Scott Yeoman is a NZ Herald reporter

That time when British journalist went bonkers in Golden Bay paradise

Abel Tasman National Park is at the tip of Golden Bay. Photo / Getty Images
Abel Tasman National Park is at the tip of Golden Bay. Photo / Getty Images

An English newspaper journalist has dubbed the idyllic Golden Bay region of the South Island "boring as hell", after he gave up the big cities of London and New Delhi for what he thought would be a "dream existence" in small town New Zealand.

The UK Telegraph's Peter Foster wrote the 2009 piece "Life in a New Zealand 'paradise' turned sour pretty swiftly" after he moved to Takaka in the scenic north-west corner of the South Island with his young family.

The piece was republished by the Telegraph last month in the wake of the Waikato job advert that got headlines around the world.

The sub-heading to the recent Telegraph story said: "A GP surgery in the rural New Zealand town of Tokoroa has failed to attract a junior doctor to work there despite a generous £190k salary. Peter Foster can understand why."

Dr Alan Kenny from Tokoroa posted an ad for a colleague - offering a startling $400,000 a year - and it went global after it was reported in the Herald last month.

Dr Kenny attributed the lack of interest in the job to a perception of rural general practice being a dead-end.

Once the story was picked up the job attracted applicants from all around the world and in New Zealand.

READ MORE:
The small town job no one wants
International doctors put hand up for small town job
Tokoroa doctor talking to applicants

Foster, who is now the Telegraph's European Editor based in London started his 2009 piece in a tone matching that perception.

"It was one morning during the school run that I finally realised that life in paradise wasn't for me. There are no traffic jams in heaven, just an undulating bike ride to the local kindergarten through fields of buttercups and vanilla fudge cows."

And it's not long before he builds on this feeling of apparent frustration.

"On the back of the bike the first-born yabbers away as only a soon-to-be-four-year-old can; bleating at the newborn lambs and pointing upwards into a firmament as blue as the gaze of the late Paul Newman.

"'Look Daddy,' he says, brimming with the joys of a New Zealand spring, 'It's a skylark? Can you hear him?'

"I could, and yet much as I wished to share in the boy's innocent enthusiasm for the birdlife, my own mood was decidedly unlarklike. In fact, if I'd had a gun, I'd have taken pleasure in blasting it from the sky."

So why, then, did he move to Golden Bay in the first place?

The main drag in Takaka was too much of a drag for this Brit
The main drag in Takaka was too much of a drag for this Brit

Well, he had been a journalist "scrumming it" in big cities for a decade - London for six and New Delhi for four - and so wanted to take his young family away from the noise and dirt of a big city.

So they settled in the small rural town of Takaka, in the southeastern end of Golden Bay.
In his own words: "The idea was to take our young family from a sooty suburb in New Delhi (pop. 20 million) to the tiny rural town of Takaka (pop. 1,182) on the South Island and prove there really was more to life than career ladders, commuting and dropping the kids at daycare. (I'm still haunted by the London friend who said he didn't know what his son liked to eat because he 'usually ate at nursery'.)..."

Throughout the article, Foster balances the qualities of his new home - "catching your red snapper at sunset and pounding the deserted windswept beaches" - with sentences supposedly outlining the drawbacks of living in Golden Bay and New Zealand.

"It is, quite literally, the end of the earth (which was the point) but at times during the past year, standing on the beautiful beach at the bottom of our garden, I did start to wonder if I might topple off without anybody actually noticing. Being awake while the rest of the world is asleep is not healthy for lifelong news junkies."

He also felt the need to apologise to his kids, who by the sounds of it were loving the freedom and open space of Takaka.

"So while it's wonderful for young children to have their father around all day, a father's not much use if he's become a lunatic lark-slayer.

"More seriously, I hope they will forgive me for taking them back to a high-rise city and they'll adjust again to the long hours ahead of dad disappearing into his office. No doubt there's a balance out there - somewhere - but this year I didn't find it," he wrote.

Foster and his family only lasted a year in New Zealand.

He spent three years in Beijing then moved to America in 2012. He has reported for the Telegraph for more than a decade, covering two Olympic Games, 9/11 in New York, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the post-conflict phases in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

He said he didn't regret "a single second" of the year spent in small town New Zealand, however.

"Life turned out exactly as billed, but in the end it just felt different from how I'd hoped it would. We've made good friends and grown stronger as a family, learning plenty of new things about each other - good and not so good - and gained a healthily broad perspective on life.

I'll never forget the daily walks on the beach, the afternoons foraging and exploring and the evenings fishing off the rocks. Each and every experience, even the skylarks on the school run, has been wonderful, magical - and yet...and yet.

"Whisper it softly, but bliss is, well - I'll say it straight out - boring as hell. Or should that be boring as heaven? After a year in the pristine seclusion of Golden Bay tending the veg plot, I crave the infernal stink of the big city and the juice-inducing competition of the rat race," he wrote.

- NZ Herald

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