Moving to New Zealand

There’s so much more to New Zealand than stunning Lord of the Rings landscapes – as amazing as they are! Australia’s antipodean cousin is consistently sitting pretty near the top of global rankings of the best places to live. Sure, the spectacular scenery plays a big part – but the relaxed Kiwi attitude, temperate climate and high standards of living also add to the appeal.

New Zealand has much in common with Australia in terms of culture, language and values – and the two countries have always enjoyed a close relationship. Australian citizens are free to live, work and travel in New Zealand without restrictions and similarities between the countries can minimise the potential upheaval of moving to somewhere new. The gentle climate and abundance of leisure opportunities appeal to students, families and retirees alike. New Zealand is less densely populated than Australia, perfect for embracing a peaceful way of life in the famously clean air.

New Zealand’s two islands have distinct differences. North Island is where the largest cities are located and enjoys a sunshine climate. The majority of New Zealand’s economic and government operations take place on North Island. South Island is cooler and quieter, with smaller cities and sparsely populated rural areas. Tourism is the main industry here, with visitors flocking to play amongst the most spectacular of New Zealand’s wild natural scenery.

Popular New Zealand vs Australian cities


Brisbane vs. Wellington

New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, has a lot in common with Brisbane. Life is lived along the waterfront and it’s easy to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and get back to nature. Hiking, biking and watersports are all close at hand as active residents enjoy the glorious sunshine. The hearts of both cities are alive and kicking, with thriving cultural scenes and varied nightlife.

Perth vs. Auckland

The cosmopolitan city of Auckland has a similar feel to Perth. Both offer that irresistible mix of glossy urban life and laid-back leisure time. Auckland is within easy reach of both the Waitakere mountains and the endless windswept coastline of western New Zealand. The “City of Sails” also has a real sense of glitz and glamour in the attractive harbour bars and restaurants – truly the best of both worlds!

Dunedin vs. Hobart

The fascinating heritage of South Island’s Dunedin brings reminders of historic Hobart. The cooler temperatures lend themselves to a relaxed pace of life among the grand Victorian architecture. Scottish and Maori influences are strong here, making it an intriguing city for history buffs. Dunedin’s large student population gives it a lively buzz and, as ever in NZ, the beauty of nature isn’t far away. The scenic Otago peninsula, with its colonies of penguins and sealions, is just crying out to be explored.

Becoming a citizen of New Zealand

For Australian citizens and permanent residents, navigating their way through New Zealand immigration couldn’t be easier. Australians do not need to apply for a New Zealand visa to live, study or work in the country.

If you fall in love with your New Zealand life and want to make it your permanent, you might want to consider applying for New Zealand citizenship. You have two possible options:

Citizenship by grant

This is the most common route for most Australians. You can apply for New Zealand citizenship by grant if:

  • you have the right to be in NZ indefinitely (as Australians do)
  • you have been a resident of NZ for at least five years
  • you plan to continue living in NZ
  • you speak English
  • you are of good character (any criminal convictions may affect this)

Applications cost A$430 (or NZ $470.20) for adults and A$215 (or NZ $235.10) for children under 16. The process usually takes around 4 months.

If your application is successful, you will be able to apply for and travel on a NZ passport, vote, stand for parliament, pay taxes, represent NZ in international sports and live your New Zealand dream for the rest of your life if you wish.

Both Australia and New Zealand allow their citizens the option of dual citizenship so it may be possible to retain your Australian citizenship. If you prefer to renounce it, you will have to pay a fee of A$205.

Citizenship by descent

You can apply for New Zealand citizenship by descent if:

  • one of your parents is a New Zealand citizen by birth or grant AND
  • you were born outside New Zealand

Applications cost A$187 (NZ$204) and are usually processed within 20 days. You can apply for your NZ passport at the same time.

New Zealand does not have a route to citizenship through marriage. If you marry a Kiwi, you will still have to follow one of the two above routes to gain citizenship.

