"Country girl" Margi Keys came to Whanganui for its cheap houses and to be near the mountains and sea.

She moved from Auckland's North Shore into her Springvale house in June, just after the flood.

She is meeting lots of "lovely friendly" people. On an early foray to the Saturday morning River Traders' market she even got a hug from Whanganui Mayor Annette Main.

"How many mayors would do that?"


She likes that people recognise and smile or greet her in the street.

"It's just typical country town stuff. People never do that in Auckland. It's too big. It's too anonymous."

Ms Keys had a fantastic ski season last year - leaving Whanganui at 6am and up in a cafe at Turoa by 8am. And she has quickly got out and about, joining film, tramping, botanical and birding groups, volunteering at Bushy Park and helping Frances Taylor in her Q.T. Nursery.

She also volunteered to help after the flood.

"Pretty much straight away I got involved with flood recovery. I signed up with Merle at council and she sent me here and there."

She has enjoyed introducing her friends to Whanganui, taking them to beaches, lakes, galleries and cafes. "I haven't run out of places to take them yet."

Ms Keys was brought up in Te Pahu in Waikato, Opunake in Taranaki and in Upper Hutt.

She has a family connection with the district through her grandmother, Margaret Mannington, who was from Mangamahu.

Her brother Harry Keys lives in Taupo and is the Conservation Department volcanologist who worked on Mt Ruapehu's lahar situation and keeping people safe. He was thrilled with the successful result in March 2007 and was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for it.

His sister is a primary school teacher but has done lots of other work. Previous jobs have included writing captions for Television New Zealand, teaching English to new migrants and community work at the North Shore Women's Centre.

"I like working in the community sector with people and plants, because really I'm a greenie," she said.

On the North Shore she ran Bush Walk and Talk, taking 89 paid walks into wild places in 2008-9 when it was at its peak. She is offering to do the same here, and had three trips last year.

Now that the excitement of being in a new place is dying down she is looking for part-time paid work, perhaps teaching English or proofreading students' theses. But that might not be easy. "I'm going to have to find my own work here," she said.