When Cara Tipping Smith was looking to escape the big city, Oamaru was at the forefront of her thinking.
Originally from Auckland, she has been in Oamaru for about six months after she and partner Alex decided they needed a change in lifestyle following eight years in the city of sails.
That followed an eight-year stint in the UK, where Ms Tipping Smith, a copy writer, worked extensively in the radio and marketing sectors and then as a freelancer in cities such as London, Cardiff and Bristol.
She returned to New Zealand when her father became ill, and while she had always had a soft spot for the South Island, she never thought an opportunity to relocate to the mainland would present itself.
“It was an option for my partner, Alex. He’s now the supervisor for Downer on the Waitaki [District Council] contract. He’d always wanted to live somewhere other than Auckland .. this contract came up and we went, ‘Wow, the South Island’.
“We came down here for a few days and just thought it was a fantastic opportunity. We just loved it.”
After six months in Oamaru, Ms Tipping Smith has grown rather fond of what the town has to offer.
“First up, it’s the people, no question. This is one of those towns where people are people first .. that’s just not true in the big cities.
“What’s amazing to me is when I meet people, how diverse their backgrounds are and they really care about the community and are really friendly.”
Ms Tipping Smith is involved with the Waitaki Community Gardens Trust and is also a trustee of the Janet Frame Eden St Trust, which looks after Frame’s childhood home at 56 Eden St.
She said as a writer, it was a perfect fit.
“Carol [Berry, Janet Frame trust chairwoman] had heard about me somehow and she talked to me about getting involved with the trust .. those sorts of things only happen in place like Oamaru.”
She hoped to make the public more aware about the community gardens and Janet Frame trusts, as they were important to the town.
She has also established her own business, DIY Marketing.co, to help small businesses sell themselves.
“I’m really keen to get that off the ground in Oamaru.
“It’s all about teaching businesses how to market more effectively. It’s about workshops and getting people in a room so they lose the fear, but also see what I do in action.”
Content with life in Oamaru, she has no plan to move on any time soon.
“I can say for certain we’ll never go back to big city living.
“There’s so much more to small city living in places like Oamaru.
“I’ve travelled extensively and I still think Oamaru is the best little gem in the world.”