There really is no place like home. In the latest instalment of our Welcome To Paradise series, Sally Brooker meets the du Plooys.
It’s a long way from Johannesburg to Oamaru – in more ways than one.
The du Plooy family made the move last year from the giant South African metropolis to the small North Otago town. On purpose.
Andries and Sarahann du Plooy had decided to seek somewhere new to live after becoming frustrated by conditions in their homeland.
Both had already lived overseas – Andries in Britain for about 18 months after completing university studies in marketing, journalism and literature (Afrikaans Dutch), and Sarahann in the United States for seven years, studying theatre at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
The couple had their own production house in Johannesburg, making a lot of television programmes. They were looking for sponsorship to take a popular regional show to a bigger company so it could go national.
They secured that sponsorship and finished production on the programme.
Sarahann’s brother moved to Auckland, then the South African finance minister’s actions caused the rand to crash.
“We’d been playing with the idea of going. That was the final push. We actively started looking.”
Although it had been wonderful to experience South Africa going ahead “in leaps and bounds” after apartheid was dismantled, corruption and criminality had now become part of everyday life, the du Plooys said.
Even if people worked really hard, they would not necessarily be rewarded for it, Andries said.
“In South Africa, it’s hard to do what you want.
“It’s a fight. There are lots of restrictions and red tape.”
They considered Canada, the United States, and Britain as possible places to start a new life.
“We decided on New Zealand. We had a barbecue with the family on a Sunday and told them we would go to New Zealand.”
Sarahann’s brother, a plumber, had found a job straight away. Andries arrived in Auckland in July 2016 and stayed with him for four months.
It was more difficult to find employment in marketing and advertising, because they were very culturally based, he said.
However, in one week he had two job offers. One was in Auckland, the other at Te Pari Products in Oamaru.
“We lived in a huge city. We decided to move for the lifestyle, to slow it down.”
Hence, the du Plooys chose Oamaru, where Andries is the marketing co-ordinator for Te Pari. The company makes award-winning animal handling and husbandry products in its premises at the northern edge of town and exports them around the world.
“There is a job where you can have it all,” Andries said.
He gets the advantages of living in a quiet town with views over both countryside and the harbour, plus the stimulus of working for a company with a strong international profile.
“It’s exciting. There’s a lot of fresh stuff happening in Oamaru.”
Sarahann has signed up for some of it, becoming employed at Whitestone City in the Victorian precinct. It showcases the town’s colonial history to visitors.
Their daughter, Kathryn (6), attends ballet classes and sports practices after school, and their son, Leroux (3), is making friends at Little Wonders day care.
The children have opportunities to work hard in New Zealand and to benefit from that, Andries said.
“You need to get satisfaction from your work; to be rewarded.”
They miss their home, family, and “all South Africans”, Sarahann said. And it was difficult keeping the children fluent in Afrikaans as well as English when they could only speak the former at home.
But there are no regrets.
“We wanted to go and see the world,” Sarahann said.
“We think life’s an adventure; you’ve got to live it. It broadens your horizons.”
“You see the bigger picture clearer,” Andries said.
Settling in was “not too difficult” Sarahann said. People had been welcoming and friendly.
“It’s the diaspora of the South Africans.”
“The world’s become a very small place,” Andries said. “With IT, and Facebook and so on, you can see everybody every day. You can actually live anywhere.”
He was pleased to live in a place where “Kiwi ingenuity” was such a valued commodity, he was marketing it to Australia.