Life in New Zealand
Where space, time and quality of life meet.
New Zealand is a peaceful and beautiful country located in the South-West Pacific 3 hours flying time from the East Coast of Australia.
With a population of only 5 million and being 10% bigger than the UK (population 67million) there is plenty of space for everybody.
The country is made up of two major islands, innovatively called the North Island and the South Island. The principal language is English with the indigenous Māori language also spoken.
The country is very welcoming to people from overseas and has a myriad of people from different countries and cultures living there. Crime is low in comparison to the US and UK and the pace of life is much slower.
New Zealand Climate and Weather
New Zealand’s climate is sometimes described as being in the “Goldilocks Belt” - i.e., not too hot and not too cold. The climate varies quite considerably depending on where you live. In the North of the North Island, winters are mild with daytime temperatures of around 14-16 degrees Celsius whereas in the South of the South Island it snows in winter. Summers can be hot with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in the summer months in some parts of the country.
Because New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons may be opposite to the countries you come from. The warmest months are December, January and February and the coldest are June, July and August.
New Zealand has a high-quality publicly funded universal healthcare system that is one of the top 20
healthcare systems in the world, on par with the United States and the United Kingdom.
Government funding means that the healthcare system is free or low cost if you hold a work visa valid for two years or more, are a citizen, or a resident. Dependent family members of an eligible work visa holder are also covered by the publicly funded health system if they have a visa of the correct duration.
The two years is calculated taking account of previous visas you may have held, as long as they were
You also have the option of taking medical insurance for private healthcare, although many New
Zealanders choose not to.
If you do not qualify for publicly funded health care, you can still use our healthcare services but at a cost.
Publicly funded health services
Free treatment at public hospitals. For non-emergency/urgent procedures, you may need to wait for treatment.
Subsidised prescription medication
Subsidised doctor visits and prescriptions for children under the age of 14
No charge for health care during pregnancy and childbirth (within the public sector)
No charge for most laboratory tests at public health facilities
Subsidised fees for visits to GPs
Subsidised fees for visits to physiotherapists and other specialists when referred by a GP
ACC – Accidents
ACC is a no-fault scheme that covers everyone, including visitors, who are injured in an accident in
New Zealand. It includes events that result in mass casualties. The scheme covers a range of medical,
health and treatment costs for children, beneficiaries, students, working people, tourists,
unemployed, or retired, as long as the cause was an accident.
ACC helps to pay for costs to get you back on your feet. It can include payment towards medical bills,
treatment, help at home and work and help with your income.
The New Zealand education system is known for high-quality and globally recognised qualifications.
The New Zealand government has strong quality assurance systems to ensure high-quality education
at all levels, both public and private.
All 8 of New Zealand’s universities are ranked in the top 3% in the world globally and New Zealand ranks 7 th for highest performing graduates; ahead of the US, Canada and England, so you can feel confident about the education system in place.
Studying is free for children from the age of 5-18 for New Zealand residents, citizens and children classed as ‘Domestic Students’.
The New Zealand school year starts in late January/early February and runs through until December. Schools are able to choose a start date between the Monday closest to 29 January and the day after Waitangi Day (6 February) and must close no later than 20 December in any year.
It is compulsory for students to attend school from age 6-16. Children may take time off school if they are sick, but the school may require a medical certificate, particularly for absences at exam time or of 3 days or more in length. It is not generally permitted to take children out of school for holidays during term time.
Most primary and secondary schools have four terms, with a two-week holiday break between each of the terms during the year. The end of year summer holiday is generally 6-8 weeks. While all school start and finish dates will be similar, they are not identical – a school can set its own dates as long as it is open for the required number of half-days each year.
Schools may also close for several days during the year for teacher training/upskilling. These dates are notified to parents in advance.
Types of school
State Schools are government funded and make up the vast majority of New Zealand schools. They are usually mixed-sex at primary and intermediate level, but some offer single- sex education at secondary level. Lessons are based on the New Zealand Curriculum.
Special Schools are state school that provide education for students with special needs aged preschool - 21. They may be a standalone school or have a class or unit sited at a mainstream school to achieve wider geographic coverage. Special Schools are reserved for the most disabled children and can usually only be accessed by NZ Citizens and resident visa holders.
Integrated Schools are schools that used to be private and have now become part of the state system. They teach the New Zealand Curriculum, but under the umbrella of what is usually philosophical or religious belief. Some integrated schools charge annual fees for attendance.
Private Schools charge fees and are governed by their own independent boards but must meet certain standards in order to be registered. Private schools may be either mixed-sex or single-sex.
Boarding Schools may either be private or part of a state-funded school. There are a number of boarding schools in New Zealand and all charge fees.
