Some new migrants find that the cost of living in New Zealand is higher than anticipated. Overall costs are relatively low, but salaries for some professions may be less than in other countries. While locally sourced goods are fairly cheap, imported items can be expensive. The cost of living also tends to be higher in the north, with Auckland considered the most expensive place to live.
The majority of houses in New Zealand are bungalows with a garden plot, although flats and apartments are more common in the cities. Some expats are surprised to find that many older homes lack double glazing, central heating and air conditioning, so take this into account when looking for somewhere to live. Prices vary dramatically across the country, but in 2013 the national median rental price for a 3-bedroom home was $357 (≈£183.28) per week, and the national median house price was $392,000 (≈£201,243.78) (DBH).
Most foreign nationals initially rent property when they move to New Zealand, and the Residential Tenancies Act provides significant support and protection for both landlords and tenants. The government-run Building and Housing Group provides standard contract terms to both parties, holds the deposit (known as a tenancy bond) and offers a dispute resolution service. The process for buying a house is also well regulated.
Tenants can be asked for a maximum of 4 weeks’ rent as a bond. At the end of the rental, you can claim your bond back provided that no damage has been caused to the property.
To fund local council services, properties in New Zealand can be subject to a range of local rates depending on the area and authority. Usually the rate will be determined by property value. For more information, visit the localcouncils.govt.nz website.
Utility providers vary from region to region. Water supply is often provided by companies owned or affiliated to local authorities, whereas gas, electricity, telephone and internet services are usually provided by privately-owned companies that compete on price. Websites like Powerswitch and TelMe may be useful for finding the best deals.
New Zealand no longer charges a licence fee for television. It completed its digital switchover in 2013, greatly improving the quality of service across areas affected rugged terrain. The Freeview service and some regional channels are free to watch, but satellite services must be paid for.
Healthcare and medical costs
New Zealand offers state-funded healthcare through a network of District Health Boards (DHBs). Although hospital care is usually free, other services including appointments with doctors, prescriptions and dental care usually incur a fee. In some areas, ambulance callouts may also be charged. Although private healthcare is generally more expensive, treatment can be significantly quicker.
Foreign nationals living in New Zealand for the long-term may entitled to healthcare subsidies depending on their immigration status. New Zealand also has reciprocal healthcare agreements with some countries, giving their citizens greater access to services. To find out what you are entitled to, visit the Ministry of Health website.
New Zealand is home to some international chain stores but may have slightly less choice on the high street than elsewhere in the world. For food shopping, there are several large supermarket chains as well as local convenience stores known as ‘dairies’. Dairies remain open for longer but produce can be expensive. For a more authentic experience, try your local Farmers’ Market.
Goods and services tax (GST) is a value-added tax charged on goods and services in New Zealand, including most imported goods and many imported services. GST is added to the price of taxable goods and services at a rate of 15%.
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – $1,311.11 (≈£673.09) per month
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – $1,065.91 (≈£547.21) per month
- Price of apartment in city centre – $4,350.97 (≈£2,233.69) per square metre
- Price of apartment outside city centre – $2,932.20 (≈£1,505.32) per square metre
- Loaf of bread – $2.56 (≈£1.31)
- Milk (1 litre) – $2.40 (≈£1.23)
- Bottled water (1.5 litre) – $2.38 (≈£1.22)
- Draught beer (0.5 litre) – $7.00 (≈£3.59)
- Packet of cigarettes – $18.00 (≈£9.24)
- Petrol (1 litre) – $2.17 (≈£1.11)
- Cinema ticket – $16.00 (≈£8.21)
Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed May 2014)
Budgeting and savings
The Consumer NZ website offers money-saving tips, consumer advice and price comparison services for a range of sectors in New Zealand.