Seven months of strict Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in Melbourne was the catalyst for change for Anna and Sean Bluett. They chat to Gus Patterson about their decision to pack up and move to Oamaru.
Moving house can be a big task at the best of times, never mind moving to Oamaru from Melbourne amid a global pandemic, as Anna and Sean Bluett recently discovered.
The family is “so elated” to be living in Mrs Bluett’s hometown of Oamaru, where she left aged 16 with all of her belongings in a backpack.
“I always said I couldn’t imagine living in Oamaru, but it has to do with having children,” she said.
“Now we have made the best decision.”
The Bluetts had been regular visitors to Oamaru, and when they spent Christmas in the North Otago town last year, they had discussed the possibility of moving back. Those discussions became a lot more serious after Covid-19 took hold in Australia.
Within days of Victoria going into lockdown, Mr and Mrs Bluett both had their incomes slashed. Her photography business was hit with cancellations, while his main source of income came from waste management for hospitality businesses, which had shut their doors.
The seven-month lockdown in Victoria dragged on and left them “completely broken”.
“Everything is closed. It’s like a ghost town,” Mrs Bluett said.
Their 4-year-old daughter Frankie “hadn’t had one play date in seven months”, and when Mrs Bluett’s best friend’s father died, she struggled with not being able to visit her and offer support in person.
“It’s just been insane,” she said.
They had been keeping an eye on New Zealand’s successful management of the virus, and when the opportunity came up to buy Awamoa Portable Loos and Effluent Services they decided to move to Oamaru.
It is a good fit for Mr Bluett, whose background is in waste management.
“I’m naturally fascinated by waste management. I just didn’t think it would be that waste management,” he said.
“It is essentially turning a waste product into a resource again.
“The owners have done an amazing job and we want to continue that.”
The couple had to sell their Melbourne house and pack and organise their belongings, all while under Covid-19 restrictions.
Knowing they were going to have to quarantine in a hotel in New Zealand for two weeks, the family came prepared – really prepared.
They brought game consoles, Lego and crafts to keep themselves occupied.
But the last four days of quarantine seemed like a lifetime, Mrs Bluett said.
“There comes a point as a grown adult where you can’t play any more Lego,” she said.
They were full of praise for the managed isolation system in New Zealand.
“There was a massive human touch,” Mr Bluett said.
“As soon as we arrived it felt like New Zealand.”
Leaving the hotel quarantine was a strange feeling, especially with the freedoms of Alert Level 1 in New Zealand.
“When we finally got out everyone was crying,” Mrs Bluett said.
“I will never forget that moment.”
Mrs Bluett also runs social media pages documenting her passion for op-shopping, under the name She Hunts Op Shops.
Her Facebook page has more than 15,000 followers who are now getting a glimpse inside Oamaru’s op shops, rather than Melbourne’s.
“We paid $14,000 to bring a container home, and everything inside was from op shops or found on the side of the road,” she said.