It was a decision that Matt Smout and Janelle Deuchrass toyed with for a few years, but picking up their family-of-four’s big city life and moving to Palmerston North turned out to be an easy move to an even easier lifestyle.
“We’d had enough of the rat race. We were done in Auckland, and we saw the light,” says Janelle, who grew up in Palmerston North.
“Matt was spending two hours per day in traffic, I was working and juggling the kids’ school and after-school activities. We needed to buy a bigger house up in Auckland or extend the one we had – both of which required a big Lotto win. There had to be a better way.”
Everything fell into place for Matt, Janelle and their two children, Bella, 10, and Campbell, 8, when in January 2018 they made the move to Manawatu.
With better career opportunities, a better school environment for the kids and more time together as a family, Janelle says that life in the Manawatu is much more than they expected.
“We came down knowing the property prices were going to work in our favour – thanks to the Auckland housing market. We knew there’d be less traffic and shorter commutes and the kids would have their grandparents around – but since arriving we’ve found so much more.”
“The ease of life results in more down-to-Earth people. People have more time to talk and take a genuine interest because they’re not rushing away somewhere. Palmy’s best kept secret is its people.”
Neither of them have had to make career sacrifices by leaving Auckland, says Janelle, who works as a communications professional. Matt picked up a position working for Palmerston North Personnel, and couldn’t be happier with his new 10-minute work commute.
“The job opportunities are just as good, if not better,” he says.
“Salaries haven’t been a major. You get paid a little bit less but living costs are less and the life you get in return makes it worth it.
“I can have breakfast with the kids, and get home and we have dinner together whereas before I’d be out the door before they were even out of bed, and get back and they’d already had their tea.”
He says the business community has been hugely welcoming.
“It’s a lot easier to do business with Palmy people, especially working for a locally owned and operated agency. People are a lot more open and it’s a lot easier to make relationships. It has a real community feel to it, which I wasn’t expecting at all.”
For Bella and Campbell, not only do they have better student to teacher ratios at Hiwinui School, but they also come home to happier, more relaxed parents and enjoy a thriving life of sports, drama and dance, and plenty of weekend activities.
“It’s definitely worked for them and they’ve done really well with the adjustment,” Janelle says.
“We have a lot more family time and the kids are a lot calmer because there’s no rushing anymore. We feel like we’re giving them more of an old school childhood.”
Weekends for the Smout-Deuchrass family now mean walks in Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, bike rides along the Manawatu River and attending community events.
“We were blown away by the amount of family-friendly activities that were on and how easy they were to get to. With the Rural Games we just couldn’t believe this awesome event was in the middle of The Square and you could park right outside.”
Janelle and Matt say their only regret is not moving to Palmerston North sooner.
“We have a happier life, we’re more relaxed and we have more time and energy. Palmerston North very quickly became home for our whole family.”
Haru Japanese Restaurant, Palmerston North
Bella and Campbell, Foxton Beach