Ask any Kiwi local the question, “Where is a good place to live in New Zealand?” And you will be met with a long a pause, followed by an even longer list of possible options.
The fact is New Zealanders are simply spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a suitable town or city to live. The same can be said for newcomers to the country who are seeking a better lifestyle, and more work-life balance.
So, how does one choose where to live in a country that offers so much variety?
A good place to start is to assess your short and long term goals, as well as your fundamental reasons for coming here.
Did you come to New Zealand in search of a better lifestyle? Perhaps, you are tired of the ‘rat race’ and want a more relaxed way of life? Or maybe you want to start up a business in a really busy, urban location where you are sure to get plenty of customers and exposure for your business? Maybe you love the great outdoors and want to live in a place where it is not too quiet and not too busy – and just the perfect balance between ‘town and country’? Establish your priorities – is your main priority lifestyle or career?
Think about specific things you are looking for: warmer weather? Close proximity to beaches? Better shopping? Good schools for your children? A tight knit community where everybody knows everybody? More space to roam freely and engage in recreational activities?
There are major cities and small to medium sized towns in the North and South Island that each has its pros and cons; and that offer all of the above. It all boils down to what you and/or your family are looking for. The following is a brief summary of the pros and cons of the major cities in New Zealand:
Auckland is New Zealand’s largest and busiest city. Dubbed “the big little city”, it boasts a population of approximately 1.4 million people, and is the most culturally and ethnically diverse region in the country.
-Auckland is nestled around beautiful coastlines. No matter where you live in the city, you will only be ten to twenty minutes away from the nearest beach.
-There is more variety in terms of wining and dining, shopping, and events
- More jobs and a wider range of industries for employment
-A wider range of schools, universities, academic training institutes
- Even greater degree of cultural diversity
- More suburbs and regions to choose from
-The main city of choice for special events (i.e. concerts)
- Plenty of quaint small towns North of the main city centre (i.e. Warkworth, Wellsford, Waiwera) which offer a relaxed beach lifestyle with the convenience of near-city living.
-The daily morning and late afternoon traffic
-High cost of property rentals
-High average house prices
-The weather during the winter months is extremely unpredictable and wet.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the self-proclaimed “capital of cool”. It is affectionately nicknamed by Kiwis as ‘Windy Wellington’ in reference to the persistently strong winds that bluster through the city; and is renowned for its vibrant and creative art and café scene.
- The vibrant and creative culture: art is a way of life for Wellingtonians and signs of it are everywhere in the city. The Te Papa Museum of New Zealand is the pearl of the city, and houses hundreds of the country’s most prized historical artefacts and works by some of the most celebrated New Zealand artists.
- Wellington is known for its café culture and excellent shopping variety.
-Like Auckland, the city is nestled around a beautiful bay and is near dozens of natural attractions.
-Depending on where you choose to settle in Wellington, rental properties can be significantly more affordable than Auckland.
- Great town/country balance. You can choose to settle in rural surrounds but still be within a one hour drive to Wellington CBD.
- House prices vary, but are still relatively cheaper than Auckland.
- Close proximity to the South Island which makes flights cheaper.
- Very inspiring city
-Access to one of the country’s top tertiary providers such as Victoria University, and Massey University.
- The windy weather. Wellington is known for its blustery winds.
- Steep hilly roads which may make walking around the CBD difficult or tiresome for some.
Hamilton is located within the heart of the Waikato region and is only one and a half hours drive from Auckland city. It is New Zealand’s largest inland city with a population of approximately 143,000 and home to 80 ethnic groups. It is the centre of the dairy and agricultural industry in New Zealand, and boasts some of the world’s most fertile land.
- Great balance between town/country. Hamilton city is fast developing into a thriving cosmopolitan business centre, and is less than two hour’s drive from Auckland city. You can choose to live in the rural surrounds, yet still have the
convenience of being near a major city.
- Major city events such as the V8 Supercars Street Race, Balloons Over Waikato, and Fieldays.
- Access to top tertiary education providers such as Waikato Institute of Technology, and The Waikato University.
-Affordable property rental.
-Affordable house prices.
-Growing job opportunities.
-The prevalent ‘partying’ youth and boy racer culture.
-Lack of shopping variety
Tauranga is home to over 111,000 people and is located in the Bay of Plenty on the east coast of the North Island. It is renowned for its surf, and beach lifestyle and its close proximity to popular tourist destinations such as Rotorua, Ohope, and Whakatane. It is well known for its iconic landmark, Mount Maunganui and long white beaches.
- The relaxed, laidback attitude of the locals.
- Extremely close proximity to white sand beaches which boast ideal waves for surfing and other recreational water sports.
- Wide variety of restaurants, cafes and places to shop; as well as local city events all year round.
- Offers a great town/country balance and work/life balance.
- Strong dairy and agricultural businesses outside the city.
