When Hayden and Charlotte Shearman discovered it was costing them $50 a week more than they were earning to live in Auckland, they knew something needed to change.
After having their daughter Florence, Charlotte went back to work as a registered nurse, and like many families with two working parents, and no family support, they had to pay for childcare for their young daughter.
“When we included the cost of childcare into our weekly living costs, plus the ongoing costs of my work training, we worked out that it was costing us $50 a week,” explains Charlotte. “We were actually losing money and eating into our savings.”
It was the desire to be financially better-off and closer to their family (and the surf) that made Taranaki the logical place for the Shearman family to call their new home. “As a surfer, I spent a lot of time visiting Taranaki to hunt waves. And then my brother moved here about eight years ago. I’d often thought how much I would love to be closer to family and the world-famous Taranaki waves,” Hayden explains.
For Charlotte, it felt right from the start. She experienced the feeling of 'we’re meant to be here' while standing on the plot of land they went on to purchase in 2017. “We visited this bushy section, and I had a real sense of peace, a sense that this is what we could do; a new adventure.” The family have since built their four-bedroom dream home on the section.
Charlotte now works at a local medical clinic, giving her child-friendly working hours and the flexibility that she didn’t have while working in Auckland.
“Fortunately, I had built up experience in my specialty area in Auckland. I took a chance on a connection I had made in the industry, and that helped me to get a job here. It does help to build those connections.”
Likewise, Hayden managed to find his job 'through a connection with a family member' as a marketing consultant for local brand and marketing agency, Strategy Collective. Both were pleasantly surprised at the ease with which they found their jobs and took it as confirmation that they had made the right decision. Although, Hayden admits that his perception of Taranaki prior to living here was already cemented as 'a creative place that has a great balance of outdoors life and career opportunities'.
As well as the drawcard of living close to family, the outdoor lifestyle that is synonymous with Taranaki was also a huge pull for the athletic family. As keen runners, Hayden and Charlotte are effusive about the endless options of local locations to be out and about – either for their daily run, or to take four-year-old daughter Flo out for an adventure. “We love the Coastal Walkway! And Pukekura Park is, in my opinion, one of our country’s best parks. We love to run through it, it’s right in the centre of town, and there are so many bush tracks. And Flo loves the Festival of the Lights, which is on during the summer months every year,” Charlotte says. Hayden agrees, “Our favourite places to take Flo are the Todd Energy Aquatic Centre, the Te Henui Walkway and Brooklands Zoo. They’re all amazing facilities!”
“The ability to have a family, lifestyle and career is pretty rare in the modern age. Taranaki definitely provides that balance.”
And if they’re not pounding the pavement (or the pebbles, as the case may be in Pukekura Park), the family is at the beach.
“We love living in Ōakura. The community has the perfect combo of lots of interesting people, great cafés and a world-class beach.” In fact, a lifestyle change for Hayden since moving to Taranaki is that he now 'goes through a lot more surfboards!'
Living in idyllic Ōakura means a short commute to work for the pair. “It takes 15 minutes exactly. Every single day. Unless there’s a tractor on the road – then it’s 16 minutes. Even though my daily schedule managed to dodge the worst of the traffic, I definitely don’t miss Auckland motorways,” says Hayden.
Living in Auckland, the family found themselves “time-poor”. “It’s not just about the time it takes to get places. You need to work longer hours too, to pay for the higher living costs. We definitely have more quality time as a family now, which is great while Flo is young. It’s a crucial time to make that connection and build that relationship with her,” Charlotte says.
“The biggest relief about moving to Taranaki is that we’re in a better financial position. There’s more space, larger sections of land, affordable houses, plenty of time to spend with family. In Auckland, for the amount of money we would have to spend to get a tiny two-bedroom apartment, we were able to build a beautiful four-bedroom house by the beach in Taranaki. Your money just goes further in Taranaki. We’re paid the same as we were in Auckland, but the cost of living is less,” explains Charlotte.