Construction project manager James moves to New Zealand

Building family connections in New Zealand. When construction project manager James Gallivan left Wales to explore the world, he had no idea that he and his two brothers would all end up living in New Zealand.

James visited New Zealand for a month while he was working in Saudi Arabia in 2016. He liked the friendly people and relaxed lifestyle and noticed there were lots of job opportunities.

Since then, all three Gallivan brothers have moved to New Zealand to work in its booming construction industry.

“We all enjoy it here. There’s lots of work, you can have a great social life and there are no limits to what you can do here in the outdoors,” says James.

Easy to relocate


Migrating to New Zealand turned out to be faster and simpler than James expected.​

During his holiday, James went onto LinkedIn to say he was interested in working in New Zealand. A recruiter got in touch and arranged an interview for him with national construction company which offered him a job.

“I applied for a skilled migrant visa online from Saudi Arabia. I expected it to take three months, but it only took a month. I was able to post my documentation to New Zealand from Saudi Arabia, so that was easy as well,” he says.

James chose to work in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city. “I liked the hustle and bustle of big cities, and I liked working on large construction projects, so Auckland seemed the best place to go.”

He has found that construction project managers in New Zealand are expected to be more deeply involved in their projects than they would be in Britain.

“The work I’ve done here is really interesting. It’s more hands-on, and you have to quickly learn the different building styles and codes,” he says.

“It didn’t take me too long to learn because I worked with some very experienced guys who were happy to share their knowledge and give me advice.”

Construction Manager James from Wales enjoying beer tasting with friends in New Zealand

Construction Manager James beer tasting in NZ with friends

A life outside work

James has had clients from the defence, rail, health, leisure, housing and education sectors, and is now working on managing the build of a luxury apartment complex in Auckland’s central business district.

“I was the first person on the job, so the team grew around me. We have a mix of people from Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, New Zealand, the Philippines and the Pacific Islands, which gives us a good mix of local knowledge and the experience that people bring from their own countries.

“The work is very sociable. We work hard but we all have the goal of getting everything done and then having a couple of beers together after.”

Outside of work, James has a great group of friends – Kiwis and expat Brits – he meets for dinner a couple of times a week. He also plays golf, mountain bikes and watches some great rugby.

“There’s always something to do here. If it’s snowing, I chuck the skis and snowboard in the back of the ute and drive down to Mt Ruapehu.”

James rents an apartment in the suburb of Kingsland. It’s in the inner city, yet James is only a 10-minute drive from the golden sand beach of Mission Bay.

Booming construction industry

James’ oldest brother, an HR manager in the construction industry, lives in the South Island city of Christchurch. His second eldest brother, a civil engineer, recently moved from the UK to Christchurch and has also found the transition easier than expected.

“We’ve all found that construction is a really good industry to be in here. There’s so much work that if you don’t want to work for one contractor you can walk down the road and get hired on another job,” says James.

He is in the process of applying for his New Zealand residency and may end up living here permanently – especially if his brothers decide to stay. “Then we’ll just have to get my sister and our mum and dad to move here too!”

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