It doesn't take long to work out that 12-year-old Megan van Zyl is keen on horses.

She has regular lessons, and borrowed one from her instructor to compete at this year's Kaitaia A&P show. And while nothing is set in concrete, an equine career — riding, breeding, training horses, perhaps even as a veterinarian specialising in horses — currently has some appeal.

So when will she get a horse of her own? Problem is, as her parents Zeldi and Morne have not unreasonably pointed out, the farm at Fairburn is little short of mountainous, not especially conducive to keeping a horse.

There has been some movement though. Megan said last week she had been told she could have one, once she had acquired all the necessary tack, a float and a 4X4. She already had the 4X4 (actually a post, not particularly suited for towing anything), so all she needed now was a horse that floated.


Megan is the oldest of the three van Zyl children, and the only one born in her parents' native South Africa. Zeldi, originally from Johannesburg, owned a coffee shop in Cape Town while Morne worked in banking. Ten years ago they packed their bags and moved to New Zealand.

It was the global financial crisis — "Not a great time for banking," Zeldi said — that prompted their decision. They chose New Zealand because they had been told it was very similar to the South Africa in which she had grown up, and it was safe.

They spent their first six years in Auckland — "A pity, but we had to find jobs" — where they still own a business, but four years ago they moved to Fairburn, buying what was once Tom and Bertha Trigg's farm, where they now run a breeding herd of Simmentals and Limousin beef stock.

It was sad their families were not here, but moving to New Zealand, Zeldi said, had been "absolutely" the right decision, the best they could have made for the future of their children.

Farming had its challenges for a couple who were new to it, and there was never any shortage of things that needed doing, but they were happy in their adopted community.

Megan has certainly adapted not only to a new country but life in a small rural community. She made that very evident at this year's A&P show, where she collected four trophies in the hall and picked up a few ribbons in the horse events.

She had 63 entries in the hall, one fewer than in 2018, in cooking, farm and garden, jams and jellies — "Just about everything except knitting." And she went home with 21 firsts, 12 seconds and 10 thirds.

Not to be outdone, 3-year-old Zoe had eight entries, collecting five firsts and three seconds.


All three children were encouraged to get into the garden, Zeldi said, while she was now a self-taught preserver of surplus produce.

Megan also has piano lessons, visits residents at Switzer Residential Care in Kaitaia (playing the piano for their entertainment, chatting or sometimes reading to them), and, in her spare time, turns denim garments and T-shirts that have had their day into bags, aprons, notebook covers and other useful things.

Meanwhile, Zeldi said while she had never regretted emigrating to New Zealand, she had seen how the country had changed over the last 10 years.

"Division is never good. We should be one united country," she said.

"I've seen it in South Africa, and it's worrying. It starts slowly but gathers momentum."

Would she go back to South Africa? No. Would she leave New Zealand? No. Would she leave the Far North? No. Will Megan have a horse one day? Don't bet against it.