After living inland in South Africa, the Diers family love how easy it is to access the coastal delights of Whangarei and its surroundings.
Hooked on Northland life
We needed to move to a country where there’s potentially a bright future – particularly for your children. It was very important to us … hugely important – it was probably our main driving factor that.
Hi, I’m Shane Diers – I’m a medical Doctor, a specialist in diagnostic radiology. I’m originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, and I’m now living in Whangarei, New Zealand.
We decided that with the pressures that were happening in South Africa that we needed to go elsewhere. So we picked New Zealand pretty much because my Radiology degree is compatible with a New Zealand degree, allowing us to continue doing what we have been doing in South Africa, and New Zealand fulfilled that very much – we like the direction in which New Zealand is going. And particularly for the children – the safety and security here is fantastic, and their potential to lead just a happy life and to be successful.
New Zealand is very short of Doctors and Radiologists, and – I got offers from Hastings, from Rotorua, from Whangarei obviously, from Whanganui … the only discriminating factor was to look at it geographically and, quite frankly we just aimed at the most northern part of New Zealand because we thought it would be warmer.
It’s an awesome place to live and it’s … kind of not the big city, it’s a little bit rural, a little bit off the beaten track, and in a stunning area.
I think one of the reasons they employed me here is because they just installed a new absolutely state-of-the-art CT scanner. One of these 256 slice coronary angiographic CT scanners. There were four in the world at the time they put this one in. Which was really great, and that’s a big pull-factor – because you want to work on the right sort of equipment.
Auckland was very difficult to get a job in. Not impossible but … and I’m, I’m also – I’m not too ecstatic about big cities, I come out of Johannesburg, and – you see the trappings of big cities.
Andrew Potts: We were expanding the radiology department with new and additional scanners, and we needed more radiologists, and we knew that there weren’t enough New Zealand-trained radiologists who would be able to fill that so, Shane being one of them and, he’s settled in very well over the last two years and made a really important contribution to the radiology department.
Shane: When I arrived, I had never been to Whangarei. So it was a scenario of renting a car at the airport, putting a GPS in the car and punching in WHANGAREI – Go. And we were in for a bit of an adventure ….
I, I enjoyed the adventure of looking around and exploring a town. But one thing I did do that, I think is a really good idea, is I came alone when I came here. I didn’t come with the family. And it’s much easier to explore a place as an individual without having to run around with the, the whole family because it’s quite a stressful time and you don’t really know what you’re doing.
You kind of got to roll with it when you, you’re moving to places like this and take it for the adventure that it is.
You gotta’ look a generation ahead I think - because we were fine in South Africa, my wife and myself. But then after having children, the whole – the plan changes and you need to look at strategically positioning them for their lives in the right spots – and, Africa was just not the right spot for them to be put in. New Zealand just, just doesn’t have limitations like that.
Sometimes, the little things show you how far your family has come. When the Diers family lived in Johannesburg, approximately 500km from the South African coast, they could not take up activities such as kayaking, boating and fishing.
Two years after moving to New Zealand, Shane Diers says he, wife Janine, and children Grayor (6) and Milla (5) now do all those things.
“The other day we caught our first kingfish, so we were absolutely stoked [delighted],” he adds. “Recently we got out to the Hen and Chick Islands, so we’re slowly pushing out boundaries there. The boat is capable of far more than that, but we’ve got to break into it slowly.”
Janine adds, “Out on the water it’s calm and peaceful. It’s a nice day for us to spend together as a family, rather than being inside and watching TV.”
The family left South Africa looking for an adventure, says Shane, but also because they were concerned about crime levels and their children’s future education.
“Getting the children into a university would be very, very difficult in South Africa. There are a lot of quotas coming through and it limits one’s ability to get into tertiary institutions. We needed to move to a country where they can compete on an even keel,” he says.
Shane’s sister was living in New Zealand at the time, so he had already visited twice. His brother-in-law mentioned Whangarei could be what they were looking for: a large regional city “in a stunning area close to the Bay of Islands, close to the Tutukaka coast”, says Shane.
He received job offers from eight different cities around the country – “New Zealand is very short of radiologists” – so they could choose which region to live in.
Shane arrived in June 2015, three weeks before the rest of the family because of a delay with Milla’s visa. This turned out to be a good thing, as he was completely new to Whangarei and had to rely on his GPS navigation device to help him get to the house he had rented.
“But I found the wrong house. I walked into the neighbour’s house and sat down on my new couch, which was in fact the neighbour’s new couch! I was later directed by the rental agent to the house I had rented,” he laughs.
By the time Janine, Grayor and Milla arrived in July, he had figured out the best place to go for groceries and other essentials, and done some tax-related paperwork.
“It’s much easier to explore a place as an individual without running around with the whole family, because it’s quite a stressful time and you don’t really know what you’re doing,” says Shane.
Coming from Johannesburg (population 5-6 million) to Whangarei (population 50,000) was a big shock, says Janine, “but at the same time it was awesome. There’s less traffic, and places are never crowded. Even going to the beach on December 24, it was busy but not like we had to park miles away.”
Janine worked as an IT (information technology) consultant in South Africa. She and Shane decided that since they do not have family and friends here to help with childcare, she would focus on the children for now.
Shane is a medical doctor, specialising in diagnostic radiology: using X-rays, scans and other techniques to diagnose and treat illnesses.
He was delighted that Whangarei Hospital, where he now works, had just installed a number of very high-tech scanners – because it’s always fun to work with state-of-the-art equipment.
Getting the children settled at school was challenging, says Janine. There were several key differences to South Africa, such as the length of the school day, and the way sports are run.
“You need to really do your research in terms of where you live for where kids are sent, because schools are zoned. I like it, because all your neighbours are the kids who go to the same school. It creates a community. But you need to know where you want your child to go to school, and then choose where you want to live,” she explains.
Janine is glad they sent their furniture over in a container, because there is very little variety in Whangarei’s retail shops.
“Food is a lot more expensive in New Zealand, but then you get used to it,” she adds. She has also become used to the phrase “going to someone’s house for tea”: at first she assumed ‘tea’ meant a cup of tea with cake, while Kiwis use that word to refer to dinner.
“There are ups and downs like everything else. You need to make an effort to fit in with the customs and culture, and be accepting of everything New Zealand has to offer,” Janine advises. “I find Kiwis to be the most accommodating, lovely people in the world. I’ve never had a situation where I’ve been made to feel like I’m an outsider.”