A GUIDE TO LIVING IN NEW ZEALAND
One of the biggest factors to consider when emigrating to New Zealand is what it is like to live there. The people, weather, housing, food and prices will all influence your perception and enjoyment of what it is to live in New Zealand.
NEW ZEALAND’S POPULATION
New Zealand has a population of only around 4.4 million people. To put that into perspective, that is about half the total population of London, with a land mass of almost the same size as the United Kingdom (243,000km2 for the UK, 270,000km2 for New Zealand). Breaking those figures down, we can see that the New Zealand population density is vastly different from the United Kingdom average, at 16 people per square kilometre, compared to 255 people per square kilometre in the UK. This figure ranks New Zealand at 202th out of 241 countries world wide on population density. This is generally a favourable statistic if you like wide open spaces, fresh air and finding places with natural beauty and low or no levels of population.
In reality, what this means is that within towns and cities, queuing in shops and petrol stations is rare and places are not commonly overcrowded. If you leave the towns and cities behind, you can drive for miles without ever seeing another car. You can drive away from civilisation and find a beach, sit and read for hours on end without being disturbed by other people. You can go camping, truly in the wild, with only yourselves and the belongings you bring with you to keep you company. It’s a strange feeling that certainly isn’t for everybody, but most will be able to appreciate the level of serenity and peace the country offers because of this very low population density.
WHERE TO LIVE IN NEW ZEALAND
If you are unsure as to what region of New Zealand to start your search for a house in, primarily you will have to consider employment positions, as depending on what your speciality is, there could be a higher chance of finding work on New Zealand’s North Island, around or in one of the cities such as Auckland, Napier or Wellington. However, house prices are a little higher there than the South Island, generally speaking. With that being said, Christchurch on the south island has become very popular with migrants over the years. While this has been partly due to the lower living costs, it is also a much quieter, more tranquil part of the country which favours those seeking a more peaceful, relaxing life, with some truly stunning landscapes.
Housing is a part of New Zealand that comes as a bit of a shock to most newcomers, as the materials that are commonly used to build houses in the country are very different from those used in Europe and North America. It is true that houses are built to very different financial limitations in New Zealand and the priorities of homeowners are not quite the same as of those in Europe or the US. Accepting these facts is the first step in understanding the nature of the New Zealand housing market, as you must realise that there may not be a property that will meet all of the needs you first decided upon before you knew what was available.
With this in mind, it is important to point out that this does not mean you should expect poor quality housing, poor workmanship or inferior materials; in fact, it just means that your budget might not go as far in New Zealand as it did in your native country due to the development of the housing market, demand and the evolution of the New Zealand economy.
House prices in New Zealand’s more desirable areas are constantly on the up, with average prices in some areas, such as the currently very fashionable Herne Bay suburb of Auckland, pushing up to $2 Million New Zealand Dollars. Currently, average house prices in Auckland in general are around $700,000 and are predicted to be averaging $1 Million NZD within the next 4 years due to a massive upsurge in sales prices.
In terms of nation-wide house prices, prices took a few years to stabilise after the 2007 property boom, but are now on the up again; by 4% since then and 7.1% over 2012 – 2013. This now means that the average house price in New Zealand is $430,000 NZD. This upsurge has been fuelled by a number of variables, not least of which being foreign investment, which, let’s face it, has been proven to be a very lucrative financial move.
What this means is that it had become very difficult for young native New Zealand adults to get a foot on the property ladder, something that the current government has tried to address. It seems, for the time being, they are achieving this, or at least working towards doing so, with the lowest mortgage rates seen in 50 years and rental rates also stabilising.
For new migrants moving here with some financial assets, it can mean that purchasing property in the country will take much more research, and, in turn, can also end up being a low risk but very beneficial short-term investment with potentially high realised gains. If you are on a tight budget, however, then it would be advisable to look for property within other not-so-highly desirable areas that are ‘on the up’, possibly even in one of the new housing developments that have been built in Manukau, Albany or Stonefields.
THE COST OF LIVING IN NEW ZEALAND
When first migrating to New Zealand, many migrants believe that they require regular home creature comforts to ease their transition to their new lifestyle. Unfortunately, these conveniences can come at a cost. Due to the current global and national economic situation, and also because of New Zealand’s reliance on imported goods, the cost of many non-food products that are manufactured outside the country can be higher than one would expect. In some cases it can even be financially more advantageous to purchase certain goods abroad and have them shipped to your new home, as long as you respect the specific duties that must be paid to New Zealand customs, and are aware of the paperwork that must be completed to do so.
