You see what I see?

BY ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 11:00 20/11/2012
20-KPN-championWEB
Andrea O'Neil
CITY CHAMPION: Recent immigrant to Porirua Simon Bowen hopes to help the city realise its potential as the jewel in Wellington’s crown.

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Porirua's massive potential is under-appreciated by many residents and business leaders, says a recent immigrant who can't stop singing our city's praises.

Jamaica-born engineer and former top athlete Simon Bowen, 41, moved to Papakowhai a year ago and says he is typical of a new wave of professional, well- travelled immigrants blown away by Porirua's beauty and resources.

"This city could easily make Wellington number two," he says.

"It's very easy to move around here. The people are warm and friendly. There's so many things to do here in terms of entrepreneurs.

"I realised this city has tremendous potential and I was wondering if other people were seeing what I was seeing."

Eighteen months ago, father-of- two Mr Bowen and his wife Alecia Cole-Bowen were high-flying corporates at the top of their game in the United States.

"We were kind of getting caught up in the corporate lifestyle in the US," Mr Bowen says.

They Googled the best places in the world to live, and New Zealand was near the top of the list.

Ms Cole-Bowen found a job at the Reserve Bank and the couple, with sons Tyree, 11, and Connor, 1, in tow, moved to Papakowhai.

Mr Bowen has thrown himself into New Zealand life, starting an environmentally-conscious landscaping and corporate cleaning company, and volunteering with Te Rito Organics to try and get a commercial composting operation going.

"For anyone migrating to a new country, at the top of your list you should try to integrate with your community," he says.

"It's a great project for Porirua to become a green, liveable city."

Mr Bowen grew up poor in Kingston and rural Spanish Town in Jamaica, and took up running in high school on a whim.

His athletic talent landed him a scholarship at George Mason University in Virginia, where he became one of America's top-10 ranked college track and field sportsmen.

He qualified for, but didn't make, Jamaica's Olympic team in 1996, and spent two years on the US and European athletics circuit.

Mr Bowen hopes to use his sports expertise as well as his environmental engineering background to serve Porirua.

"I think this is a new city that's growing, and I feel myself growing with the city."

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