Lawyer working remotely from Greymouth
By Lisa White
One morning in September 2015, my husband Dan, an audiologist, and I, a Tennessee attorney, both left for work at about 7:15am, and each worked hard all-day skipping lunch. We both arrived back at our house at eight in the evening, hungry, exhausted, and OVER IT. His suggestion: “let’s move to New Zealand.” I agreed.
Dan’s suggestion wasn’t really without a foundation, although we had never discussed it. As an audiologist, he frequently received recruitment letters because of New Zealand’s ongoing need for qualified and experienced audiologists. On the other hand, I am not sure New Zealand ever needs—or wants—American attorneys, but my work is primarily writing and research and is electronically filed. I assumed—correctly—that I would be able to work remotely. All I really needed is high speed internet and a pleasant space to work.
After a number of phone and skype interviews, Dan was asked if he would open an audiology office on the West Coast, in Greymouth. Before committing to the job, we visited and intentionally chose an AirBnB with a multigenerational “Coaster” family. We learned about the Coast from a true local, met other locals and transplants, and began to build a network of people before we even arrived. We also saw that the community is diverse—people from virtually everywhere in the world call Greymouth home.
Greymouth geographically is an interesting place, sandwiched between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps, with Punakaiki—the Pancake Rocks—up the Great Coast Road to the North, Hokitika Gorge and the Glaciers—Franz Josef and Fox—to the South. It is the western end of the TranzAlpine Railway, with Lake Brunner and Moana nearby, and Arthur’s Pass and the ski fields to the East.
Since our priorities are tramping, kayaking (the flat kind, not the fast kind!), photography, mountains, traveling, gardening, and other outdoor-related activities, the Coast is perfect for us.
In many ways, Greymouth is generally treated as the crossroads for exploring the South Island’s incredible and diverse landscapes but as a place to live, we’ve found it has all that and so much more.
People are friendly, housing is affordable, and the community has a strongly supportive spirit. The formal and informal groups in the community are the glue that pulls people together. We are now regular participants in a couple of wine tasting groups. I’ve joined a book club. We frequently gather with friends for potluck dinners. We catch concerts at the Barrytown Hall and local theatre opportunities by the Greymouth Operatic Society. And of course, we have fun with the New Coasters—a group supportive of new arrivals, but regularly joined by lifetime locals and long-term transplants. Despite moving from a much larger city, we are far more involved in the Greymouth community than we ever were in the US.
So how has this move worked out for our professional lives? Dan opened an audiology office right in the center of the CBD, somewhat worried about whether any clients would show up. Instead, he has been greeted so warmly in the community that a quick stop at the supermarket is difficult. Meanwhile, my working patterns have changed by working remotely. I have no commute at all, and I practice law—at times—in my pajamas. On a rare occasion I need to wake up for a conference call at odd hours of the night, but my office appreciates the benefits of a near-24 hour workday when they pass me projects to work on as the US group leaves for the day. By their morning, just like magic, I pass the same project back substantially more complete.