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Free as a bird... Former United Kingdom resident Ian Davidson-Watts enjoys flying his microlight. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The landscapes, lifestyle and people of the South are what drew him and his family to the Gore district, Englishman Ian Davidson-Watts says.

Dr Davidson-Watts, who is the Gore District Council’s regulatory and planning general manager, said he, his wife Diane and their two daughters were thoroughly enjoying living in Gore, he said.

The family moved to Gore in February last year.

Small-town New Zealand was very special, Dr Davidson-Watts said.

His passions were flying and wildlife, particularly the study of bats.

Having Dolamore Park on the doorstep with its prolific wildlife was a bonus.

“We absolutely love Southland,” Dr Davidson-Watts said.

The rugged coastline particularly appealed, as did the accessibility of places such as Queenstown and Fiordland.

The relative lack of traffic made for stress-free travelling as did the availability of parking areas, he said.

This was the second time he and his wife had lived in New Zealand.

He took a career break from Britain’s Ministry of Defence in 2009 to come to New Zealand, taking on a role at the Grey District Council similar to his present job.

The family lived on the West Coast for four years and even built a home there.

But due to family circumstances they returned to the UK.

Back in the UK, as well as being employed, the couple set up their own ecology consulting business, which his wife now ran remotely.

The couple’s two daughters, Amy (8) and Phoebe (6), were both born on the West Coast.

“So they’re little Kiwis,” Dr Davidson-Watts said.

The family loved rural New Zealand and the Kiwi spirit.

They decided to return to New Zealand to regain the kind of lifestyle they wanted to bring their children up in and find a better work-life balance.

“It [work] was kind of dominating our lives – I wasn’t really seeing my family,” he said.

When the job came up in Gore he applied.

He visited Gore to see if he liked it.

“The council liked me and I liked Gore and I got on well with Steve [Parry].”

He thoroughly enjoyed working with the team he was heading and believed the district had a bright future.

The couple have built a house at Croydon Bush and are settling into their new home.

Dr Davidson-Watts has three older children. Huw (24) is about to graduate from the Royal New Zealand Police College, Beth (23) is a primary school teacher in the UK and George (18) is also in the UK.

Dr Davidson-Watts is waiting for his UK pilot’s licence to be transferred to New Zealand before taking up flying again.

He owns a microlight.