Brought to public attention as the filming location for Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, New Zealand – in the Māori tongue Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud –has much to offer.
New Zealand is literally half a world away from the UK which, depending on how you feel about things, could be the biggest single incentive to actually relocate there! When it comes to distance, though, New Zealand is pretty far from everywhere. Mainland Britain is just 22 miles away from nearest neighbour, France; New Zealand, in comparison, is 1,180 miles from Australia – nobody, even covered in goose grease, is going to swim that!
The two main islands that make up New Zealand have an area of 166,950 square miles, not that dissimilar to that of the UK. The big difference, though, is that more than half of the country is given over to pasture and arable farmland, while a further quarter is taken up by forest. Plus, roughly one tenth of New Zealand is considered ‘alpine’ terrain; the South Island has a thick spine of mountains running most of its length, great for skiing and climbing.
Summer is inverted compared with the UK, starting in December. Throughout the year temperatures will range from eight Celsius to highs of 23 Celsius in January with the added bonus of far more sunshine during winter months. Pale and pasty Europeans should take care of themselves in the rays!
New Zealand has a population of roughly 4.3 million; the majority live in the more urbanised North Island. The main language is English.
New Zealand is home to around 50,000 Maori who arrived in the country roughly 1,000 years ago and are still the largest non-European group.
New Zealand is an independent, constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth. The head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, is represented by a Governor General who summons and dissolves the New Zealand parliament and assents to legislation on her behalf.
Anybody who is 18 or older has the right to vote, including permanent residents who fulfil certain criteria that also apply to New Zealand citizens. To be eligible to vote you will have to have lived in the country for at least a year at some point, have visited the country in the last three years and been present for at least one month in the electorate you wish to be enrolled in.
The New Zealand justice system is based on the English model and is independent of the government.
New Zealand has a non-contributory healthcare scheme, with benefits financed directly from general taxation. Immigrants are not eligible to receive unemployment or sickness benefit until they have resided in the country for at least two years.
Anyone can access healthcare services as soon as a residence permit is granted. Visits to the doctor are chargeable with costs that range from NZD$10 for children (six years and older) to NZD$45 for adult. Should you need to stay in hospital for treatment you can choose whether to use a free public hospital or pay for private treatment.
Although healthcare is praised, roughly 60% of the population choose to supplement it with private health insurance.
Most children begin formal education at the tender age of two and a half years, starting primary school at five. Education is free at state schools, though there is a movement towards charging “optional fees” to cover extra equipment and facilities.
New Zealand has eight Universities and 20 Polytechnics, Institutes of Technology and Colleges, offering a broad range of courses in professional, technical, vocational and trade areas. There are also many private tertiary education providers registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority; these could be ideal if you’re looking to train in a completely different field after military discharge.
The cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all have international airports. Several domestic airlines operate across the country, with ferries also available between the main islands.
British or International Drivers Licences remain valid for 12 months after arrival, but once this expires you must pass a theory and practical test in order to obtain a full licence. You can apply for an exemption from the practical test if you’ve held a full UK licence for at least two years.
As in the UK, you drive on the left hand side of the road; speed limits are normally 62mph on highways and 31mph in built-up areas. There are strict penalties imposed for speeding, not wearing a seatbelt or drink-driving.
The standard of living is high and the costs involved are relatively low. One pound sterling is worth NZD$ 0.42. A suggested weekly budget for a family of four is set at around NZ$900 (£379).
The national average for a family home (around 170 square metres) – wooden construction, three/four bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, bathroom/toilet and lounge – is around NZD$340,000 (£143,180).
NEW ZEALAND TOP TEN
Auckland: known as the city of sails, Auckland is surrounded by subtropical island and beautiful forests. New Zealand’s biggest city (population 1,320,000). www.aucklandcity.govt.nz
Christchurch: offers a mix of historic and exciting city life, the second-largest city in New Zealand and largest on the South Island. www.ccc.govt.nz
Dunedin: home of the University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand, this vibrant city offers classical architecture and cultural heritage. www.cityofdunedin.com
Hamilton: a major centre for the agricultural region of Waikato, this city straddles the banks of the Waikato river. www.hamilton.co.nz
Invercargill: New Zealand’s southernmost city and a bustling provincial hub for the rural Southland community. www.icc.govt.nz
Nelson: renowned for its natural produce, national parks and beaches with year-round sunshine, Nelson’s relaxed communal character has attracted a large creative community of working artists. www.nelsoncitycouncil.co.nz
New Plymouth: the urban centre of the Taranaki region, where dairy farming and energy are the two main industries. The dramatic Mount Taranaki dominates the skyline and hints at a lifestyle based on a love of the great outdoors. www.newplymouthnz.com
Palmerston North: one of the country’s largest provincial cities, Palmerston North is situated in the rural Manawatu region. Massey University students give the city a lively flavour. www.pncc.govt.nz
Tauranga: New Zealand’s favourite holiday destination, thanks to its position at the mouth of a natural harbour and the warm coastal climate and white beaches. www.tauranga.govt.nz
Wellington: the nation’s capital is situated at the edge of a harbour and is enclosed by green hills. Though small, Wellington continues to be the cultural heart of New Zealand.
EMIGRATING TO NEW ZEALAND
The New Zealand immigration system is fairly complicated. You can apply for permanent residence under several categories:
- Skilled Migrant: this is the most popular visa class for permanent residents. You must be under 56 years old and meet the health, character and English language requirements before lodging an ‘Expression of Interest’ with Immigration New Zealand.
- Family: you can apply as a partner of a New Zealand citizen or resident, if you have a parent or sibling who is a permanent resident or if you’re the parent of adult children living in New Zealand.
- Business: permanent residency is also open to business owners, company directors or those with a successful history of self-employment and business ownership. There’s no minimum capital investment, though you will have to submit a viable, well-researched business plan and sufficient funds to establish the business. You can also apply for Permanent Residency
For further information and to select the most relevant category for you, visit: www.immigration.govt.nz
I’ve never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there.
(Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State)
“New Zealand is not a small country but a large village.” (Peter Jackson, film maker)
“That was the big effect Lord of the Rings had on me. It was discovering New Zealand. And even more precious were the people – not at all like the Australians.” (Sir Ian McKellen, actor)
“Altogether too many sheep.” (George Bernard Shaw, playwright)
“I myself prefer my New Zealand eggs for breakfast.” (HM The Queen)
Adventurous types might be disappointed with the lack of wilderness action; there are no snakes, scorpions, bears, alligators, crocodiles, dragons, giants or orcs. They do have spiders, but only one can give you a nasty (and non-fatal) nip.