Published on July 26th, 2016 | by john.weir0
Christchurch is our new home – it could be yours
Lesley (41), Cris (44), Rory (12) and Jamie (10) Fulton moved from Glasgow to Christchurch in 2014.
Lesley and Cris used to work as language teachers in the UK. In NZ, Lesley set up ContractAccom with a friend Jackie Thomas, a business providing accommodation for workers coming to Christchurch to work on the rebuild. Cris is a co-ordinator for Science Alive!, a centre which promotes science and technology through interactive experiences.
2014 has been a big year for Lesley and Cris Fulton. They celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in June and August 17 marked their 13th year in Christchurch, New Zealand. Originally from Scotland, this well-travelled couple who met in Paris, have lived and worked in Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and France. They have two children, Rory and Jamie, both born in New Zealand.
So why did this couple, now in their early forties, decide to put down roots in New Zealand?
“We had a great time travelling when we were single,” says Lesley.
“We were both language teachers at the time and enjoyed the adventure of living in environments so different from either Aberdeen or Glasgow where we come from. Eventually we settled in France and stayed there for 12 years. It was while we were living there we holidayed in New Zealand.
“I’d visited New Zealand before Cris and I met and had toured both the North and South Islands. Touring the South Island together got us thinking. We knew we wanted children and thought New Zealand would be a great place to bring up a family so we decided to make the move.”
In 2001 they put their house on the market. It sold easily, complete with all its furniture. Lesley, experienced in admin and form filling, courtesy of their previous globetrotting, completed all the paperwork for their permanent residency visas herself without problems. Their teaching qualifications met the criteria for their application.
“Finding out I was pregnant half way through the visa process was a bit of a shock” says Lesley,
“Apart from that everything was plain sailing. Within three weeks of applying we were on the plane.”
After renting for a few months they bought a house in South New Brighton, a beachside suburb half an hour from Christchurch’s city centre. “We have a much bigger house and garden than we could have afforded in France or the UK, and ideal for a family. Rory was born in 2012 and two years later, Jamie came along.
Lesley readily admits that
13 years on from applying for residency has become a far more complex process than it was.
“The rules and criteria around visas have changed. And the rental market is definitely more difficult. Families moving into rentals temporarily while their own homes are repaired after the earthquakes have created a market shortage and pushed prices up. But if you are flexible on area you can still find somewhere.”
The earthquakes three years ago rearranged their own house a little, and provided a good excuse for Lesley to get the kitchen she’d always wanted as part of necessary repairs and renovations. The quakes did nothing to shift their resolve to stay in New Zealand.
Living through the Christchurch earthquakes was tough at times, says Cris. “The East, where we live, got hit hard. I lost my job as a language teacher when the school I worked in closed. But we coped; people looked after each other, and still do. We’ve just had a great weekend running a fundraiser for the rebuild of Brighton – it was amazing how everyone came together for a common cause. People here have a real ‘can do’ attitude and an enthusiasm for life; always ready to lend a hand. I love this community.”
The earthquakes also led Lesley to add another string to her bow. With neighbour and friend Jackie Thomas, she set up ContractAccom, a business providing accommodation for workers coming to Christchurch to work on the rebuild.
“We want our city to be rebuilt” says Lesley “And this is one way we can help.”
The Fulton family have just returned from a month’s trip back home to Scotland and a visit to Paris to show their boys the sights, get their ‘fix’ of cheese and wine and catch up with friends from their single days.
Cris says that he does not miss the UK and Europe. “Christchurch is the place for me.” he says. “I’ve got a job I love as co-ordinator for a Science Alive’s educational programme. There’s a great music scene here – music is my passion – I’ve formed my own band – Ruby Fusion – and I’m a member of the local choir. There’s so many interesting things to do. I love tramping the Port Hills and further afield. Great beers and good food is easy to find. But most importantly, it’s a fantastic, safe place to bring up our two wee boys.
“We love the Brighton lifestyle – it’s so friendly and laid-back; there’s a real sense of community. An eclectic place like this attracts a lot of expats. Our neighbours are from all over – it’s our own little United Nations. We’re three minutes from the beach and really enjoy our summers when we’re either barbequing on the deck or watching our boys learn to surf in the Pacific Ocean.
“The weather is milder here than the UK, there’s a sense of light and space and even though the winters can be cold, they’re mainly sunny; we often have lunch outside – not something you’d do in a Scottish winter. As the temperature drops in the evenings we can snuggle up in front of the woodburner with a glass of New Zealand wine.
And Lesley? “We miss our friends and family on the other side of the world” she says. “But New Zealand is our home now and where we want to be. And our children are Kiwis!”
And the downsides? “How far away we are from everything!” Cris and Lesley both say at once.
“But we’ve had our European fix for the time being and the boys have seen their grandparents and aunts and uncles.
“Of all the places we’ve lived Brighton is the best. We’ll happily settle for Skyping home until our next trip.”
The couple’s advice for other Brits thinking of moving to Christchurch? “Be prepared for a very tight rental market and consider contacting a provider like ContractAccom who can help with your initial accommodation.”