Long commutes and the hectic pace of New Zealand’s big cities are being traded for a slice of Central Otago.
For many people, Central Otago has provided a one-way ticket away from the hustle and bustle of inner city living and high-stress corporate jobs.
Some have snapped up land, others have bought property or a business.
Fiona and Grant Sutherland also swapped Auckland for a quieter life in Central Otago.
Their move was not part of their long-term plan.
It was more of a spur of the moment opportunity.
Pre Covid-19, Mrs Sutherland worked in marketing and Mr Sutherland drove tour buses.
About 99% of the tour bus company’s clientele was made up of overseas tourists, which meant his job ended ‘‘overnight’’.
‘‘It all came to a grinding halt,’’ he said.
Mrs Sutherland took a break from her job, but when she was about to return there was nothing to go back to.
When lockdown ended they decided to tour the South Island in a campervan.
That was when a friend sent them a link to a pub on the market. ‘‘Grant said ‘do we go and look at it?’ and I said ‘no, don’t be stupid, we’re not going to buy a pub’,’’ Mrs Sutherland said.
Long story short — they are now the owners of the Chatto Creek Tavern.
Fast forward a couple of months and the couple are now fully fledged publicans, welcoming summer’s influx of rail trailers and locals through the door.
Now looking back, they agree it was the ‘‘right move’’.
What they love most about living in Central Otago was having space to breathe and good company.
They were also grateful for the support they had received along the way, from staff to locals who had made them feel welcome.
‘‘Everything feels right about this place,’’ they said.
Another person who has moved from Auckland is Jennifer Balle. She moved to Waipiata from Auckland in 2018.
She packed her life up into a rental truck and drove about 1800km with a friend.
Ms Balle’s partner Grant Childs, who moved from Christchurch, was waiting for her after arriving a week earlier.
‘‘This is just such a gem, the Maniototo,’’ she said.
Their property, which includes a motel, has enough space for plenty of pets, including ducks and sheep.
The rural scene was not new to Ms Balle, who was raised on a cropping farm in Pukekohe.
She was working in publicity when she decided to move away from the city.
Now with the Otago Central Rail Trail on her doorstep, she has enjoyed everything it has to offer, including the many people she has met along the way.
Ms Balle said she ‘‘lost her heart’’ to Central Otago while studying at the University of Otago.
While working as a book publicist, she returned to the area ‘‘many times’’ over the years, which sealed her desire to return.
‘‘We are just living our dream, really.’’
Aimee Oliver, of Auckland, is also among those who have made a purchase in Central Otago.
Although still based in Auckland, Ms Oliver bought a property in Ranfurly site unseen, which she plans to make use of in the next couple of years.
Not only has she not visited the property, she has never been to Ranfurly.
She decided to consider buying in the town after talking to friends about the area.
‘‘They suggested if I did move down there I would fit in quite well and it seemed like a nice little place.’’
Ms Oliver has leased out the building, which recently opened as a shop.
‘‘It seemed like a good little building,’’ she said, of the research she did before buying.
‘‘I was looking for something different and I had been looking for quite a while.’’
Her initial plan was to buy a church, but they were either out of her price range, needed too much work done, or were close to fault lines, making it an undesirable option.
Instead, her Ranfurly purchase ‘‘ticked all the boxes’’.
Ms Oliver, who has lived in Auckland her whole life, said she started looking at her options after deciding she wanted to move away from the city.
Although she will stay in Auckland for now, she plans to reassess the situation in the next year or two.
‘‘I don’t have a definite plan.
‘‘I just wanted to buy it and go from there.’’