Chartered Engineer moves family from UK to Christchurch

A lifestyle with more access to nature, and a desire to work on the Christchurch rebuild, inspired the Rickard-Green family’s relocation from England to New Zealand.
UK engineer moves family to Christchurch

When Peter and Vickie Rickard-Green chose to move their family here from England, they were “hoping to make a change to the Christchurch rebuild as well as to ourselves”, says Vickie.

They were living in Sheffield with their three daughters, but were concerned about the girls growing up in a crowded, big-city environment. “We ummed and ahhed about moving to a more rural environment, but then thought, ‘Why don’t we just make a really big move and actually leave England?’” she explains.

As a highly experienced chartered engineer, Peter could easily find work almost anywhere in the world, and investigated options in Canada, Australia and the Middle East. Despite the lure of much higher pay packets elsewhere, Christchurch topped their list.

“We came here for the lifestyle and the opportunity to rebuild the city. That combined opportunity doesn’t come along very often, especially in an English-speaking country,” says Peter.

There was an emotional pull, too: a sister of one of Peter’s friends had died in the February 2011 earthquake. Vickie adds, “It felt quite personal: we wanted to give something back and we’d heard New Zealand was an amazing place to live.”

It was also a chance to give their daughters – Mia, 17, Jessie, 15 and Lucy, 10 – a more active upbringing, surrounded by nature. “We wanted to go somewhere where there’s more open space and fewer people; the UK is overcrowded,” says Peter.

At first, Mia and Jessie weren’t keen on leaving their friends. “Mia said, ‘I’m going to find a new family to live with, I’m not coming with you!’” says Vickie. Peter’s cousin helped talk her round, by describing New Zealand’s laid-back attitude and amazing landscapes.

After spending one month deciding and three months obtaining visas, the family arrived in April 2012. Peter jumped straight into work as a technical director with Aurecon, a global consultancy firm with a local office in Christchurch. Leading a building services team of 20 people, he was key to the company winning large projects such as Rangi Ruru Girls’ School’s comprehensive rebuild and the new Deloittes building.

Vickie focused on helping the children settle in, meeting staff at their schools and popping in if one of the girls needed support during the day. Already a trained teacher aide, Vickie soon began volunteering at one of the schools, and after six months was offered a paid job.

“Our oldest and youngest girls settled in quickly, but our middle daughter did have some anxiety issues. If you’ve got a confident child, don’t always assume they’re going to be fine, because that’s not always the case,” she advises.

All three are very well settled now though, and Vickie says experiencing the earthquakes’ aftermath and building a new life has helped them grow as people.

“They don’t take things for granted. They have empathy towards their peers who have gone through the big earthquakes – they’ve helped them go through a lot of emotional and anxiety issues. I’ve been quite proud of them,” she explains.

The whole family enjoys the change of pace, says Peter. “You have everything that’s available in a reasonable-sized city, but still hear the cows mooing and the cockerels crowing in the morning,” he says.

“The girls play hockey, they play netball, they go running, surfing and skiing and they wouldn’t be doing any of that if we had decided to go to the Middle East. They’d just be going to shopping malls all day.”

Since the move, Peter has become a more avid cyclist, often getting up before dawn to pedal with friends to the top of nearby Dyers Pass and look over Lyttelton Harbour. Many of his cycling friends are also working on the rebuild, and they use the surrounding hills to escape work stresses.

Having lived in Sheffield all her life, the move was an upheaval for Vickie – “We’re never going to have the social circle we did back home, because we were there for so long” – but she was determined to embrace her new situation.

“When you leave your family, your country and your social life behind, you feel like you’re on your own. But for the first few days, I just walked around talking to people and listening. It was good for me to know what these people have been through [with the earthquakes].”

Vickie also loves the hills, often going for walks around Christchurch, and camping with the family. “We tried to do a lot of that back in the UK, weather permitting, but there are far more warm and dry days here.”

New Zealand is now home for the Rickard-Greens, and they use Skype and emails to frequently catch up with relatives. Although Peter does miss the quick access to European countries, opportunities for outdoor activities and the more relaxed approach to life easily make up for that.

Selling their Sheffield home and buying property in Christchurch has stopped them from pining for England, concludes Vickie.

“We wanted to come here and be able to look forward, and I think that’s what really helped us. Once you get here and see what New Zealand has to offer, it's truly amazing – we still have to pinch ourselves sometimes.”

Interested in coming to New Zealand?

Sign up to receive relevant job opportunities from New Zealand employers and practical advice on how to make your move to New Zealand a reality.