I was ready for a new chapter in my life – less stress, more stability, and a better work/life balance.
Work conditions were highly stressful in South Africa, and with construction and civil engineering projects very much on a boom or bust cycle, career stability was lacking.
On a personal level, an environment of locked doors and high fences added to that stress, and safety was a key motivation for me to move abroad. The inherent safety in Auckland is one of the best things about living here, and why New Zealand had always been on my radar.
A leap of faith
In 2018 I attended the LookSee Build New Zealand Week in Auckland, where construction and engineering workers considering migrating came to learn about living and working in New Zealand and to connect with prospective employers. I’d been invited to meet with a talent acquisition specialist at Auckland Transport and I decided to go based on that one invitation alone. It was a big leap of faith to attend with no guarantees, but one that paid off.
When I returned to South Africa, I studied up on the company in the hopes of an opportunity arising. After successful Skype interviews, I was offered a role and moved to Auckland in October 2019.
On the job
Auckland Transport is responsible for all of the Auckland region’s transport services (excluding state highways), from roads and footpaths, to cycling, parking and public transport.
I’m a roads infrastructure project manager and my team is in charge of maintaining 880 kilometres of Auckland’s roading network, from ongoing safety maintenance to rehabilitation and upgrade projects.
One of the best things about my role is the opportunity to work with different departments within the organisation, as well as teams from the wider Auckland Council ‘family’, to resolve issues for our customers and stakeholders.
The work culture is completely different from back home. There’s a people-first approach – both for our customers and for employees' work/life balance – and I’ve been given opportunities to upskill through courses and training seminars.
A new way of life
I live with a friend in Sunnynook on Auckland’s North Shore, so it’s easy to get to the central city, but I get the relaxed beach vibe as well. I’m lucky to have friends who live close to Waiake Beach and we’ve spent a couple of afternoons barbecuing there – something I’d never be able to do at home.
Many Kiwis are involved in recreational or sporting groups and when I joined my local rugby club, I made new friends and found a sense of community.
I’m an active golfer too and I’m aiming to play every course in New Zealand – so far, I’ve played 13 out of 393. There are plenty of places to play golf in Auckland, including one of my favourite courses so far: Muriwai Golf Links on the west coast.
Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter, waterfront precincts in the city, have plenty of places to dine out or have a few drinks, and the seaside cafes at west Auckland’s Hobsonville Point (an easy drive from home or a short ferry ride from the city) is a great spot for lunch. My rugby teammates and I are also regulars at the local pub that sponsors our team.
Public transport makes it easy to get around – it’s only 15 minutes on the Northern Busway from home to head office in the city. You also get free transport to a lot of big events in Auckland, like concerts and rugby matches at Eden Park (especially handy if you’re having a few beers at The Kingslander pub afterwards).
On the move
The New Zealand visa application process was pretty straightforward, but it did take longer than I expected to sort out all the required paperwork through the South African agencies. I was fortunate that Auckland Transport assisted with funds for my relocation and was willing to extend my start date while I finalised everything in South Africa.
The move to Auckland has actually been better than I expected; I made good friends and settled in quickly. Having a place to stay with an old college friend for a couple of weeks when I arrived was a blessing as it gave me time to look for long-term accommodation.
I did feel a bit homesick at first but connecting with friends I’d made at the LookSee Build event and sharing our experiences gave me reassurance during those initial periods of self-doubt.
The last word
Moving to a new country is a difficult decision – you have to sacrifice things that feel familiar and easy. I do miss friends and family from South Africa but for me everything else has improved in Auckland. And New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 is to be commended – I’m lucky that my job is secure, and I feel both fortunate and thankful to be here.
Johannes Jacobus (‘JJ’) Greyling moved to Auckland from Centurion in South Africa in October 2019. He is Project Manager, Asset Maintenance and Renewals (Road Corridor Infrastructure) at Auckland Transport.
Like the rest of the world, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is adjusting to life amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Our borders currently remain closed to anyone other than a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, those travelling from quarantine-free travel zones, or those granted a special exemption. Please visit our COVID-19 update for visitors and Aucklanders for the latest information.