Coming Home to New Zealand

March 18, 2022
Iain MacLeod

Good things come to those who wait.

So counselled my dearly departed mum.

Well, we had to wait eight months to be allowed to come home to New Zealand from Australia. Finally, ten days ago, our flight from Brisbane touched down in Auckland, New Zealand. A planned three week trip had turned into 32 weeks. An absolute emotional roller coaster of a time as our expectations were raised then dashed as we tried to get back numerous times. I’d be lying if I said I could forgive ‘my’ government for treating those of us stranded overseas the way they did while at the same time allowing many thousands of non-resident DJs, entertainers, sports teams into New Zealand but not its own citizens. It seemed entertaining to the masses and distracting them was more important than letting our own people home.

From the time we queued up at Brisbane airport to the time we were hailing a cab at Auckland airport a few hours later the three of us were anxious something would go wrong – one of the various vaccination certificates or records wouldn’t be accepted or the Prime Minister would change her mind mid flight and force us back to Australia.

Thankfully we had nothing to worry about and the arrival process was smooth and orderly and from the time the plane touched down in Auckland to the time we were looking for that cab wasn’t more than half an hour. Airport officialdom was polite, courteous and efficient.

Friends and family have asked what it feels like to be back. I was surprised at how I felt actually. I had become a little bitter and twisted over the shabby treatment of NZers abroad by this Government. In my head I had started to build a new life in Queensland, having bought a townhouse late last year given we had no idea how long we would be exiled. I really loved Noosa and Brisbane, and its surrounds. Australians, to the last, had embraced and welcomed us. They were not the arrogant unfriendly bunch more than a few Kiwis had told us to expect. Quite the opposite in fact. 

Because I have lived out of suitcases due to constant travelling for work commitments, for the past three decades, in my mind, home was where I was at any point in time. I knew I could live happily in many places and I have never thought that New Zealand was perfect. It was the place I returned to, enjoyed while in and left from.

My reaction to getting home surprised me. I can best describe it as a constant smiling on the inside.  Like crawling under a duvet on a chilly winter’s night with a good book and a nice mug of hot chocolate. It just felt nice. It felt right.

Home I realised isn’t just where I happen to be. I was wrong. Home for me is Lang’s Beach, Northland. You can live in a house somewhere and enjoy your life but that isn’t the same as being home.

In fact, now that we have sold our Auckland house and only have our beach house to stay in, we drove straight through Auckland and up north. Going to bed and listening to the sound of the waves breaking on Lang’s Beach down the bottom of the hill is something I will not forget in a hurry. Waking up last Saturday morning to a pearler of a day and sipping my coffee while gazing out over a still Bream Bay I swear I felt like I had never been away.

Not quite how I expected to feel to be honest. I thought the months away and feeling anything but part of New Zealand’s so called ‘team of five million’ would make this a bitter sweet return. It turned out not to be bitter, only sweet.

I have enjoyed ten days of stunning early autumn weather with the temperature hovering between 26 and 28 degrees. Sure, the garden was overgrown, many plants did not survive another searing summer without much rain and no one here to water them, there were cobwebs everywhere in the house and so much dust my wife had to sweep the dining room table with a broom. Seriously. My vegetable garden beds had long since given up on the vegetables I had grown and were matted with weeds.

But none of that really mattered, because it has felt so bloody nice to be here.

I was greeted by a bunch of fat juicy bananas ripening on my palm. The Frangipanis are in full bloom on the deck. The macadamia trees are spilling nuts. The Feijoa trees (google it) are covered in sweet fruit.  All my native trees seem to have survived across the hill and all have grown spectacularly.

I am not missing Noosa (yet) and it remains my intention when winter knocks on the door here in a few months to return to Australia and enjoy another ‘summer’ in ‘winter’, renew the friendships we have started to develop over there and to welcome a steady stream of kiwis to our Australian home. Go camping and play more golf.

I’ve developed a much better understanding of what our clients go through emotionally with the migration process – not just the logistical nightmare of moving internationally and dealing with faceless immigration bureaucracy but the intangibles – leaving home and trying to find a new one. All I can say to that is it will happen but it will take a long time. NZ (or Australia if you are heading there) will one day feel like your second home, but I imagine for most people your heart will be firmly wedded to the country you grew up in.

At least that is how it all feels to me.

Leave a Reply

There are currently no comments. Why don't you kick things off?