New Zealand Country Guide

by Jose Marc Castro on August 4, 2009

movingtonewzealandIMAGE200When many expats look towards moving to a different country the main question on their minds seems to be “What has this country got which is special?” New Zealand is one of those countries where you should really ask, “What does this country not have which makes it special?”  New Zealand is a country which has one of the lowest crime rates of the developed world, a place where the police do not carry guns, and offers an unpolluted environment, low rates of poverty and a health service which can compete with the UK’s renowned NHS.

While often discussed as secondary to neighboring Australia (which is actually 2000 km away) New Zealand does not get the exposure and credit that it deserves.  In general terms , the standard of living is on a par with European counterparts although the actual cost of living is much less.  Even though the property market has shown some growth over the last few years, there is perceived to be very good long term value. This island country located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, is an archipelago which includes the North and South Island, Cook Islands, Tokelau, the Ross Dependency and Niue.

The culture of the country tends to revolve around the Maori tribes of old, who still play a very active role in the communities of New Zealand, although a vast majority of today’s population is of European descent.  Indeed the Queen of the UK still reigns over the country, as New Zealand is a strong part of the British Commonwealth.  While the New Zealand has over the years attracted a vast number of British and Irish expats , the authorities are still committed to increasing the country’s population by some 1% a year through a fairly flexible immigration policy.

The education and health service are second to none, with New Zealand reporting a very impressive 99.9% literacy rate.  The country also has a well developed state welfare system which is probably a trait of the strong connection with the United Kingdom.  All in all New Zealand offers a mixture of climates, cultures, a law abiding society and a variety of employment and investment opportunities.

New Zealand in a nutshell was discussed in a post at the New Zealand Expat Forum last August 3, 2009:

We moved from the UK to NZ (Whangarei, Northland) last October and have settled in nicely. Not sure about regional differences but we rent a bigish 4 bed/ lifestyle lot (1ha) for $350 a week (its all by the week here) with a $1200 bond plus two weeks rent and a little set up charge. Around $2000 initially, if I remember correctly.

2 and 3 bed houses in town go from $250 to $300 a week mostly.

Cost of living here is not as cheap as people make out though, a cucumber for example is $5 at the moment! There is a lot of seasonal variation compared to the UK and fresh food yo yos up and down weekly. It is a small market you see and subject to localised problems. The UK places such big orders it can source from anywhere in the world.

Some things are cheaper though, such as car insurance and road tax. Petrol is around $1.65 a litre.

We are trying to do it on one salary so that I can stay home with the kids and we have REALLY had to go back to basics to manage on one salary of nz$72k a year. There is not much left at the end of the month I can tell you and that is for no frills living. How people manage on the National average of $50k or so I can’t imagine.

NZ is great. Our only criticisms are that the houses are rubbish compared to UK standards! No insulation and night time single figure temps make for VERY chilly mornings and evenings, loads of condensation, mould and damp stuff. The other is that second hand cars are expensive compared to the UK (new is cheaper though!) and cars are not looked after here, have seen 10 year old cars that have never been cleaned……..phew!

The locals are extremely hardy folk, it must be all that pioneer spirit!!

Contents: Economy in New ZealandProspects in New ZealandNew Zealand Facts

Economy in New Zealand

As you would expect from a country which offers vast plains of open land, New Zealand is heavily dependent on agriculture and in particular exports to all areas of the globe.  Currently the country exports around 28% of the total output from the economy, with major trade partners including Australia (21%), US (14%), Japan (10%) and UK (5%).  This strong exposure to both exports and the field of agricultural products has left the country heavily exposed to both commodity prices and currency swings.

While the economy used to be highly regulated by the authorities with a very much hands on approach, this was changed some 30 years ago with the promotion of a free-market – with very limited government intervention.  The first years of converting to a free-market were fairly traumatic with unemployment rising to over 10% as businesses adjusted to the new environment.  It is safe to say that the free-market economy is very much alive in New Zealand, and one of the main reasons for the country’s recent economic growth. From this experience, New Zealand has been able to maintain a high standard of living with an average per capita GDP of $27,017 in 2008. This has kept the country relatively unscathed during the early recession of the decade and with the latest downturn, it has experienced a fall in GDP.

Historically New Zealand has suffered from a “brain drain” since the 1970s, with many nationals immigrating to places such as the UK where there were similar cultural traits.  However, this “brain drain” has been reversed and the last few years have seen a net immigration of professionally qualified foreign nationals.  These new skills have helped to create a more rounded economy, although the emphasis in agriculture is still very strong.  After a period of sustained growth, the economy is expected to slow over the next couple of years with growth rates of around 2% per annum expected.

New Zealand has a relatively standard income tax system with rates ranging from 0% to 39% on a sliding scale, with corporation tax in the region of 33%.  Research has shown that the New Zealand population feels that they get good value for money from the many state services supported by tax revenues.

Prospects in New Zealand

While often overshadowed by more prominent countries in the region, New Zealand has more to offer than people may have imagined.  The relative isolation of the country (in distance terms) has helped to control the crime trends, with gun and violent crimes in particular very rare in New Zealand.

The relatively safe society is further enhanced by a relaxed way of life, beautiful scenery and an economy that has shown substantial growth over the last few years.  Property prices are relatively good value, unemployment is low and the government has been spearheading a long term campaign to attract more foreign nationals.  In fact, the country’s property values have indicated that the country’s property values have recovered to their previous highest levels and buoying confidence that the economy has been able to lift itself up from its longest recession in the last three decades. To many, New Zealand offers the perfect country in which to relocate.

Key Facts on New Zealand:

Bordered by New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga (with Australia some 200 km away)

Food & Drink: Traditional Maori dishes including “Maori Hangi” & New Zealand Red Wine

Temperature: Sub zero to 30C

Industries: Agricultural products

Education: 12 years compulsory education

Health: Life expectancy 79 years

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Herbie December 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

My wife and I are thinking of moving to NZ. Our son and daughter in law are both US and NZ citizens. What are the requirements for us asparents to be retired non residents. What would be required for health care needs as I know Medicare will nt cover us down there. Home prices not low I know. We did see home we could afford as we just came back from a visit. However my concern is what do I need to do to reside near our son?

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