One way to avoid these extra (and some would say frivolous) costs is by adjusting your lifestyle to live without those particular comforts. This method, while difficult at first, eventually becomes not only more financially beneficial, but also will improve the ease of moulding your new life to suit your new environment. However, with this in mind, purchasing some items from abroad over the internet, especially items such as white goods, can also end up being be a lot cheaper, even after you factor in shipping and import costs (which can amount to as much as 50%), so it pays to do your research.
FOOD IN NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand cuisine is very much influenced by, as you would expect, locally produced ingredients and seasonal variations on these ingredients. Due to the location of the country and foreign immigration over the last 150 years, traditional Maori cuisine is also influenced by British tastes, as well as Australian, Asian and American palates.
When the Maori first arrived in New Zealand, they brought with them food plants such as sweet potato and taro and, due to the abundance of marine life and certain traditional hunting restrictions, their diets generally revolved around these ingredients. However, once the British began to migrate to the country, along with other European and Asian nationalities, their palates adjusted to incorporate these new influences.
Today, New Zealand cuisine is a mix of all these influences, though predominantly traditional meals consist of British influenced Maori dishes such as the classic boil-up, consisting of potatoes, pork, dumplings and kumara, and Pork and Puha (which is similar to a boil-up but containing puha; a type of watercress). Other popular dishes include casseroles, stews and seafood pies.
Food produced locally, such as lamb or dairy products which New Zealand is famous for, is produced from green grass fed pastures. The nutritional quality is very different (superior) to the grain fed animals from North America and Europe. You will taste the difference over a beer and barbeque.
THE WEATHER IN NEW ZEALAND
Another significant element to consider is the weather. Many people without any experience of these places believe that countries within the Australasia or Oceania regions are blessed with year-round sun, mild winters and only enough rainfall to water the plants every now and then. Now, while that may be true in certain parts of central Australia, for New Zealand this is categorically not the case. New Zealand is approximately 1400 miles from Australia, to the south east, meaning that the weather there is a little less forgiving than that experienced in Australia.
In more specific terms, New Zealand experiences an oceanic climate (also known as a maritime climate), which is very similar to the United Kingdom, south-western South America and most parts of Europe. Countries with this kind of climate generally experience warm summers and cool winters (neither overly hot nor cold throughout the year), with a narrow annual range of temperatures during a single year. However, different specific regions of New Zealand can experience very different types of climate; Central Otago, for example, is said to be semi-arid, while around Northland the climate is more subtropical.
Being an island nation located deep in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is very open to the elements and is blessed or punished, depending on your outlook, with year-round rainfall. Average rainfall recorded in cities in New Zealand ranges from around 650mm in Christchurch on the South Island, to 1500mm in Whangarei on New Zealand’s North Island. Areas around the Southern Alps on the South Island enjoy as much as 6700mm of rainfall per year; an average based on data taken from 2007 – 2012. In terms of sun, you can expect around 2,000 hours of sunlight per year in most places, with temperatures in the summer reaching 25-30 (possibly even 35) degrees Celsius. Temperatures in winter on the north island hover around 10-15 degrees Celsius, while on the south island, expect not only much cooler temperatures, but also regular snowfalls (something that is extremely rare on the north island).
What this means is that, generally speaking, the climate is very similar to the UK and most parts of Europe, but there are areas which have more extreme climates, and as such within those areas you can expect more extreme weather patterns.
New Zealand is the most recent colonised country in the world and is just starting to really find its feet. The economy is just starting to build and the population is still very low. There are many good opportunities for the budding entrepreneur. The size of the economy and population, is growing rapidly. Some Kiwis wish the numbers stay as they currently are however the rapid migration to New Zealand Shores tells a different story. At this current time, one can enjoy a green uninhabited country, live in more than just a “semi detached” home and have the space for children and pets to enjoy. With that being said, the process of adjusting to these conditions needs to be considered if you are used to fast paced city life and living in close proximity to neighbours. This may seem an easy transition, however New Zealand is often just too slow paced for some individuals. Auckland however does have a more metropolitan feel….and traffic jams to boot. The transition of realising your new life in New Zealand will no doubt be a change from your existing environment, so get ready for a truly rewarding, life-changing experience !