Quantity surveyor moves to New Zealand

Enjoying the Kiwi way. When South African quantity surveyor An-Cke Van Vuuren moved to New Zealand in 2016, she was struck by the importance Kiwis placed on a good work/life balance.

“In South Africa, there are a great number of challenges which become part of everyday life –  you are in survival mode. In New Zealand, there are fewer challenges and you are expected to enjoy life.”

When An-Cke, her husband Freddie and their two children decided to leave South Africa, they considered moving to Canada, Australia or New Zealand – countries with a stable government.

They eventually settled on New Zealand because of its beautiful outdoor environment and temperate climate – similar to Cape Town’s, says An-Cke.

Living in a safe country is another bonus. An-Cke recently left her phone and bank card on a bus and was amazed to get them back. She says that’s unlikely to have happened in South Africa.

Happy to help

An-Cke and her family enjoy living in a friendly, welcoming country and appreciate New Zealand’s famously relaxed lifestyle.

“We like the fact that everyone works together in New Zealand. If you walk up to someone and ask them for help, they will help you,” says An-Cke.

“There is a high regard for life, culture and for each other. In essence, that’s why we’ve stayed.”

An-Cke works in Auckland for a quantity surveying company, Cuesko, where she is involved in a wide range of projects.

She leaves work at 3 pm to be with her children, who are aged eleven and eight, and works from home for the rest of the day.

“In South Africa, flexible hours and working from home is a challenging situation for management and not considered. Here, if you prove yourself and show you can do what’s required, you can easily work from home,” she says.

Flexible working hours make it easier for An-Cke to support her children’s after-school activities, which have included music, hockey, cricket and rugby.

Meeting challenges

An-Cke joined the construction industry as a draughtsperson in 2000. She became a quantity surveyor in 2007 and has since worked in South Africa and on projects in Ghana and Dubai.

She believes the key to succeeding at work in a new country is preparing for the challenge of dealing with different ways of doing things.

For example, An-Cke found that recruitment agents in New Zealand didn’t specify which roles were for consultant quantity surveyors, who work for clients or developers, and which were for contractors’ quantity surveyors, who work for contractors.

Other differences included New Zealand’s pricing structure for projects – lump sum contracts – and having commercial buildings made from precast concrete, cladding and timber.

Another change for An-Cke was learning that funders in New Zealand require a quantity surveyor to report separately on the monthly drawdown application received from the client.

Shared values

“It’s hard to learn the rules and regulations of a new country. The important thing is to find people who have compassion towards what you’re going through,” says An-Cke.

To overcome the challenges of working in a new environment, An-Cke scheduled a half-hour meeting twice a week with her immediate director.  

She kept a list of questions to ask during her meetings and found she soon gained the experience and confidence she needed to succeed in New Zealand.

“I’ve worked on some great projects and I really enjoy my job, but for me, the most important thing is the support I’ve had from the directors and the greater team at Cuesko,” says An-Cke.

“My advice to quantity surveyors coming to work in New Zealand is to choose a company that shares your values and is able to provide mentorship."

“New Zealand is a great place to live once you’ve learned the Kiwi way.”

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