In the next of our ‘Great Kiwi Families’ posts, we introduce the Finlay family. These intrepid kiwis spend part of the year living on a small island in Vanuatu. Andrew, Maxine and son Charlie have a wide range of creative interests and in this post, they talk about how living on Tanna helps spark their creativity.

What do you do and what are your interests

Andrew is a graphic designer. He runs his own business, Braintree Design. I work with him doing copy writing and social media. We also spend a lot of time in Vanuatu, on the small island of Tanna, doing volunteer work with a local not-for-profit called Nasi Tuan which we helped set up. We are currently spending six months in Tanna, living in a grass hut in a village in the bush. So we are both interested in development and sustainable living, and we really like growing our own food.

What makes your family great?

We like having adventures. We often consider things from a practical viewpoint, and then throw that all to the wind and decide ‘Hey, it’s an adventure’.

Our favourite thing to do:

Have a leisurely breakfast together, with good coffee and morning music.

What creative things do your family love doing?

Projects for our son Charlie are probably our favourite. He is ready to move out of a cot into a bed, so we are planning to buy an old dinghy to sand, paint, and turn into a bed that is semi-suspended from the ceiling by big ropes. We have a Moby Dick theme going on in his room. We love projects that involve all of us, and that are weird, interesting, and hand made. We also love making up stories for Charlie, and I have started to record some of these for Andrew to illustrate.

What advice would you give anyone who wants to start making their family like a bit more creative?

Simplify and make space. We are living on a small island at the moment, with no electricity or running water. We didn’t bring Charlie any toys from home, except for a ball. He has got really creative with how he plays- he spends hours and hours kicking his ball, he finds interesting rocks and uses them in his games, he builds with bits of wood he has collected. Andrew and I are also more creative because we are not using our smart phones all the time, and we have no internet. I write a lot more, we use pencil and paper to capture our ideas. It’s really nice to live slower, and to feel the mental space that comes with not being constantly connected. I think creativity often comes when you create room for it. Also, find what inspires you and then practise doing it. Creativity can be as simple as changing your routine, or saying yes to something you would normally say no to.

This year is election year – what changes could the government make that would make a difference to your family?

I would like to see the government make changes to how it regards the environment, particularly stopping deep sea drilling, looking at commercial fishing quotas, and protecting areas like Long Bay in Auckland from subdivisions. New Zealand is such a beautiful place, but it won’t remain so if we continue to exploit our resources for short term financial gain.

Anything else you want to tell us?

We keep a blog about our life on Tanna at

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Rochelle is mum to three gorgeous daughters. She wishes she had more time to garden and read the newspaper in peace!

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