Before Anna Stevenson’s husband got a job in New Plymouth, she had never been anywhere near the Taranaki region.
When asked if she wanted to pay a visit before he committed to the job, she said “if we go, we go for real!”
“I had no preconceptions and knew very little about the Taranaki region, other than the fact that it had a mountain,” Anna says. “I came here with zero expectations, and I’m really glad I took the plunge!”
“My approach was we’ll give it a go and if it doesn’t work out, we can always come back to Wellington.”
After almost two years in the region, that approach has paid off for Anna, Tom and their two young daughters.
I see Taranaki through the eyes of my children. It’s a wonderful place with countless positives, even more so if you are a young family.
“It’s great because they are so inquisitive and love being outdoors. Everything is new and fresh to them, so we spend a lot of time exploring the open spaces, parks and gardens. The ease of getting around is also a major plus. It takes us about ten minutes to get anywhere. There’s not as many of the time constraints we experienced in Wellington.”
“We’ve been able to slow down our pace of life. When we think of our former big city life, it seemed so rushed - we had to rush to avoid traffic, rush to get a carpark, rush to get home to fit in around nap times.”
“In Taranaki, it’s easier to take a step back and actually have time to myself without constantly chasing the clock. Everything is in such close proximity that we can take things a bit slower.”
“The result is that our daughters get to see us lot more, and we are able to devote more time to hanging out as a family doing simple things. It now takes Tom 5 minutes to walk to Taranaki Base Hospital, where he works as a doctor. That’s a far cry from the 45-minute drive to work he had in Wellington during peak hours!
Anna is enjoying being a mum to her energetic toddlers, and works remotely for the KITE Program – a business/workplace wellness app. She has also recently taken on the role of Coordinator for On The House, a food redistribution charity. When they arrived in Taranaki, Anna joined a SPACE group at the Play Centre in nearby Ōakura and gained an instant network of mums at a similar stage in the parenting adventure.
“I met an amazing group of mothers from around Taranaki, for which I am very grateful. Once I started making good friends, I really felt like we were here to stay – we gained a sense of place and a lovely support network which is so critical to being a mum.” Anna says.
The Stevensons are currently renting a house in central New Plymouth, which is proving handy to everything. They have also just purchased a section close to the hospital with a view to build this year.
“I guess that’s a pretty strong signal we’re sticking around!”
On an average weekend the family can be found exploring the parks, beaches, gardens and museums of their new home.
“We love going to Pukekura Park, the children particularly love The Fernery. They find joy in the smallest things, it takes us a while to get anywhere because every rock, feather and leaf are worth stopping for and investigating. Such is the pace of toddlerhood! We also spend a lot of time at the Brooklands Zoo, a massive playground and zoo rolled into one – a child’s ideal day out!
“We get involved in a lot of organized activities like Kindy Gym at the YMCA, playtime at Knox Church, the Toy Library etc. When it rains, there’s lots of indoor stuff to do with the kids, and we get outside when it’s not – the children love the choices on offer here, the hard part is getting them home!”
Anna tries to get herself to yoga and the gym often. Tom has also recently joined a social cricket club close to home.
“I grew up in Singapore; my dad is from Whanganui and my mum is from Khon Kaen in Thailand. I went to university in Dunedin which is where I met Tom, who grew up in Te Puna, just out of Tauranga. We don’t have extended family in Taranaki, but my Mum comes to stay with us for six months of the year, which is great for everyone, she is an incredible cook and adores her grandchildren.
And while Anna admits she’s not much of a car enthusiast, Taranaki’s annual AmeriCARna festival has caught the attention of others in the family.
“Mum and our eldest daughter went to AmeriCARna last year, Mum loved all the cars and took photos of them and went back for a second look. She was absolutely fizzing about the vintage cars and is already amped for this year’s event!”
We took the children to various gardens during the Taranaki Garden Festival, and were truly stunned by the beauty and diversity of the gardens. The Taranaki Garden Festival is something I would recommend anyone to visit, young or old. It’s just amazing the gardens people have!