Living in New Zealand

A family of immigrants from the Netherlands give their account of living in New Zealand and establishing a backcountry homestead.

| September/October 1974

  • 029 living in new zealand 01
    Tim and Jos brought along a passel of children when they decided to give living in New Zealand a try.
  • 029 living in new zealand 02
    Tim cooks over an open fire while his sons look on.

  • 029 living in new zealand 01
  • 029 living in new zealand 02

Tim and Jos Vos left the Netherlands a few years back to escape the rat race there, found the same scene in urban New Zealand and left again, this time for a remote coastal homestead. The following report was originally written as a letter to a friend who passed it on to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, with Tim's blessing. 

MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine has arrived, all the back numbers. We haven't read every one of them yet, but those we have looked through were terrific. They came just when we made the jump and started living in New Zealand off God's good land.

I had been working for quite a while in a sawmill and logging camp in the forest to meet some expenses when we finally severed the last ties. Like a ship leaving port for a long voyage, we had stored enough honey, salt, coffee, oil and wheat to last us for a year. We comforted ourselves by saying, "As long as there's oil in the jug and flour in the pot, we'll survive." I must admit, though, that I still felt anxious and the responsibility weighed heavily on me.

Just then MOTHER EARTH NEWS arrived, and it was a fine, reassuring experience to read the contributions from other pioneers. Some topics were of immediate interest. I couldn't have done without the horseshoeing know-how, for instance, when we got our packhorse, and we found help in the magazine when we had all sorts of trouble with our chickens.

While we looked for a permanent home, I found a temporary job in a sawmill (where I also got loads of good building timber in all sizes, dirt cheap). We settled close by in a vacant farmhouse built by the last pioneer in this district, Mr. T. Hargreaves, who cleared the land out of the subtropical rain forest while he and his wife and child lived in tents on the beach.

In the beginning, and for most of the way, the farm's owner struggled along without power tools. Around us in the yard we could see the handmade implements: pit-sawn and split wood used for barns and fences, horseshoes, the horse-drawn plow rusted, the old dray rotted ... but enough is still there to show us how the homestead was cleared, roads and bridges built, and swamps drained. We wondered and admired.

6/8/2018 5:38:39 AM

KeesVos, I somehow stumbled across your Oma and Opa's documentary on YouTube last night and was enthralled. I am now so curious as to how the family faired but could find little updates except for your brief message. If you get this message would it be possible for you to let me know where the story led? What happened to the family - did they move on down the track? Did the children grow up and continue with the vision their father was developing? Wishing you all the best, Mel.

11/16/2015 5:27:00 AM

I'm so happy and proud to see my Opa and Oma's history written here in an international article) It really warms my heart. Sadly Jos has passed away and Tim remains, but he's always in good spirits and healthy! He's been living in Australia these past years and plans to finish off living in the Pacific Islands. Dankjewel!

8/31/2012 5:18:45 PM

I stumbled upon this article. Such a nice story. It moves my heart. The more so to read after so many years about Tim and Jos Vos, which I learned to know in Utrecht, when they were involved in a youth club and waeving their creations in an oude gracht cellar. Wonder how they are doing now? Jaco van der Laak.

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