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PICTURE: Paul McBride
Glaudie Lawrence in relaxed mood by the sea.
South African-born Glaudie Lawrence has no more oceans to cross now that she has welcomed the West Coast with
open arms after leaving far away shores to settle in the place she now calls home. PAUL McBRIDE caught up with
this ray of sunshine on a grey West Coast day.
laudie Lawrence (nee
Burger) was raised in Cape
Town and grew up on the
Melkbous Strand, which
she says has a similar
terrain to the West Coast.
“The Melkbous Strand’s west coast has a
definite similarity to the West Coast here as
it is so rugged and beautiful.
“I had a very happy childhood growing up
there as the youngest of five children. My
father worked as a project adviser for the
Growing up in South Africa, segregation
was an expected way of life but as a young
girl she was unaware of the black and white
divide and did not realise there was one
where she was raised.
“It was only in my late teenage years did
I realise sadly there was a real division, but
where I lived we all got along. We all went
to different schools and unlike today there
wasn’t the crime either. I remember when
Nelson (Mandela) came along and voiced
his stand, how it became very tense, but
when he was ruling the nation he was doing
a good job for South Africa.
“I do remember as a young child, though,
there were riots and dad had to go out and
protect the school as some of the schools
were getting burned down.”
In South Africa crime danced with time
and while it only increased with each
passing year Glaudie says that was not the
reason she left.
“ We didn’t leave because of crime. My
sister Erika had been in New Zealand and
then she returned to live there. She told us
how good New Zealand was so my husband
Henry came out looking for a job, and
Juan our son and I came out three months
later. We came out with our suitcases, my
husband’s toolbox, my hair-drying gear and
a few sentimental pieces.”
Having a hairdressing diploma behind her
Glaudie put her qualifications to good use
once settled, initially in Hamilton.
“ When I was in Cape Town I worked
as a hairdresser and also had my own
little mobile hairdressing business. I was
hairdressing in Hamilton while also doing
support work for the elderly. Henry was
working as a diesel mechanic.
“ We found Hamilton to be a lovely place.
We were there for a couple of years and then
Henry was offered a position in Blenheim so
we moved to the South Island.”
Glaudie recalls the moment she laid eyes
on Henry she knew he was the man for
“I met Henry at a crayfish festival and
couple of drinks after the festival,” she
smiled. “He was there with a friend of
mine and I said on my first date I was
going to marry him — maybe it was the
wine talking! So yes, eventually we were
From Blenheim the Lawrences decided to
blend family, work and lifestyle, and headed
to the West Coast. It was a decision they are
so pleased they made.
“I would say the North Island is a bit like
the Johannesberg concept and environment
and the South Island is like Cape Town,
like home. I love the West Coast and I
love Greymouth, especially. My husband’s
brother was living on the Coast and we tried
to move closer to them when a job came up;
my brother Peter lives in Dunedin.
“I worked as a parenting provider and
then got a job as a workplace staff supporter,
having studied in Hamilton to get my
diploma in counselling. For workplace
support I had to do courses on crisis and
suicide inter vention, which is intense
Glaudie also got her internship certificate
in Christian leadership and ministry, as
pastor of the local Elim Church.
“The whole pastor thing came as a huge
surprise — it was never on my radar.
My name popped up when the previous
pastor had left for Canada, and I said,
‘yes’. I think my workplace support and my
training has been very helpful. My role in
the church is to be community focused and
to develop, equip and encourage people to
reach their true potential and to be who
they really can be — live life to their full
Glaudie is a leader at The Shed, working
with Tim and Nicky Mora and sees that as
a positive activity for young people on the
“They are our next leaders,” she says.
Since settling on the West Coast, Glaudie
has witnessed the economic downturn of a
region which was built on coal but says it is
now time to look ahead and change focus.
“I think the town has got huge potential
from tourism. We must focus on making
the town look good as tourists have to
stay here for longer than a day. We must
also see the potential in local people on
the West Coast, there are some awesome
people here. We must stand together and
look for new opportunities — how do
we make this town do well? We have to
change the way we do things and think
outside the box. If you always do what you
have always done, you will always get what
you have always got.”
Glaudie Lawrence holds the West Coast
close to her heart and is proud to call it
“It is the people, the genuine people of
the West Coast, and we have the beautiful
scenery — it’s still rugged and the beauty
has never been disturbed. It’s a fabulous
place, a lot of hidden gems still to be
Out of Africa
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