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Job market

New Zealand boasts a healthy employment market, with low unemployment and high economic confidence. Workers here are some of the most satisfied in the world, with good flexible working packages and work-life balance. An average working week of 42.2 hours, around 6 weeks paid holiday per year (including public holidays) and typically short commutes leave plenty of time for fun in the sun.

Auckland is New Zealand’s business and financial centre, with many international companies establishing bases there to take advantage of the Asia-Pacific market. Civil servants have plenty of job opportunities in the capital city, Wellington – as do those in the arts sector. Tourism, construction and IT workers are all consistently in demand. Check out the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment list of Essential Skills in Demand to find out which areas are most in need of workers. Occupations currently on the list include forest scientists, construction managers and veterinarians.

House prices and renting

Overall, New Zealand is a cheaper place to rent or buy property than Australia. Rents are around 22% lower, while house and apartment prices can be up to 34% cheaper.

New Zealanders like to own their homes and the rates of homeownership are high. Median house prices are A$436,000, with the highest prices in the Auckland and Wellington areas.

Median rents for a three-bedroom house stand at around A$330 per week. Again, prices are highest in Auckland and Wellington. Prices have also been pushed up in Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake damage. This should stabilise as current construction efforts produce an increasing number of new homes.


New Zealand prides itself on a world-class education system, once ranking eighth in an OECD global comparison. Free state schools are excellent and there are a good number of high-quality colleges and Universities to choose from. You’ll also find some private fee-paying schools and faith-specific schools.


State school places are allocated according to area catchment zones. Education begins at the age of five, with students entering high school around the age of 12/13 and continuing until the age of 18. The school year runs in the same way as Australian schools – January through to December.


Of New Zealand’s eight Universities, the top-ranking five are:

Tuition fees are subsidised for New Zealand residents and student loans are available to assist with further funding.


Residents of New Zealand are entitled to use the public healthcare system, with free hospital care and emergency treatment, free childhood immunisations and free prescriptions for children under the age of six. Quality of care is excellent, although waiting lists can be an issue in some areas.

Some things are paid for by the patient, as they are in Australia. These include trips to the GP, prescriptions, dentistry, pregnancy care, lab tests and X-rays. However, costs are subsidised by New Zealand’s Primary Health Organisation (PHO). Private healthcare is also relatively affordable.

Things to do

New Zealand has a rich heritage – from the Maori to the Scots – and many fascinating places to learn about it. Wellington’s Museum of New Zealand, or Te Papa, is the best place to discover the story behind this beautiful country. Traditional music, dance arts and crafts are celebrated everywhere, inspiring a nation of creative souls.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, the Downstage Theatre in Wellington and the outdoor performances in Queenstown’s Earnslaw Park are just a few of the cultural highlight. For the best panoramic city views, climb the dizzy heights of Auckland’s Sky Tower, or why not visit the set of New Zealand’s most famous movie set, Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings.

Food and drink

New Zealand is most famous for its excellent lamb and tasty wines but you’ll find plenty more on the menu. The country’s clean waters are the perfect place to catch delicious fresh fish and seafood, while traditional Maori delicacies, such as hangi-roasted pork, are a mouth-watering treat. Kiwis have a sweet tooth so make sure you sample some of their sugary delights, including Pineapple Lumps, Jaffas, and indulgent hokey pokey ice cream – perfect for warm summer afternoons.


Kiwis may be famous for their relaxed, outdoorsy outlook on life but they still know how to have a good time! The best New Zealand nightlife can be found in the major cities, but the entire country is scattered with friendly local bars and restaurants.

With its young population, Wellington is renowned for having the best NZ nightlife. All-night partying can be enjoyed every night of the week, with something for all tastes. Live music venues, chilled late night cafes and lively clubs to name just a few. Auckland’s vivacious waterfront areas are constantly evolving to include new and exciting establishments. You can also find the best gay scene here, with the coolest bars and clubs to be found along Karangahape Road.

South Island may be quieter but Dunedin, with its large student population, and tourism hotspot Queenstown, attract fun-loving party-goers from around the world. Christchurch is becoming known for its unusual nightlife locations, with inventive bars popping up in the unlikeliest of places in the wake of the earthquakes.