‘This looks like the place’
Sometimes moving out does not mean moving up but for former Aucklanders Trent and Daniella Lillis, their daughter Tyler and Jack Russell, Rocket, the Gisborne lifestyle suited them down to the ground — and the surf, as Trent explains to Mark Peters.
Simplicity is key to free-range butcher Trent Lillis's life in Gisborne. Simplicity and surfing.
Having long harboured a wish to move here Trent, his Brazilian wife Daniella and daughter Tyler made that move this year. The relocation has even featured in the TV3 show Moving Out With Kanoa.
'It's more of a lifestyle dream,' says Trent of the big shift from Auckland's North Shore to Gisborne.
'I surround myself with things I enjoy and people who are interesting.'
That principle could be said to extend to his boutique butchery No. 8 in Lowe Street where natural light enhances the simplicity of design in the unfinished, blonde plywood walls, the exposed edges of marine ply bench-tops, and the scrubbed and waxed finish to the native-timbered counter. On one wall is a flat-screen TV with constant surfing footage while longboards hang on two adjacent walls. Interestingly, most people who shop there don't surf, says Trent.
Maybe they just don't surf yet.
'I had a similar butchery in Torbay in Auckland,' he says.
'I had a surfboard on the wall there but it was a horrible little building.'
It was also an hour's drive away from surf spots on either the west or east coast. Here in Gisborne, says Trent, he can drive to the beach, surf and get back to work within an hour.
Despite living all his life in Auckland, with occasional trips overseas, Trent felt no upheaval on moving from the big smoke to an East Coast town.
'At the end of the day, I'm here for the lifestyle. I've been coming here for about 30 years. The surf is so much better here. It's more consistent, people in the water are friendly and generally you know most people in the surf.'
Trent's 21-year-old stepson Luiz is still based in Auckland where he studies physiology and commerce. Right now he is in China, learning to speak Mandarin.
A competitive housing market in Gisborne meant the cost of a three-bedroom home was more than Trent and Daniella expected, and eight months of construction in the Lowe Street shop put a strain on finances. The delay freed a little time for early morning surfs though.
Sixteen-year-old Tyler didn't like her new life in Gisborne at first. She had no friends here and her grandmother and brother live in Auckland. Having arrived during the summer holidays she was not to meet future schoolmates until the new year. Now at Campion she has new friends, has got into tennis and yoga and has even just started to explore surfing.
Trent and Daniella met in New Zealand — on a beach, of course.
Daniella had come to New Zealand to study English. Some friends at university invited her to the beach for a surf with some New Zealand friends.
Trent was one of the New Zealand friends.
'Our first trip away was in 2001,' he says.
'We went to Tolaga Bay for the Makorori First Light Longboard Surfing Classic.'
Although Trent has since won the Makorori First Light Longboard Surfing Classic two years in a row, Daniella's first contact with the region that was to be her future home was not as idyllic as Trent might have hoped. For an East Coast February, the weather was freezing cold.
When Daniella returned to Brazil, Trent followed three months later. After a year of surfing there, he had to come back when his money ran out but Daniella joined him in New Zealand not long afterwards.
The family now visits Brazil every year.
When Trent put their Auckland house on the market and a business partner bought out his share of the business, Daniella was happy to leave Auckland traffic behind. Ironically, the people who bought their house in Auckland are from Gisborne.
Now living in Gisborne, Daniella no longer has to spend hours in Auckland traffic travelling from one coast to the other twice a day. Here, she sometimes bikes to work. Daniella has also enrolled in a te reo Maori course at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. And since the Lillis family's appearance on Moving Out With Kanoa, No. 8 is seeing a lift in trade.
Trent's main motivation to become a butcher was so he could leave school.
'My parents said ‘you're not leaving until you get an apprenticeship'. I looked in the paper and there was a butchery apprenticeship.'
There was some family history in the trade. Trent's father was a butcher in Australia, a couple of uncles are butchers and a brother is a chef.
Little butcheries are coming back in vogue mostly because of the personal service customers like and knowing what goes into the products they buy, says Trent.
'The work-surf balance is slowly coming along. It's taken a long time and it's been hard work but with it I'm still following my passion. I found what I enjoy in life.
‘This is it.'