kate found herself living on edge and freaking out everytime there was an after-shock. "What was meant to be an exciting chapter in our lives turned out to be one of the worst times," says Kate. "It really tested our strength both individually and as a couple."

Quake Two 

Kate and Casey were both at work on February 22nd, 2011, when the earthquake that caused widespread damage in Christchurch and killed 185 people struck.  About to go to the mall and get some lunch, Kate found herself instead diving under the office desks along with her co-workers as the quake hit. "It was so frightening," says Kate. "All I could hear afterwards was screaming, people running out of the mall, people crying, people trying to call loved ones."  She had an anxious 45 minute wait not knowing if Casey was safe, when he walked into her office.  It took them three hours to get home.

With no power the couple couldn't access news easily. "We didn’t really know about how badly the city was damaged and how many people had been killed at first," says Kate. "It was devastating to find this out.  We were so lucky to be alive but we felt like we were separated from the rest of the world."

Quake Three 

The ongoing stress and psychological trauma that followed took it's toll on Kate's health, precipitating a relapse of the severe eating disorder Kate had previously battled with. "When I get stressed or worried, I take it out on myself by not eating, which is what I did during this time," says Kate.  

By June, when the third quake struck, Kate's resilience had run out. "I just couldn't take it anymore. Our red-zoned house was destroyed in this quake and I was a wreck. I was so unwell I didn’t actually have much longer to live if I continued on the same path. I spent a month in hospital and never went back to our house after that – I moved straight up to Auckland."

The Auckland Stop-Over

Casey joined Kate permanently in Auckland  in April 2012 after securing full-time employement. Auckland offered the couple stable ground on which to heal and rebuild their lives over the next four years. They married in March 2013.

Casey worked as a Technical Consultant for a software company from home and after working in design and team management at Unitec for two years, Kate decided to follow her long-held dream of starting her own business.  Speckle Spot Creative was born in February 2015.  

After renting for four years, the couple decided it was time to buy their own home.  "Unfortunately with the way the house market is in Auckland, purchasing a home there was not possible for us," says Kate. "A tiny 2-bedroom place in a less desirable area was completely out of our budget."

Suddenly, Tauranga appeared on their horizon like a beacon of hope.   

Kate, what was it about Tauranga that appealed to you?

We had holidayed in Tauranga before and really liked it so we decided to take a look at some properties down here. We travelled back and forth between Tauranga and Auckland during weekends to attend some open homes. We wanted to move quickly in our search for a property, as we knew house prices here were increasing too. We found a place we loved in Welcome Bay, and with luck on our side we managed to get it at auction - the first we had attended! We moved here in March 2016.

We just love our place - we don’t see ourselves ever moving really.  We have views over looking the Mount, it’s really private and quiet. It’s such an enjoyable place to live. Our cat Max loves sunning himself on the deck too.  Now that we have a house with the room, we hope to start a family soon (fingers crossed).  In Auckland, this would just not have been possible. 


What has moving to Tauranga meant for your careers?

Casey continues to work for a software company that specializes in timetabling solutions for the Educational sector.  He was working from home in Auckland, and now he works from home in Tauranga. We were really lucky with Casey being able to continue on with his job and me able to relocate the business - it made moving cities so simple.

What is it like running your business from Tauranga?

Tauranga is a great place to run a business from. Nothing has really changed since the shift from Auckland. Most of my work can be done online – I have a client base that extends to the whole of New Zealand.

Speckle Spot Creative is a graphic design and advertising company. One of the things that I love about my job is the variety of work and the other is the amazing people I get to meet.  It’s such a fantastic opportunity to be creative and to bring the requirements and ideas / thoughts that my clients have to life.     

I also design my own art prints, coasters, gift cards and plywood prints on the side. I have my art in a few stores and am hoping to contact a few more soon. It’s great to be able to have a bit of spare time on the weekends to get creative and produce some of my own work too. 


Where do you work from?

I work from home.  When I was in Auckland I ran my business from the living room! It’s been so awesome having a big enough house to have a proper work office where I can put a whole bunch of creative stuff up on the wall. The only issue I have is that the weather has been so nice here that it’s been extra hard to concentrate and actually do my work. I just want to go outside and have fun!  


What differences do you notice between the Auckland and Tauranga lifestyle?

Having a better work-life balance has become so important to us. In Auckland, we worked non-stop, which is easy to do when you work from home. The pressure to make money just to live was huge and we would often work until after midnight.

We didn’t really go out much in Auckland either because it took so long to get places. What we really appreciate here is the ability to get around quickly, to go out exploring on the weekends and actually have a bit more of a life. We did the walk around the Mount last weekend – absolutely amazing!


What do you enjoy about living in Tauranga?

1. I love the walks! Iove being able to get out and about easily, to see new places and visit so many different beaches. We can see it would be a great place to raise a family – which formed part of our decision to move here.

2. I love shopping – decorating our home with cushions and putting my own prints on the wall has been awesome. Paper Plane is one of my fave stores so I love going there when I can.

3. I love just being able to pop out to the shops, the beach, for a picnic and it doesn’t take long to get there. Everything is so accessible which we love. 

What has moving to Tauranga meant for your sense of well-being?

We feel like we belong here. I'm not sure (on my part) if it has anything to do with my ancestors (Ngai Te Rangi) being from the Bay of Plenty, but I just feel really connected to this place.

We also feel really safe and comfortable here - something that is extremely important to us after the earthquakes. We feel so lucky to be able to continue our lives together and look forward to the future. Having been through what we have been through makes us super grateful to be where we are now. We are so lucky! 


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. 

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz


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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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