Walking on the wild side

The rugged bush and beaches of New Plymouth are a pleasure to explore for Austria-born David Haberkorn.
Walking on the wild side

David Haberkorn already enjoyed hunting and tramping (also known as hiking) before he moved to New Plymouth. But he says the landscape here has a unique atmosphere.

“The bush [native forest] here is quite wild compared to forests in, say, Austria or the Netherlands, because everything there is quite regulated and managed. Many places in New Zealand feel very remote; often you won’t meet another person for hours, or for a whole day, depending on where you go,” says David. 

New Plymouth’s black-sand beaches are exposed to the Tasman Sea. “They can also be quite wild in stormy weather - After a storm we sometimes find interesting things on the beach, everything from dead sharks and seals to other sea creatures.”

There is a phrase in English called ‘playing the long game’; it means working steadily towards a long-term goal. David fell in love with New Zealand after spending nine months here in 2004 and 2005, so he returned to Austria to study a degree that would give him the right skills to get a job here. After completing his Master of Science in geo-information science in the Netherlands, and applying for jobs here, he got an interview with electricity and gas distributor Powerco. Playing the long game paid off.

Since moving here in 2012, David has worked for Powerco as a geographic information systems specialist. Powerco has approximately 330,000 poles distributed around the North Island, and thousands of kilometres of lines and pipelines – David is part of the team that uses computers to map every pole, cable and fuse in order to monitor and fix them as needed.

The company organised temporary accommodation for David when he arrived.  

“So much happens in your first week. All at once you meet heaps of people, you start your new  job and you try to find a place to stay, buy a  car; it’s very intense.”

After two weeks he moved into a flat (shared house) with colleague Krystiana Wetton; he now calls her his big sister and describes her family as his “second family”.

“I got lots of support from them: they showed me around lots of places, introduced me to other people, shared local knowledge. Krystiana has two dogs that I have known since they were puppies. I usually take care of them if she’s not around and I walk them a few times a week,” says David.

Pukekura Park is a bit like Central Park in New York; it is right in the middle of the city.

“After work, most days I take the dogs for a walk; the beach is just five minutes down the road, and you meet other dogs and people. During daylight saving [when the sun sets later in the evening], I go for a ride on my motorbike, or for a walk with my girlfriend Darelle, then we start up the barbecue to cook dinner.”

New Plymouth suits David well. There is less traffic than Auckland, and the city offers plenty of walking tracks and green spaces.

“Pukekura Park is a bit like Central Park in New York; it is right in the middle of the city. It’s a  nice little park with a couple of lakes, the Bowl of Brooklands venue and heaps of walking tracks.  In summer it hosts the Festival of Lights, where the park is lit up with light installations and art, and has free gigs [music concerts].” 

He and Krystiana bought a house together last year. “It’s a pretty simple, small house, but it has lots of native rimu wood in it and it has a deck, which is something very important to have in New Zealand,” he says.

“We put in new carpets, we polished the floors and painted the whole place. We still have renovations to do for the bathroom and kitchen.”

Living in regional New Zealand has given David the opportunity to do certain things that were not realistic in Europe.

First, he bought an off-road car to drive in remote countryside; he also goes hunting with a friend for deer, pigs and goats that will end up on the dinner table.

“I always wanted to have my own shed, because my dad used to have a great shed at home and so did my granddad. I started off maintaining my mountain bike, and now I do as much as I can on my motorbike, and there are always things around the house to repair and build.” 

Apart from missing friends and family, and Austrian bread, David only notices small differences in culture and humour. He also got sunburnt very badly in his first few days here, because he did not realise the sun was so harsh here.

“My advice is just be prepared, do your research, have a good idea of what you will expect here. I came here on a work visa, which was OK, but I have colleagues who came on a resident visa, and that would have made some things easier for me, such as setting up KiwiSaver and getting a mortgage.”

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