Above: Photograph taken at Ohope Beach, Bay of Plenty. Photography by Mark Flores.
Looking for Paradise? Move Down UnderFor hundreds and thousands of migrants New Zealand is the land of milk and honey. The country’s respect for individual human rights, stable government, growing economy, harmonious society, and beautiful natural environment has made it one of the best places to live in the world.
Let’s face it - New Zealand is a small and remote country. We have a population of just over 4.4 million people. One can even say that our country is really just a ‘glorified island’ of some sort. Well, it is really. From an economic perspective, our economy is minute compared to other OECD countries. We are faced with the challenge of overcoming the treachery of distance, and the economic implications of a small ageing population. In the main cities, particularly Auckland, living costs are high and food staples, such as bread, milk vegetables and fruit produce can be rather expensive. Yet, over the last five years, New Zealand has risen in the rankings as one of the most desirable and liveable countries in the world. Here we take a close and honest look at some of the pros and cons of living in Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud.
Political stability and Security
New Zealand is known for being a peaceful country with a good track record of honouring human rights. We were the first country in the world to give women the vote (in 1893). Civil war, government corruption, and general political unrest are foreign concepts to us Kiwis. Of course, government corruption exists but is certainly minimal. In fact, politicians who decide to dabble in the ‘dark arts’ tend to be found out very quickly and publicly named and shamed. Bribery of government officials or civil servants is near impossible, and the police officers here don’t use members of the public as human ATM machines. Kiwis tend to look at politics in a detached light. Of course, that is not to say that we ‘do not care’ about political issues because we do. We just don’t start wars against those who do not share our political perspective and we tend to value human rights and political equity above anything else.
High Demand for Skilled Professionals
Over the last twenty years, New Zealand’s employment market and commercial industries have changed dramatically. New Zealand needs skilled, experienced and qualified professionals to supplement the country’s work force. With the country in ‘growth mode’ there is an increasing demand for qualified and experienced professionals, especially engineers, tradesmen, I.T professionals, and telecommunication specialists. Public infrastructure and housing developments across the country, especially near urban cities, are underway. The Christchurch Rebuild is an excellent example of an on-going government initiative that requires more professionals and specialists from the building, engineering, and telecommunications industry. Growth is a common theme within various industries in the country, and Immigration New Zealand is striving to attract and retain skilled professionals from offshore.
New Zealand’s political stability and security are what makes this country such a great place to raise children. The safety and personal growth of children in New Zealand is top on the list of government initiatives, so much so that an ‘Anti-Smacking Bill’ was introduced by parliament in 2007. The controversial piece of legislation was established to prevent the assault of parents against their children (i.e. to prevent and stop child abuse from taking place in New Zealand communities). Support for children is a major feature in New Zealand communities. Government funded initiatives aim to provide children with access to free and compulsory education, extracurricular activities, and workshops for children, parents, teachers, and healthcare workers.
Above: Children enjoying a summer 'dive' off Whakatane Wharf, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty. Photography by Mark Flores.
Newcomers to New Zealand always comment on how clean and green the country is. They are so impressed by how free of litter the roadsides are, and how fresh and clear the air is. Our clean environment is something that we take pride in and work hard to protect and maintain. While there is still pollution in New Zealand air, land, and even waters it is nowhere near on the scale as other countries. We drink water straight from the tap and it tastes good!
Steadily Growing Enterprises
Perhaps, one of the most overlooked positives of living in New Zealand is the growth and development of enterprise and trade. New Zealand is a fairly young economy and there are industries that have yet to be introduced and created in this country; there are certainly obstacles and challenges in doing business here but for the sharp entrepreneur - New Zealand presents a multitude of business possibilities, a blank canvas for budding entrepreneurs. Over the last ten decades, New Zealand has fast gained international recognition for producing some of the worlds most talented and successful film directors, musicians, fashion designers, and technological innovators. A recent report released by the World Bank showed that New Zealand is the second easiest country in the whole world in which to do business. Government policies aim to make starting up and conducting business as smooth and ‘easy’ as possible.
The Cost of Living
Many of our clients have commented on the high cost of living in the urban areas of New Zealand. Auckland, in particular can be rather expensive. The city has become known for its expensive property rentals and house prices for first-time home buyers. The cost of basic ‘food staples’ such as fruit, vegetables, bread and milk is also high with an average of NZ$4.00 for a litre of standard milk. Petrol is also expensive and fluctuates regularly; and good quality clothing is costly and shopping limited in variety. However, once you step outside Auckland into the smaller cities and more semi-rural towns such as Hamilton, the cost of living drops dramatically. Hamilton is a great example of affordable living with a balanced ‘town and country’ lifestyle. It is a growing city, nestled in the heart of the Waikato region. With a population of over 212,000 it is ‘busy’ but not ‘too busy’. It is the site of new housing developments, and has an increasing demand for skilled professionals.
The Tyranny of Distance
New Zealand is sheltered from the rest of the world by a vast expanse of ocean. Thank goodness for Australia - our ‘big brother’ and favourite, most cost effective holiday destination. One of the downsides of living in New Zealand is that flight tickets are expensive; particularly if you want to travel to the UK, USA or anywhere beyond the vicinity of Australia and the surrounding Polynesian Islands, you can expect to pay a lot of money for it. Internet shopping from countries outside New Zealand and Australia can also become expensive and slow. Business owners who import the bulk of their goods to New Zealand can attest to the high cost of freight/shipping. If one is to live in New Zealand one must accept the ‘tyranny of distance’.
So, is New Zealand really the land of milk and honey? For many people, New Zealand represents paradise and offers a way of life that is safer, cleaner, and more laid-back. For others, it is a slow-moving country, with limited variety and high urban living costs. Our clients who have made New Zealand their permanent home, came here to provide their families with a safer and brighter future; their motivations were more of a ‘lifestyle change’ and not so much an economic one. Some of our clients from highly skilled professions actually took a ‘drop’ in their salary when they immigrated to New Zealand; but are happier for it due to the lifestyle change, they can now enjoy weekends at the beach with their family! The reality is, professionals such as Doctors or I.T professionals can obtain a better-paid positions in countries like Dubai or the USA than they would in New Zealand. If one takes into account some of the downsides of living in New Zealand (e.g. the distance from the rest of the world and the cost of living in urban areas) and measures that against the upsides of living here (e.g. the political stability, lower crime rates, cleaner environment, and access to government funded facilities and services that aim to promote social welfare and development) then it becomes clear that New Zealand offers a desirable way of living. If social and political stability, and a more enjoyable way of life is what you are looking for, then New Zealand is your paradise.