In most circumstances children are required to attend the school they are zoned for. If you choose to live outside of the zone of your preferred school, your children may not be eligible for a place in that school. Any spare places at popular schools are generally allocated by ballot and it is not guaranteed that siblings can attend the same school if attending from out of zone.
School Age in New Zealand
Most common age structures of different schools
Pre-school/kindergarten: pre-school is not compulsory, and it can be attended by children aged 2-5 either at a government funded kindergarten, or a private childcare centre.
Primary School: Years 0-6, attended usually from ages 5-10, although it is not compulsory for a child to be enrolled until their 6 th birthday.
Intermediate School: Curriculum years 7-8 and usually ages 11-12.
Secondary Schools: Curriculum years 9-13 ages 13-18. Secondary School - or “High School” or “College” is compulsory until the age of 16.
Visas and Immigration
You and your family members must have the right kind visa to enter New Zealand to live, work or study here. You need to apply for this in advance. You can apply by yourself, or you can use Licensed Immigration Advisers like us to help you with the process.
There are many factors to consider when determining which visa option(s) is best for you, including:
when you want to come and how long you want to stay
your country of origin
your work and study plans, and
if you want to bring your partner or family with you to New Zealand.
The main visa categories in New Zealand are as follows:
Visitor Visas and Visa Waiver Visas (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority)
Working Holiday Visas
Work Visas, and
Like any other country, New Zealand visas and immigration rules change constantly. We will be happy to discuss the requirements for a visa and help you determine the best option tailored to your circumstances.
When you already hold the appropriate visa(s), it’s also important to pay attention to the conditions of your visa which will be written on the visa itself, and in the accompanying approval letter if you have one. Some common examples:
There might be a specific date you have to arrive in New Zealand by otherwise your visa will not be valid.
Your visa may be valid for a certain amount of time after you arrive in New Zealand rather than having a set end date. For example, “visa valid for further travel for 9 month(s) from first arrival. This visa expires 9 month(s) after first arrival. Therefore, you have to set a reminder to renew your visa depending on your arrival date, not the date your visa was issued. If an Immigration professional helped you get your visa, they may remind you.
Your visa may name a specific employer and job you are allowed to do, and a specific location you are allowed to work in. If you want to change companies, change jobs, change work location or even get promoted or moved within your same company you will need to get permission from Immigration to change your visa first. This may require a Variation of Conditions or a whole new visa application, depending on the circumstances. If you do make changes without permission both you and your employer can be held in breach. That can lead to fines and loss of Employer Accreditation for employers, and visa declines, cancellation and deportation for visa holders.
Your visa may have travel conditions with an expiry date. This is usually for resident visa holders rather than temporary visa holders. You are typically allowed to live and work in New Zealand indefinitely after you get residence as long as you don’t leave the country. But there will also usually be travel conditions which allow you to travel in and out for a certain period of time (usually for 2, 4 or 10 years depending on your visa type). If you have travel conditions and you leave the country after they have expired, Immigration NZ will not let you back in and your residence will expire. So, it’s very important you check these and apply for a Permanent Resident Visa or other similar visa extending or removing the travel conditions. This will not happen automatically; you have to apply for it. Some people have been stuck overseas in difficult circumstances because they forgot about it and left the country.
Crime in New Zealand
By global standards around crime and violence, most of New Zealand is considered as safe and peaceful. In fact, New Zealand is considered the most peaceful country in the Asia-Pacific region and is the 4th most peaceful country overall, according to the 2023 Global Peace Index.
A variety of factors contribute to a low crime rate, including low population density (the country has just over 5 million inhabitants), a stable government, strong economy and a peaceful culture that values diversity and equality.
New Zealand also has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, hence gun violence is extremely rare in the country.
Relocating to New Zealand is a great option for families who are seeking a safe and secure environment for their children, a high quality of life and peace of mind.
Sport and Recreation
What are popular sports in New Zealand?
The range of sports played in New Zealand reflects to a large extent British colonial heritage, with rugby, cricket, football, basketball and netball among the most popular participant and spectator sports.
Rugby is considered as the national sport of New Zealand and the national rugby team known as the “All Blacks,” has the best winning record of any national team in the world. Many people in New Zealand associate Rugby with their national identity and take great pride in supporting this sport.
What other recreational activities is New Zealand known for?
With an abundance of mountains, sports such as skiing, and snowboarding are also very popular in winter.
New Zealand has 13 national parks, and more than one-third of the country is protected in parks and reserves. Wherever you are in the country, there will be a surf beach, a mountain biking trail or a river full of fish nearby.
