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Living and Working in a ‘Playground’ – Moving to Nelson as a Young Professional

Our fabulous Sourcing Specialist, Amanda Burggraff, shares her story of moving to Nelson Tasman as a young professional.


I grew up in Minnesota; four seasons dramatically changing from lows of -25 c (plus wind chill) to hot, sticky summers (don’t forget the mosquitoes)! Despite this, it’s still a great state with beautiful lakes and friendly people.

It requires a lot of adjusting to each of our four distinctive seasons, but with each of life’s adaptations creates a new wave of possibilities.

The boats come out to play as the ice on the lakes breaks free and the eagerness of anticipation is let loose as a new set of seasonal hobbies arises. Equally, as fall hits, the trees make dramatic streams of colour transitioning the fresh water into its first hard freeze where the kids pull out their ice skates and glide across the smooth and endless rink.

Such adaptations in our lives also prepare us for life’s unpredictable changes; from our uplifting moments to coping with our uncomfortable ones. And of course, we each have our own ‘bumps in the road’ taking it’s own unexpected turns and corners.

For me, at the age of 16 my diagnosis of Leukemia cancer and proceeding stroke made for a very challenging journey. We don’t often appreciate how great it is to have the strength to stand up, the ability to read a book or to be able to recall your sibling’s names until it’s all swiped away from you. It’s not easy to go backwards with our progress in life – it’s not until later that you are able to reflect and see how much you have actually gained.

This drives the energy to do more.

After graduation and having been involved in university in every shape and form, things felt a bit boring to just do what I was used to. Teachers were pressuring us to find our ‘big kid jobs’ and although I wanted this too, my plan was also clear – to live and work in a ‘playground.’

It will always be my goal to progress my skills professionally, but it’s also empowering to snowboard epic powder or kitesurf with the most beautiful landscapes. Man, just letting go and jumping off a cliff into a pool of water just feels freeing somehow. I thrived on this thrill and needed to make the leap of living abroad to adapt to a new environment.

But how I was going to get there or where I was to go was part of the unknown journey. I find it’s people in our lives that open us up to new aspirations or lead us to new opportunities.

moving to Nelson as a young professional - snowboarding at Rainbow skifield

Credit: Rainbow Ski Field

The only thing is that you have to be willing to give it a go!

So that’s what I did. A relationship that started in one country came back together in another and before I knew it I was packing a suitcase to New Zealand. It feels pretty liberating to slim your life’s belongings to what you can carry on your back.

Auckland was an obvious landing pad to adjust to the working culture of New Zealand. Although it is still a western and English speaking country, I was learning British style traditions and giggling when someone asked, “How are you going?” In response I thought.. ‘Hmm… where am I going?’ These adjustments, reminds you how sheltered we can be when sticking to our norm.

Although Auckland has its perks and international presence, the drive to the ‘playgrounds’ was time consuming. For my partner and I, we wanted this ‘playground’ in our background.

Nelson quickly became our favourite place in New Zealand.

The region offers such diverse landscapes and endless activities that we love. The goal was set but how we were going to get there was another puzzle.

We kept a close watch on job advertisements in Nelson. My partner’s eyes lit with excitement one day reading through a job opportunity that aligned with his skills and experience. He was invited for an interview then flown down to Nelson to get a hands-on feel for the new possibility.

I’ll never forget the day he rushed to me and threw his arms around me saying that he received the job offer. Wow, this aspiration was really coming true.

We took a precautious transition for six months, with my partner moving to Nelson first. I stayed back to finish up my work in Auckland and to search for a job in Nelson for myself.

It took a bit of ‘homework’ to keep a close eye on job boards, reaching out to connections and approaching employers directly.

While taking some time off work in Auckland, I flew down to Nelson and I was grateful that Intepeople was happy to meet with me. Earlier I had contacted them and I was pleasantly surprised when they said that an opportunity may be available internally. This was exactly what I was looking for as it closely matched my experience and career goals.

I relocated to Nelson a few months later with a second interview scheduled. The team was lovely and I was happy to be joining Intepeople shortly after.

Mountain biking on Dun Mountain - moving to Nelson as a young professional

Credit: Grant Stirling Images

Moving to Nelson was hard at the beginning.

I was enjoying my new job but I remember getting off work and thinking, ‘Where is everyone? Where can I find some friends?’ In Auckland it was easy to connect with others on MeetUp, which offers people the opportunity to meet new people with shared interests in activities, sports or in professional development. This same app in Nelson unfortunately offers few groups at this stage.

A few months after moving to Nelson and onto our third flat share we met a lovely young couple that welcomed us in and connected us to the Nelson Young Professionals (NYP). This was finally the community connection I was looking for – people eager to get out and enjoy activities together while still eager to progress professionally. It’s great to have a like-minded community who wanted to ‘Work, Play, Stay’ in our Nelson Tasman region.

I quickly joined the NYP’s corporate rowing team which was a completely new sport to me and heaps of fun! The monthly social networking evenings broadened my social group and attending the NYP’s Intepeople Speaker Series gave me better insight to our local businesses and leaders in the region.

This winter, I joined NYP’s committee team to help run our team sports and upcoming activities. It’s a great crew of people and fantastic way to bring our young professionals in the region together.

Moving to Nelson as a Young Professional - NYP Rowing Team

I have now been in Nelson for one year (whoop, whoop)!

Moving to Nelson was a great choice for us. My partner and I have bought our first home, made many new friends and feel settled in our life here. It offers us the best of both worlds – work opportunities as well as a ‘playground’ on our doorstep.

Looking back after making large steps like this, you realise how much you’ve gained and the incredible new relationships you’ve made. Something I’ve found important? Taking moments to reflect on the journey and to find the value in even the bumps in the road.


Are you a young professional looking to work, play and stay in the Nelson Tasman region?

Start by registering for our talent bank and joining Nelson Young Professionals.