Moving to Wellington
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Nestled in a sweeping bay at the southern tip of North Island, Wellington occupies one of the most attractive locations of any worldwide capital city. Its sparkling turquoise waters, rolling hills swathed in lush greenery and rapidly evolving architectural skyline provide the perfect backdrop for a life in New Zealand’s administrative capital. It's far from being an overlooked backwater though, Wellington is the jewel in New Zealand’s crown of tourist hotspots, is regularly ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities and has influenced the globe with its music, film and comedy.
Home to some 400,000 people, Wellington has positively reinvented itself over the past two decades. Gone is its reputation as a sleepy Pacific outpost and in its place is a thriving cultural centre, bursting with restaurants, galleries and entertainment venues.
Culturally diverse with large Māori, Asian and Pacific Islander communities, Wellington is home to a young and dynamic population who contribute to a lively nightlife, buzzing cafe culture and a thriving economy composed chiefly of the government and tourism sectors.
If café culture is what you crave, Wellington has it in abundance. The city is said to have more eateries per capita than New York, serving everything from coffee and cocktails to fresh fish and fine dining. Its busy cultural calendar is full from January to December with dance and classical music performances by the Symphony Orchestra and Royal New Zealand Ballet, while the city’s many cinemas play host to its burgeoning film industry.
Temperatures in Wellington are temperate, rarely dropping below zero or rising above the high twenties. With comfortable climatic conditions all year round and water sports, white sand beaches and wild natural walks right on your doorstep, Wellington offers the perfect blend of outdoor adventures and cosmopolitan cool.
The job market
If you are planning to relocate to Wellington, there are well-paid job opportunities in both the private and public sector for qualified immigrant workers. Thanks to the city’s thriving arts scene, jobs are available in the film, TV, theatre and music industries as well as in the more traditional areas of banking, engineering, commerce and construction. The IT and technology sectors are thriving and as New Zealand’s administrative capital, Wellington also offers more employment opportunities within the public sector than other major cities in the country.
The thriving Wellington economy currently contributes some 13.5% of national GDP and employs 11.5% of the country’s workforce. There are various programmes in operation specifically to help skilled newcomers to secure jobs in their chosen field, either before arriving in New Zealand or once already on the ground. The latest positions are also advertised on Internet job boards, some of which are targeted specifically at skilled migrant workers, as well as in the pages of local newspapers.
Average weekly earnings in 2014 were around $1325 in the public sector and $990 in the private sector, though of course income varies widely according to skills and experience. A nurse with five years’ experience can expect to earn approximately $60,000, a management accountant between $40,000 and $100,000 and a solicitor anything between $50,000 and in excess of $200,000.
Wellington’s cost of living is comparable to other developed capitals and is in fact lower than its larger sibling, Auckland. With a thriving job market, salaries also tend to be higher here than in other areas of the country.
With so many high-quality bars and eateries to choose from, eating and drinking out in Wellington is a popular pastime. Typically a mid-range three-course meal for two will cost in the region of $90 while the per-head rate at an inexpensive restaurant will be under $20 and a fast-food meal $10.
With a relatively small population, purchasing power in Wellington is lower than in many cities – 26.82% lower than Sydney and 25.76% lower than Vancouver for instance, and this is evidenced in the cost of groceries as well as dining out. Rent prices, however, are significantly less – 14.57% lower than Vancouver, 40.95% lower than Sydney, and an impressive 55.18% lower than London. A typical one-bedroom apartment will cost $1,337.93 per month in the city centre or $1,058.76 outside, while prices for a three-bedroom apartment will range between $2,054.87 in the outskirts and $2,724.00 in the heart of the city.
Renting is popular amongst newcomers to Wellington, enabling them to find their feet in the city before committing to living in a particular neighbourhood. Home ownership, however, is the Holy Grail for most New Zealanders and Wellington is no exception, with the rate of home ownership here high in comparison to other worldwide cities. Average house prices in 2014 were $472,000 in the city centre, rising to $557,000 in the Eastern area and dropping to $365,000 in the Hutt Valley. Values have remained more-or-less static for several years, reflecting the long-term stability of the city’s housing market.