Queenstown is located in the South Island of New Zealand and has been dubbed “The adventure capital of the world” attracting many tourists due to its exhilarating activities such as bungy jumping, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, skiing, water sports, rafting, boating, all while checking out some of the most stunning views in the world.
The New Zealand Workplace
With a fair, flexible and relaxed view on life, coupled with open policy on cultural diversity, New Zealand has one of the best work cultures in the world.
To fit successfully into a job here you’ll need to be aware of some differences and be prepared to adjust to the New Zealand way of working.
One thing your employer and work colleagues will be looking for is a positive, ‘can do’ attitude that’s made Kiwis well-liked employees wherever they travel.
The size of New Zealand businesses and organisations has a big impact on our particular way of
working, as a huge number of New Zealand businesses average under 14 employees. For example:
You’re closer to the senior people who make the decisions. That can be a real advantage because it means there’s more chance you can be noticed and have an influence on things.
There are fewer organisational layers. So, whatever your particular role, you have a better overview of the organisation and what other people are doing. You’re also able to feel more involved and more part of the organisation, rather than being just one small cog in a giant machine.
Smaller businesses mean less specialisation. As a result, you’ll probably be challenged to do a wider range of things related to your role. That will give you opportunities to expand your skill set. But you will have to be flexible and prepared.
Because teams here tend to be smaller, getting on with other people at work is very important.
How do I communicate in the workplace?
New Zealanders have a strong independent streak. That affects the way we like to be managed, and the management style you’re likely to find at work.
Status, rank and hierarchies are much less important in Kiwi workplaces than elsewhere. Managers are respected by the staff, but they are seen as one of the team.
We nearly always address superiors, colleagues and clients by their first names. We treat everyone the same and will judge you on your ability and what you achieve in your job, rather than your previous qualifications, experience or status.
Management style is usually informal, and so is the workplace. We dress quite casually, probably more so than you’re used to, and regularly mix socially with people from work. Many workplaces have a relaxed, almost family atmosphere.
In New Zealand workplaces it is expected that everyone will contribute ideas and feedback, although we are more likely to make a suggestion than tell someone directly how things should change.
To find out more about how to communicate effectively in the workplace, Immigration New Zealand have developed a website where employees and employers can learn about barriers to good workplace communication.
Courtesy of: New Zealand Now.
Māori and Pasifika art influences design, performance, art and music in New Zealand. The arts are flourishing in the major cities and in smaller towns. There are hundreds of public and private galleries and museums around the country – many of them small but with excellent collections. And virtually every town and city has some sort for festival during the year – food & wine, fashion, jazz and culture festivals are commonplace. The cities of Wellington and Auckland in particular host international arts festivals in alternate years, attracting big-name acts, and there are a host of other local and speciality festivals.
New Zealand has a world-class national orchestra and national ballet company, a national opera company and several quality regional orchestras. All main centres have professional theatre companies and there are excellent galleries and museums in most centres.
The New Zealand film industry is thriving and is receiving major international acclaim. New Zealand has been placed firmly on the map as the perfect film location, with notable movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, Wolverine and the Last Samurai to name a few. As part of New Zealand tourism, more often than not you will have the opportunity to visit locations where particular scenes were filmed.
New Zealand is also home to world-class production and special effects facilities such as Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, which has worked on films such as Avatar, King Kong and the Avengers, as well as Park Road Production which has worked on films such as District 9 and The Adventures of Tintin.
The New Zealand culture is open-minded and welcoming to people of all countries and cultures. Its cultural influences are predominantly European and Māori, with increasing influences from the Pacific Islands and Asian countries whose people have settled in New Zealand in the last 30 years.
New Zealanders are generally relaxed, positive people who love to work hard, spend time with friends and family and enjoy the beautiful country they live in. New Zealanders – or Kiwis, as they’re often known – balance time at work with time to relax and unwind. They love exploring the outdoors, playing or watching sport, engaging in art and culture, and generally making the most of life. They’re friendly and open-minded but can sometimes seem a bit reserved and shy. They can be superficially friendly but take longer to make an in-depth friendship.
Who are Māori?
Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, they settled from East Polynesia in the 14th century AD, some 300 years before Europeans arrived in 1642. Their language and culture has a major impact on all facets of life, therefore it's important to know, understand and respect Māori customs and how to interact in Māori culture.
Māori culture carries a strong sense of family (whanau) and pride in history and iwi (tribe) links. Important myths and legends are passed down through generations by way of oral storytelling and observing cultural and special customs.
To find out more about New Zealand, Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand is the complete guide to New Zealand’s people, environment, history, culture and society.
The Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Around 1840, there were 125,000 Māori and about 2000 settlers in New Zealand. Sealers and whalers were the first European settlers, followed by missionaries. Merchants also arrived to trade natural resources such as flax and timber from Māori in exchange for clothing, guns and other products.
