Home sweet home   15 Nov 2005

Ellie van Baaren

You’ve landed and breathed in the fresh, sweet air of home, but what now? There has never been a better time to live in New Zealand and even though it’s not as hustling and bustling as the UK, there is still a lot of fun to be had. In the last of our series on coming home ELLIE VAN BAAREN looks at the realities of living in New Zealand.

I know and you know that you are glad to be home, so why the panic attacks? Because contrary to what you might have been expecting, things have changed.

Things may not move as fast in New Zealand as they do in the big cities of the world, but Aotearoa has not been standing still while you were living it up on the other side of the world. The economy is up, unemployment is at a record low and even if you’re still after the city life rather than open pastures, you’ll find what you need.

The economy

Since 2000 New Zealand’s economic growth has averaged 3.8 per cent, which is 1.4 per cent above the OECD average and higher than Australia (3.2 per cent), the UK (2.7 per cent) and the US (2.7 per cent).

During that time, more than 270,000 people have become employed, which is an increase of 15 per cent. During the 12 months to December 2004 alone, the number of people in employment rose by 87,000, or 3.4 per cent, against 0.9 per cent in the UK during the same period. There has been a steady increase in fulltime work (up 3.8 per cent) and increasing opportunities for part-time employment (up 6.9 per cent).

The employment market

Statistics New Zealand have just come out with a new figure for unemployment – 3.6 per cent. It’s a 23-year low and just goes to prove what the news has been saying for months – New Zealand needs more skilled workers.

The growth in jobs has been across most sectors, but District Health Boards in particular are very keen on recruiting, especially in specialist fields.

The best places to search for employment are www.seek.co.nz, the New Zealand Herald on Mondays and Wednesdays (for the Auckland region), and the local paper for your area (for example the Dominion Post, Christchurch Press, Otago Daily Times, The Southland Times).

City life

You already know New Zealand is no backwater, but, depending on how long you’ve been away, you’ll notice that Kiwi cities are catching up with the rest of the world.

You won’t need to worry about being able to find your favourite labels (although Ikea is one store you’ll have to do without), plus you won’t have to deal with the Oxford Street crowds, and restaurants, bars, clubs and cafés abound.

The food is just getting better. Regardless of how big the town is, you’ll find large portions of decent, fresh food, served with a smile at reasonable prices.

And for those of you who have been putting up with what the English call coffee, you’ll find a decent strong flat white at any café you sit down at. Enjoy!

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Day by day

The most common complaint I hear from people returning home from the UK is that it’s not half as cheap to live in New Zealand as they thought it would be.

Whatever you do, don’t be blinded by your British pounds, very shortly you’ll be back to earning the Kiwi dollar again.

Don’t worry, New Zealand is nowhere the same league as London. The British capital is the third most-expensive city to live in, while Sydney is the 20th. Auckland is the most expensive New Zealand city at 69 while Wellington is 72nd.

But you can be sure that prices have gone up since you last lived at home To see how much, here is a list of a few essential items with cost comparisons to London.

Latte £2.50 v NZ$3.50

Red Wine (2004) £2 v NZ$12

Bottle of Coke £1.06 v NZ$2.20

Daily Newspaper (Tabloid/Broadsheet) 30p to £1 v NZ$1.10

1 Litre Milk 60p (2 Pints) v NZ$2

500g Mince £3.86 v NZ$4.50

Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar 40p v NZ$1.70

Pint of Beer £3 v NZ$4

Big Mac £1.60 v NZ$3.75

Haircut £20 (M), £35 (W) v NZ$40 (M), NZ$ 65 (W)

Cellphone £80 to £200 v NZ$100 to NZ$500

Movie Ticket £5 to £8.50 v NZ$12 to NZ$15

Bottle of Water (2L) £6.49 v NZ$3.25

Loaf of Bread 60p v NZ$2.50

1 Zone on Bus £1.20 v NZ$1

Petrol (per litre) 94p v NZ$1.40

Entry into Central City £8 v NZ – Free!!

1kg Roasting Potatoes 88p v NZ$1

A roof over your head

The cost of everyday things is not the only thing that has risen during the past few years. The property market is booming, which is great if you already own property, but not so great if you’re looking to acquire it. As with moving anywhere, once you’ve had enough of staying with your parents (let’s face it, regardless of age, that’s normally where you end up for a time) you’ll either be looking to do one of two things – rent or buy.

Buying: As clichéd as it is, it’s all about location, location, location. Auckland is still by far the most expensive place to buy, but other cities such as Wellington and Christchurch are catching up. And if you have visions of reliving those childhood summers on the beach, you better start saving ... fast.

The average New Zealand house price country is $290,000, but it breaks down like this: Auckland – $375,000, Wellington – $308,000, Christchurch – $260,000.

Mortgage rates are hovering around the 8.75 per cent for floating and 7.7 per cent for a five-year fixed mortgage. The cheapest bank at the moment is Kiwibank with ASB’s internet bank Bankdirect not far behind.

Renting: Rents of course vary wildly according to the area and the landlord, plus don’t forget in back home prices will be quote by the week not the month (so you don’t have to worry about per calendar month catching you out).

At the moment the national average rent for a three bedrom house is $275 per week. In the cities it breaks down as: Auckland – $479, Wellington – $428, Christchurch – $274.

If you’re keen on living in the centre city then you’re looking at an apartment. the national average for a two-bedroom place is $354 a month. Citywise: Auckland – $406, Wellington – $415, Christchurch – $313.

JUST A PHONE CALL AWAY

Landline phone calls within your own city are still free in New Zealand, but as with anywhere else in the world, mobile phones are common place. There are only two companies to choose from, Vodafone (021) and Telecom (027, 0274, 029), but competition for the consumer dollar is fierce. Here’s a sample of prices you can expect:

Vodafone Pre-pay: $1.39 pm peak/49c pm off peak or 89c pm for an anytime scheme. All texts are 20c.

Vodafone contract: Ranges between $20 per month for a Get 70 plan (20 free off peak minutes, 20 free texts) to $39.95 for a Motormouth plan (200 free min and 200 free texts.

Telecom Pre-pay: $1.39 pm peak/49c pm off peak or 89c pm for an anytime plan.

Telecom contract: from $20 per month for a Go 100 plan (100 free minutes) to $40 per month for a Go 300 (300 free minutes).

Telecom extras: $10 for up to 500 texts a month, which can be applied to either a monthly or pre pay account.

As you can see, prices are pretty similar, but as a general rule Vodafone has better coverage. Telecom is catching up fast though. Both companies have released "third generation" phones.

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