Moving from a busy United Kingdom city of 1.5 million people to the leafy suburb of Hokowhitu in Palmerston North was a big move for the Huxley family, but their new lifestyle is exactly what they were looking for.
“I fell in love with New Zealand 25 years ago and I thought I’d lost my opportunity to live here, but here we are,” says Jon Huxley, who moved from Nottingham, UK, to Manawatu with his wife Jacqui and their two children Callen, 5, and Rhianne, 3, on Anzac Day, 2018.
After a few years of searching for the right overseas role, Jon and Jacqui decided New Zealand was the place for their family.
Their other options – Australia, too hot, and Canada, too cold, he says.
Jon, an experienced dairy cow veterinarian, took up the head position of Massey University’s School of Veterinary Science, and admits he hadn’t heard much about Palmerston North before moving here. He decided to go for the role based on the school’s strong reputation.
Jon was brought up in a dairy farming family and went on to become a dairy cow vet, before finding his calling in academia while studying for his PhD.
He worked at vet schools in the UK for more than 15 years before the opportunity at Massey arose.
Jon’s wife Jacqui specialises in animal hearts as a veterinary cardiologist, and in New Zealand she’s the only one working at consultancy level, which means she often travels around New Zealand for work.
“Manawatu has been a very pleasant surprise. For the quality of life it’s a fabulous place to live,” Jon says.
“Coming in from overseas the first thing you notice is the Kiwi culture, which is lovely and laidback and receptive. It’s very accommodating and very relaxed. Everyone is friendly, it’s very multicultural.”
While their first landing at Palmerston North Airport was a wild, windy one, the family love the city and they love the climate.
“We’ve swapped a 30-minute crawl in and out of Nottingham for 10 minutes along the river on my bike to work. There’s no traffic, it’s an easy, safe, great place to live. The kids love it, the facilities, particularly for the kids, are fantastic. Victoria Esplanade, Te Manawa – there’s just so much more than we would have had in the UK.”
Jon and Jacqui love the outdoors, and have been enjoying the region’s tramping, biking, snowboarding and beaches.
“We’ve been to the beach a lot with the kids. It’s not cold even though people keep telling us it’s cold. The climate is great. I know it’s relative but the climate is so much better than the UK. It’s warmer and the days are nowhere near as short.”
The couple believe Manawatu is the ideal place to bring up children and his son Callen had settled in well at College Street Normal School.
“It’s a great place to have young kids, and so much easier than where we were living in the UK.
“Callen’s entrance to school has gone swimmingly, extremely well. It’s a very multicultural school.”
The family had also taken advantage of travel opportunities in New Zealand, spending time touring the North Island over the summer holiday. They plan to tackle the South Island later this year.
While the move was a big one and there is still work to be done in rebuilding their networks, they don’t miss the UK, and technology makes it simple to keep in touch with family and friends at home.
“We’re absolutely committed for five years and we’re not even going to think about it for five years – but that doesn’t mean to say we’re only staying for five years. We wanted to take some time to settle down, we’ve moved around a lot in the UK… this was just a bigger move.”
Jon says they have no regrets in coming to Manawatu.
“It’s a big change but it was always going to be a big change. It’s an impossibly easy place to come to as a Brit. Everything just makes sense.”
The Fat Farmer, Hokowhitu
Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North