Current house prices range considerably across Wellington City’s diverse neighbourhoods. The family-friendly neighbourhood of Johnsonville offers a typical one-bedroom 1940s weatherboard house for $250,000 or three-bed houses between $395,000 and $500,000. While it is possible to pick up a one-bedroom investment apartment in upmarket Brooklyn for as little as $198,000, prices in general are significantly higher, ranging between $525,000 and $765,000 for a three-bedroom townhouse or luxury apartment.
With the Aro Valley soaring in popularity there is very little on the market although there is the odd hidden gem to be found, such as a one-bedroom apartment for just $180,000. Like its reputation, Island Bay’s prices are on the up. Expect to pay between $570,000 and $620,000 for a three-bedroom house in this thriving cosmopolitan area.
Whether you choose to rent or buy, selecting the right location is vital when it comes to settling quickly and easily into your new life in Wellington.
- Family friendly: If you are relocating with children, the family-friendly area of Johnsonville is a popular choice. Johnsonville offers a plethora of good schools and has excellent public transport links into town, as well as offering plenty of outdoor amenities in the form of parks and nature reserves.
- Upmarket: If money is no object, head for Brooklyn. This affluent neighbourhood is just an eight-minute ride from the city centre and offers spacious accommodation with stunning views over the sweeping curves of Wellington’s harbour.
- Hip & Trendy: The Aro Valley is one of the most happening areas in Wellington. With prices here lower than in the city’s highest-end destinations and a burgeoning arts scene offering round-the-clock entertainment, this is the first choice for young professionals who want to live close to the action.
- Up & Coming: Island Bay is an emerging seaside village that is fast becoming a favourite with Wellington residents in search of the perfect work/life balance. Offering plenty of entertainment in its own right, plus a sandy beach right on your doorstep, it is still just a 10-minute drive from Wellington city centre.
Cost of moving
Shipping your belongings by sea is the most cost-effective method of transporting them ready to begin your new life in Wellington. How much it will cost will depend on the volume of items you ship. As a general rule, you should allow $8,000 – $10,000 to ship from a European destination such as London or Paris, plus insurance costs. For shipping from the US allow from $6,000, rising to upwards of $16,000 for a full 40-ft container.
Schools and education
Formal schooling in New Zealand begins at the age of five and continues until the age of 18. Education takes place in a mix of state schools, state-integrated schools and private schools, and Wellington offers a broad selection of each. There are currently around 80 schools in Wellington city and many more in the surrounding Wellington region, spanning Porirua, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, the Kapiti Coast and the Wairarapa region. Schools in New Zealand score well above the world average in reading, maths and science and Wellington offers some of the best schools in the country, making it a popular choice for those relocating with children.
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Ranking against the world
In 2014 Wellington was ranked 12th in the world for its quality of life, reflecting its diverse cultural offerings, stunning Pacific coast setting and economic opportunities. When compared against other major urban hubs within New Zealand, 89% of Wellingtonians described their quality of life as ‘good’ or ‘better’ against an average of 82%, cementing its position as one of the most popular destinations for those in search of a new life overseas.
A day in the life
Wellington is a magical place in which to while away a relaxing day out of the office. Begin with a beach walk along the golden sands of Oriental Bay before heading to the waterfront for a leisurely lunch in the harbour. Be sure to stop off at Te Papa, New Zealand’s famous national museum whose innovative and interactive installations have secured its position as the most visited in Australasia. With a wide selection of temporary and permanent exhibitions, most of which are free to enter, you are certain to enjoy a new experience every time you visit.
While away your warm summer afternoon with a spot of retail therapy in the city’s quirky boutiques and high-street stores or escape to the cooling breeze of the surrounding hills for a spot of mountain biking or hiking along the beautiful Makara peak track. If the prospect of such vigorous exercise is too much, simply step into the Kelburn cable car and ride it to the summit to enjoy the sweeping views over the cityscape and the gleaming Pacific waters beyond.
If the allure of the Pacific is irresistible, finish with a moonlit harbour cruise against the backdrop of the Wellington skyline. Alternatively, indulge your cultural curiosities at a jazz night, comedy show or dance performance at one of Wellington’s numerous entertainment venues before heading home happy to prepare for another day in paradise.