Kevin Abey – Evo City

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When Kevin Abey was asked to tell his story for the Country & Regional Living Expo 2011 edition , he thought it might be interesting for our readers, particularly those considering a move to Armidale, to read about a family who made the ‘city change’ ten years ago – sort of a ‘where are they now’ story!

Why did we move to Armidale?

This is a question that I hear quite often. Well, for the Abey family it was simply that we wanted a better life! My wife Norma, daughter Andrea, son Harrison and I moved to Armidale in April 2001. Andrea was 8-years-old, and Harrison was 5-years-old at the time. Norma and I had been married for 10 years. Norma had built a very successful career in real estate, and I was managing a small portfolio of clients worth millions of dollars for a major telecommunications company. My office was based in the heart of the Sydney CBD, so I was spending up to three hours a day (depending on traffic) in the car to and from work. It wasn’t only the hours spent in the car, but I can remember that I was spending over $10 a day just on road tolls. I was leaving home in the morning when the kids were asleep and getting home when the kids were asleep.  We did not have the time to enjoy our life.

Today, Norma works at the University of New England (UNE) as a Program Manager with the Project Management Office, and I work for Armidale Dumaresq Council as the Manager of the Economic Development, Tourism & Marketing Department.  These are certainly different roles to what we were doing in Sydney, but it is interesting that we were able to transfer our professional skills to our current roles – but we obviously have learned new skills in Armidale too!

Armidale is certainly well known for education. I can’t think of any other city in Australia that can boast such strength in education! We have the University of New England, TAFE, a number of fantastic public schools, Catholic schools and three of the finest independent day and boarding schools in Australia – The Armidale School (TAS), New England Girls’ School (NEGS) and PLC Armidale.

Andrea started at PLC Armidale in Year 3 (2001) and completed her HSC in 2010, and Harrison started in Kindergarten at The Armidale School and is currently in Year 9. The range of opportunities that our children have enjoyed in Armidale is probably what stands out the most for us. The academic opportunities are certainly evident, but I think that it is the overall range of opportunities, whether it be academic, music and/or sport – Armidale certainly has it all. There is an abundance of educational opportunities in Armidale for the young and the young at heart! I graduated with an MBA from UNE in 2010, and Norma is also studying in the MBA program at UNE.

What is your position on council?

As I mentioned previously, I head up Council’s Economic Development, Tourism & Marketing Department. I am responsible for developing, implementing and managing a range of economic development, tourism and marketing projects that will grow the Armidale economy. I love that my role is quite diverse, where I could be working on a marketing project such as Evocities one day and then working on the National Broadband Network (NBN) the next. Armidale is the first city in mainland Australia to have the National Broadband Network (NBN), and we expect that the whole city will have the NBN optical fibre by the end of 2012. I have a great team working with me, including a number of ‘city changers’ who have moved to Armidale over the past few years.

Why has Armidale become an Evocity?

One of the key projects that I am involved in is Evocities. Armidale is one of only seven Evocities in NSW. The word EVO in Evocities is E for Energy, V for Vision and O for Opportunity. Armidale is certainly a city of Energy, Vision and Opportunity. Evocities launched in September 2010 with the message that a move to an Evocity is a city change where a quality life awaits and a wide range of opportunities exist for personal and professional growth.

One of the perceived challenges to relocating from a major city is that there are a lack of jobs, medical facilities, educational opportunities and good coffee. Well, in Armidale we have jobs, great medical facilities, fantastic educational opportunities including the University of New England – and you will be spoilt for choice, as Armidale has great coffee!

Evocities have coined the term ‘city change’, and that’s what we offer. Moving to Armidale is not a sea change, not a tree change, but a city change, because you will enjoy much of what you enjoy in Sydney – but without the hassles.

What would you say to someone thinking of relocating to Armidale?

‘Just do it’. There couldn’t be a better time to make the city change. The pressures of living in Sydney are increasing at a rate that people are at breaking point. Traffic is getting worse, where a commute of only a few kilometres can take more than an hour, the cost of housing continues to increase, where Sydney is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, and families just don’t have the time to enjoy life.

Armidale, on the other hand, offers a much better life. Imagine the beautiful home that you would buy for a fraction of the cost of a home in Sydney – and with the NSW Government’s $7,000 relocation grant, there couldn’t be a better time to make the city change. Imagine getting to work in 5 minutes, with no traffic jams to contend with.

Think about your children walking to school, just around the corner from your home – and not feeling worried. Imagine working in an environment where you have the time to see your child receive an award at school. Living in Armidale will give you the time to enjoy the important things in life!

Thanks Kevin.

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