As more immigrants settled permanently in New Zealand, they weren’t always fair in their dealings with Māori over land. A number of Māori chiefs sought protection from William IV, the King of England, and recognition of their special trade and missionary contacts with Britain. They feared a takeover by nations like France and wanted to stop the lawlessness of the British people in their country.
As British settlement in New Zealand increased, the British Government decided to negotiate a formal agreement with Māori chiefs to become a British Colony. A treaty was drawn up in English then translated into Māori.
The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6, 1840, at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Forty-three Northland Chiefs signed the treaty on that day. Over 500 Māori Chiefs signed it as it was taken around the country during the next eight months.
The Treaty of Waitangi is a very important document in New Zealand history. Today government departments including schools, hospitals, the police and other services must take into account the treaty of Waitangi when making decisions to ensure the interests and welfare of Māori are heard and respected.
Since 1840 some aspects of the treaty have been broken and as a result the Waitangi Tribunal was
set up in 1975 to hear grievances. It has ruled on several claims brought by Māori iwi (tribes), and in
many cases, compensation has been granted.
There are three official languages in New Zealand – English, Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.
If you speak fluent English, you will have no problem communicating in New Zealand. However, New Zealanders have a strong accent and speak very quickly, often using slang or words in te reo Māori (the Māori language) that can be confusing if you're new here.
Here is a link to A Beginner’s Guide to the Kiwi Language.
It is also beneficial if you know some key words and phrases in Māori and this will help you assimilate and show respect to the people of New Zealand. Many placenames and signs are in Māori rather than English and many Māori words are used in newspapers, school newsletters and government publications without being translated and most New Zealanders will understand them.
Not all New Zealanders believe it is important to pronounce Māori words correctly, but it is generally appreciated when new arrivals make the effort. For some common Māori greetings and words you may come across, please refer to this useful guide: https://nztraveltips.com/maori-words/
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
New Zealand has a universal goods and services tax of 15% which is applied to all purchases, including imported online shopping. There are no exemptions for essential items such as food or medicine.
There are exemptions for financial services and a small number of other things such as rent on your
main home, airfares for overseas travel, or mortgage payments. You can find more information
about GST here: https://www.ird.govt.nz/gst
Income Tax rates for individuals
Taxes are monies collected by the government to be able to pay for public services such as schools, hospitals roads and social welfare etc.
Everybody who earns money from working in New Zealand is expected to pay tax. The amount of money you pay in tax largely depends on how much you earn.
Income tax rates are the percentages of tax that you must pay. The rates are based on your total income for the tax year. Your income could include:
salary or wages
a Work and Income benefit (citizens or people who have held a resident visa for 2 years only)
interest from a bank account or investment
earnings from self-employment
money from renting out property
Some income is taxed before you get paid. This includes salaries, wages, Work and Income benefits, schedular payments and interest. The amount of tax your employer or payer deducts depends on the tax code and income information you gave them.
You might get a refund or have tax to pay at the end of the tax year if you've been taxed at the wrong rate during the year. It's important to use the correct tax code.
Other income is not taxed before you get paid. This includes income from self-employment or renting out property, and some overseas income. You pay tax on this income at the end of the tax year. The amount of tax you pay depends on your total income for the tax year.
New Zealand has progressive or gradual tax rates. The rates increase as your income increases.
The most common situation for new arrivals in New Zealand will be earning income as an employee. The tax is deducted from your wages by your employer and paid directly to the government tax department (Inland Revenue Department or IRD) on your behalf. This type of tax is called income tax and the method used to collect it is called PAYE (Pay As You Earn).
You do not need to file an annual tax return if your only income is earned as an employee. However, if you have any other income such as overseas pension, money from business or other sources you may want to take professional advice from a tax accountant.
To find out how much income tax you will pay, click on the link to the IRD Income tax calculator
Cost of Living
New Zealand’s cost of living is relatively affordable compared to other developed countries, but the cost of living will vary according to which region you are going to live in. The major cities of Auckland and Wellington tend to be more expensive than the provincial centres and towns.
You can find out more about the cost of living from a government website by clicking on the linkbelow:
This website will allow you to calculate your net salary, see your tax deductions, and then provide the average costs for food, groceries, clothing & footwear, accommodation, utilities, health, transport and other costs in your location.
Note that their calculator includes KiwiSaver deductions as a default setting. You can only join Kiwisaver if you are a New Zealand Citizen or have a Resident Visa. If you will be on a temporary visa, then click the “Opt out” to remove the deduction from your net income.
This is another cost of living guide from a private money transfer company:
You can also look up living costs for various items on individual websites.