GP takes roundabout route to NZ

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A family that arrived in Oamaru via a fortnight’s quarantine in Auckland is enjoying settling in.

Simon Burling has taken up a year-long contract as a GP at Oamaru Doctors. He and his sons Bradley (14) and Tyler (13) emigrated from Wales, landing in New Zealand just after the Covid-19 lockdown took effect.

If their flight had been seven hours earlier, they would have avoided compulsory quarantine in a designated hotel room.

However, Dr Burling was philosophical about the situation, saying he would rather be in New Zealand than back in Britain.

Originally from eastern England, he qualified as a doctor from London’s St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in 1990. Next came general practice training in northwest Wales, resulting in a Certificate of Training in 1994, and in 2001 he became a member of the Royal College of General Practioners (UK).

Dr Burling also has postgraduate qualifications in obstetrics and gynaecology, reproductive and sexual health care, tropical medicine, humanitarian assistance and medical education.

He has spent eight years in Africa – two years in Namibia, a stint on the remote south Atlantic island of St Helena, and working with Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

In Britain he was a medical practice partner for five and a-half years and a locum in practices in northwest Wales.

“I enjoy all aspects of clinical work, particularly child care, mental health issues and minor surgery,” he said.

“I am a single parent of two adopted active teenage boys, who keep me busy.”

Tyler became a teen last Saturday and has started lessons with Oamaru Intermediate School.

Bradley will attend Waitaki Boys’ High School.

“We enjoy travel, gardening, nature and DIY,” Dr Burling said.

“The boys have travelled quite a lot – I think they’ve been to 21 countries.”

In Nigeria last year they went to summer school at an orphanage.

Dr Burling said his wider family was “used to me travelling” and would rather he was in New Zealand than a war zone.

Dr Burling had heard that New Zealanders were “very friendly and very pleasant and greet you on the streets”, which had proved to be the case.

Under the Covid-19 restrictions, there was “a great sense of the country pulling together”.

“We’re really enjoying it. From what we’ve seen of the town, it’s really nice.

“We can walk to work and school.”

It was too soon to know what would happen when his contract year was finished, Dr Burling said.

“I’ve still got my house at home.

“Everything is up for grabs.”

He might consider returning to Africa when the boys were older.