Jill Blue and Gavin Buxton look so comfortably settled in their Whanganui East home it is hard to believe they have been away from their home town more than 30 years.

Their little three-legged dog Bella and Barack Obama the cat look right at home too and Jill has already joined the Gonville Knitting Group.

Living in Lyttelton on Banks Peninsula, where they raised their two children Hamish, 28, and Charlotte, 26, had changed in recent years and the couple decided they wanted to live somewhere else.

"We didn't plan on coming here at first," says Gavin.


"We looked at other North Island towns but the best house was here and I was offered work at Bunnings."

Lyttleton was right in the firing line of the February 2011 earthquake and although Gavin and Jill's house was not badly damaged, they watched the port town crumble around them and Jill says it is still a difficult place to live.

"It feels like such a luxury to have a garage here - hardly anyone in Lyttelton has a garage and for a long time we couldn't even park outside our house."

The Buxton-Blue house was on a very steep street and Jill said it was no fun having to lug groceries up the hill.

"It's so easy to get around here, and you don't have to negotiate roadworks all the time." Gavin says he has bought a bike that he enjoys riding to work and enjoys the sound of trains passing by their new house.

"They remind me of the sounds we heard from the port at Lyttelton and we do miss our friends there," he says.

Although they are missing friends, Jill says they have had visitors from Lyttelton to stay and it is good to be able to offer respite to people who are weary from post-quake fatigue.

"It does wear you down, and a lot of people are still battling the after-effects all this time later."

Jill worked as a chef at the Volcano Restaurant in Lyttelton for 14 years and Gavin had a studio where he made sculptures.

A distinctive barbed-wire guitar suspended from the verandah roof was something of a Lyttelton landmark.

"I've got a good workshop space here, although I haven't set it up yet."

Gavin switches on one of his latest creations - a finely crafted lamp with the base and shade all made from different woods.

"I'm just working four-day weeks at Bunnings so I will have time to spend in the workshop.

When they were children in Whanganui, Gavin attended Keith St School, Wanganui Intermediate and Wanganui High School while Jill had her education at Tawhero, Rutherford and Wanganui Girls' College.

With their own children now grown, they have come back to the place where they grew up and they still have family and friends.

"Our kids grew up and we left home," says Jill.

Son Hamish still lives in Lyttelton and works as a builder when he's not surfing in Thailand, and daughter Charlotte is a geologist who is in Christchurch after working for a mining company in Australia.

Gavin and Jill still own their Lyttelton house but say they are not planning on leaving Whanganui again any time soon.