New Zealander Gabrielle Burns Sets Roots In Newcastle

Businesswoman from New Zealand falls in love with the Mournes and settles in Newcastle.


Businesswoman from New Zealand falls in love with the Mournes and settles in Newcastle.

Young Mums are busy and organised, but New Zealander Gabrielle Burns takes the concept of ‘busy and organised’ to a new level.

Based in Newcastle, County Down, Gabrielle and husband James have three of a family aged 17, 14 and 12. They also both run international businesses and are currently in the final stages of building their dream home over looking the Mountains of Mourne close to Tollymore Forest Park.

And somewhere in life Gabrielle finds the time and energy to volunteer to help at some of the major Ulster New Zealand Trust events at Balance House near Lisburn.

But how did a native of Invercargill, with a population of 55,000, the most southerly city in New Zealand come to live in Northern Ireland since 2006?

Gabrielle Burns meets a native Maori at the New Zealand embassy.

“Well Northern Ireland was not part of ‘the plan’ when my girl friend and I came to London to see Europe on the usual Kiwi adventure before settling down,” explained Gabrielle.

“Having been through boarding school I was a pretty independent individual and ready for adventure. So after graduating in education, finance and marketing from Otago Uni in Dunedin it was OE time. Time to see the world and gain some Overseas Experience.

“We certainly had a great life in London combining work with travel and all sorts of adventures. Then a young chap from County Down got very lucky and met and married me! James and I lived and worked in London, Amsterdam and Seoul for several years, which was tremendous fun and great experience. Working for huge brand names like Nike and Roche was a massive added bonus.

“Then around 2006 with two of our three children in tow we made the decision to leave London. It was not the place we wished to bring up a family and we could have headed to New Zealand instead of Northern Ireland.

“However, by this this time my father in law was very unwell and, of course, James wanted home to support him. The decision was made and it has proved an excellent one for both of us and our now three children.

“We live and work in a lovely place with the younger generation gaining from the many great schools in Northern Ireland. Also so much is free here that is certainly not totally free in either London or New Zealand. The NHS, the schooling and the talkative friendliness of the locals are massive plus points,“ affirmed Gabrielle.

Gabrielle Burns, runs a niche international recruitment business specialising in health with clients in New York, London and in Germany.

“But gosh I do miss New Zealand and think of family, especially my dad and brother, plus some really good friends, there every day.

“Yet through James we have a strong family network here though there are cultural differences. And I mean differences, not faults.

“In New Zealand sport is practically a religion with males and females all taking part be it sailing, tennis,rugby, hockey, football or netball. Everyone seems to have a sport. Women’s events getting lots of media coverage.

“In Northern Ireland the culture means that sport is less important, ladies events get less coverage and a lot of folks instead put their efforts into organisations, some of them sporting, linked to a place of worship.

“Though I must say our eldest, Amelia, has really taken to the sporting scene here and is on the NI under 19 netball team. A role that has let her mix with folks from all across the country and take part in international matches overseas. A brilliant opportunity.

“And, of course, one huge cultural different between Kiwis and the folks here is how they talk. Back in NZ people tend to tell you what has happened. In NI our friends, family and neighbours have this marvellous ability to turn the same happening into a wonderful story. I love that about Northern Ireland people and the way families are still so important with many remaining in the same area for generations.”

Asked about her career Gabrielle revealed that while James heads a telecoms consultancy operating UK wide and indeed further afield she is managing director of Bohill Health.

This is a niche recruitment agency mainly placing specialist staff with clients in London, New York and Germany.

Using her experience in the human health supply business Gabrielle provides a specialist service to those organisations requiring high calibre staff. These can be medical consultants, nurses, technical managers, account managers or business analysts. Applicants with a proven background that matches them to a specific client in the human health and pharmaceutical sectors. Some are professionals from NZ and Australia seeking worthwhile experience on their extended OE.

“Though 2020 was not a great year business wise for Bohill Health due to Covid travel restrictions we survived and will thrive again.

“My husband in telecoms has been ultra busy, but spending less time travelling and happily more time working from his County Down base.

“But for both of us and family the big focus amidst all the pandemic worries has been the construction of our dream home a few minutes walk from our current house. This is nearing completion and the design has won local practice McGonigle McGrath the 2020 UK individual house Architect of the Year award.

“Based around five pods it is in a magical corner of County Down that we find idyllic for family life as well as work.

“Being used to NZ distances I find every where in western Europe convenient from County Down and we certainly have been indulging in our passion for ski-ing the European Alps.

“New Zealand is a wonderful place I love dearly, but has one major drawback. Distances inside the country are large and travel to other parts of the world means many hours flying.

Hence my NZ attitude to distance. Meeting clients or friends on the North coast, in Dublin, London, Amsterdam or Paris to me feels like just around the corner.”

As regards volunteering at Ballance House with the Ulster New Zealand Trust this Mum and entrepreneur is time short so tries to help out, when possible, at key events.

“John Ballance was a great New Zealand reformer and Prime Minister, who helped promote our wonderful national attitude to equality. That men and women, Maori and Pakeha, alike should have a vote and every opportunity to progress.

“So Ballance House gives me a link with home and a chance to catch up with other Kiwis and NI families linked to my amazing homeland of the long white cloud.” 

or see: for details of this unique museum and event facility celebrating links between NI and NZ.