- Great atmosphere, especially during summer months.
- Property rentals are affordable however investment property can be slightly expensive – particularly nearer the water.
- Sub-tropical climate with over 2,400 hours of sunshine a year
- Growing job opportunities. Some industries have a stronger for staff more than others. Engineering, IT, manufacturing, professional services, creative design, health, tourism, and trade professionals are in high demand.
- Good schools for young children
- The city and surrounding beaches can get overcrowded during the summer months with the high influx of tourists from all over the country and overseas
- Shopping (particularly women’s clothing) can overpriced
- Not many tertiary education providers around the area
- A boy racer culture is prevalent and has been an issue for some suburbs
Christchurch is New Zealand’s third largest city and is located in the Canterbury region. In September 2010 and February 2011 The Garden City as it is known, was devastated by two fatal earthquakes which completely destroyed some of the city’s most prized historical landmarks, and claimed almost 200 lives. Currently, the city is being rebuilt and is undergoing a major ‘makeover’. It is anticipated that the new Christchurch will be vastly different from the old one, with more a modern façade. Nevertheless, Cantabrians continue to soldier on and restore their hometown back to its original splendour; and in spite of the destruction Christchurch continues to thrive as a major tourist attraction and with the rebuild, there is a heightened demand for construction professionals (contact us for more details the various occupations +64 9 533 6049).
- Close proximity to dozens of natural attractions and tourist destinations.
- Good town/country balance
- High demand for construction professionals
- The city is slowly but surely recovering and rebuilding
- A sense of normality is slowly being restored with most businesses reopening.
- There is extensive structural damage to a several parts of Christchurch CBD and some surrounding suburbs. The destruction has closed down a number of businesses which has impacted negatively on the local economy. It also makes finding structurally sound property rentals a mission and a competition – as there are dozens of other families competing for decent rentals; in turn the cost of property rentals has gone up.
- Many parts of the CBD have been cordoned off due to safety precautions
- Aftershocks continue to rattle the city
Located in the Otago region, Queenstown is one of the most popular and celebrated destinations in New Zealand and the South Island. It is well known for its beautiful surrounding lakes, ski fields, and natural attractions.
- Breath taking scenery and natural attractions
- Good town/country balance
- Vibrant atmosphere
- Great cafes, restaurants, and art galleries
- All year round events
- Plenty of activities (i.e. skiing, white water rafting, etc.)
- Approximately only three hour’s drive from Queenstown to Christchurch
- Most people in Queenstown are ‘transient’ (i.e. mainly tourists) – which may make it difficult to form long term friendships
- Jobs are limited – however, some industries have a higher demand for jobs more so than others (i.e. hospitality and tourism industry.
- Limited variety in primary and secondary schools.
- Weather wise, the region is prone to heavy snow fall and extremely cold weather during the winter season.
- Food and shopping slightly more expensive than usual (as it is a ‘tourist town’).
Dunedin is known among Kiwi’s as the ‘Student Capital’ of New Zealand and is home to the country’s top university, Otago University. The city boasts an array of heritage landmarks, cafes, restaurants, shops, and breath-taking natural attractions.
- Vibrant atmosphere and culture
- Great Town/Country Balance
- Vast array of cafes, restaurants, shops, and things to do and see
- Beautiful natural and historical attractions
- Access to the country’s top university and some of the best polytechnics
- Very affordable property rentals
-Real estate is also much more affordable compared to the other larger cities.
- Great educational facilities
- No real need for transport if you live near the city centre as Dunedin is very compact.
- An array of thriving small businesses.
- The weather can get bitingly cold! Dunedin is infamous for its winters.
- Dunedin is also a very ‘hilly city’ and comfortable footwear is a must.
- Great Town/Country Balance
- Beautiful natural attractions
- Property rentals and real estate much more affordable compared to other larger cities
- Minimal traffic
- Small town atmosphere with friendly locals
- Gateway to many of the South Islands natural attractions
- Close proximity to Queenstown and Dunedin
- Older houses lack insulation
- Minimal night life
- May prove very remote for some
There are numerous towns throughout New Zealand that can offer what you and/or your family are looking for.
Apart from the larger main cities, smaller townships such as Kerikeri, Taupo, Napier, and Whakatane in the North Island and Wanaka, Timaru, and Nelson in the South Island each offer residents a great work/life town/country balance and a multitude of pros and cons of living there. One of the most important things to bear in mind is that no town is perfect. There are bound to be aspects of your chosen hometown that will annoy the living daylights out of you, and there will also be aspects that will induce feelings of comfort and belonging.
New Zealand as a whole has a long list of ‘cons’ (as you will find on various expat community forums), but these are often outweighed by the positives – a stable government, clean environment, safe community for bringing up children, etc.
Life is often what you make of it, and one thing we have observed in our line of duty is that no matter where in the world one chooses to live, a positive attitude and outlook makes all the difference.