During August of 2009 we ventured to NZ to holiday but also as a test bed to see if emigration was all it was cracked up to be, we had been considering emigrating for some time but were concerned about some key issues. One being Housing and the quality of and wages. The trip I am glad to say answered all needed questions and has given us so much to consider.
This is about NZ in realation to emigration not as a holiday, I mean just to list a few things we did whilst there -
Freefall Skydive over Mount Cook
Helicopter trip and landing on volcano
The Aybss, caverns waitamo
Full day kayacking in the Milford sound
Full day Glacier trip
Driving all over both islands
slept in a bomber
slept in train
private Horse riding session - waitamo (dont ask)....etc etc etc.
there was so muh done and so much missed as we had no time left...we need to go back and we will...but this review is in relation to the emigration possibilities not NZ as a tourist destination. So to start....
I will start with best bit regarding NZ, it is stunning as in the landscape, the reason why so many millions of people tour around the country is because it is breathtaking, you feel you want to stop the van at every turn for a picture and just when you get back in to the van a better view shows itself forcing on you another stop, this does get irritating but is testimount to the scenery and you just cant help yourself...It is as if a proffesional award winning landscape gardener has personaly created the country side. NZ by its nature is very hilly and a tourist map lies to you constantly with its straight roads...yeh whatever.....it is constantly undulating and so the roads are constantly winding through this hilly and mountainous country, the hills are mowed to perfection by the millions of sheep so it looks like the country side has had a hover mower over it, gorgeous, the trees and the variety is just delightful and leaves you stunned as you drive passed, Palms mixed with giant ferns mixed with british and american classics. We were there in the winter but the weather was stunning but what this meant was that the low sunlight casting shadows through the valleys and hills just makes your mouth water, the camera needed to give this place justification was not on my person, my point and shot did not stand a chance bless, but we tried ohh we tried we clicked and clicked...but what the camera saw and what the eye saw were so so so different...
Of course when you drive through the Islands you move through all its seasonal areas and micro climates these changing for you as you go, the types of trees and foliage change the hills change the mountains enter, its a constant feast of scenery it seems to never end, your eyes most of time dont seem wide enough as you struggle to get it all in one view neck stretching out of van windows becomes the norm. Its a rustic untamed country some ares have never been stood on by man, the bush at the side of road is thick, not like english forests, you would struggle to get more than 30 metres into it and you would get lost in a heartbeat and many people have.
The roads are empty most of the time although not completely vacant of vehicles, even in the winter there were people on the roads even on the wilds of the West Coast, but when you drive off the Highways and onto rural roads as we did (unsealed roads) you did feel rather alone for hours on end...
The beaches were golden and mostly empty, we strolled along so many alone and they were un-managed so full of drift wood, so lush.
The montainous areas are fascinating and so suddenly upon you, not as high as the Alps but stunning in the way they just raise up on you like a wall of rock and the fact that in the south Island you can get a peak of them as a constant backdrop is lush, we had a flyby of Mount Cook and on the way back they threw us out of the plane a free fall with a stunning view..
Average housing costs are about NZ$300,000 - $500,000 the exchange rate when we were there was 2.4, so if you have £100,000 youll get $240,000 in NZ, we dont have that money.
We earn as a houshold approximatly £55,000 a year gross here in UK, from what we saw in NZ and we asked alot of people as well as approaching the unemployment bureau and asking everyone we met what they earned including kids in petrol stations (minimum wage mostly $12.50 P/hour)we saw crap wages....really really poor and a high lack of non full time hours being offered, and more often than not very bad contracts being negotiated, our income converts to $124,000 per year gross but in NZ wed earn no more than $80,000 between us...a tough call to consider. We understand you cant compare like for like that but it helps. It seems unfair maybe to mention this but we found of all the Brits (and tourists) making money through buisness ideas that were all linked to getting money out of Brits like us either coming on holiday or throught the emigration process, this spells trouble to me as it means that most people cant earn a good wage working for NZ companies, for example we stayed in Hostal in the South Island where this British guy had basically given up his home and called it a hostal, he with his wife stayed at the back of the garden in a shed type out house, and they made there money from US tourists (non taxable as well)...as it was the winter there were workers staying in the hostal who were getting up at 5am to go and work in a fish factory!! earning shitte money, one irish guy said he could not earn enough to get out of the country, he couldnt wait to leave to tell everyone he could what a rip off NZ wages were.
Even the owner told us of how when he arrived in NZ he to got a job and got screwed, he knew the law and had to take the company to court through a long winded process which tainted his rosy view of NZ, and now he makes cash in hand money (nontaxable) from US the rich Europeans and Brits... - he claims hed never go back to the UK, but I would hazard at a guess and say he couldnt afford it now, hes stuck, trapped in a highly taxed lowly populated badly paid country miles from anywhere, it makes you think eh.
But as everyone seemed to tell us its not about the money its the lifestyle, but if you cant afford to ski and surf and take long tramping holidays.....? is it so good? - but then its not about the poverty or the struggle neither is it, from all the success stories weve come across it seems that there are two camps - either people already have serious amounts of money in the bank before they go and set themselves up nicely on the exchange rate or people go before having set up in the UK, i.e they marry someone or go there when they are young with nothing and know no different building a life in NZ on its terms and accepting them, but if you have something to lose, is it worth it? in our opinion at present NO.
NZ is only a better life if you have money, i.e enough money to buy a house outright in NZ, due to the housing boom over the last few years alot of people in the UK have been able to do just that and if you can do it its worth it, as youll get alot more for your money in NZ. At present we cannot do that and we do not have the spare equity that would allow us to do it, we have some but not enough to buy outright and this means we would be burdening ourselves with debt (Mortgage) and in NZ we dont think this is a good move, the salaries are very questionable and in no way would we earn as we do here in the UK. To add to that the cost of living in relation to earnings is higher than in the uk, but of course it depends on where you live and how much you earn, but to use averages you would lose out.
Nearly all people we met were very freindly, especially when your paying them for something, but if i am really honest, some of the politest people were the Briish that we met over there, the Kiwis can be a bit dry and blunt and abrubt in a way that can seem say unessary and cold, of course I understand it to be a different culture and thats all good but sometimes you felt like a walking wallet as the whole country is praying on your tourist dollars, sad to say but thats how it felt sometimes. The people are very hardy and are by there very nature harder working, they have to be and they have it seems to be more resourcful in regard to all aspects of there daily lives something we have kind of forgotten here in the consumer capital of the world...so i liked there authenicity and rawness. The Maori people we only ever saw when managing very dodgy roadworks, we never met any, but the ones we saw in poor areas just looked like very poor scum, chavs with shell suits adults looking the same, it simply didnt impress, in the poor areas in shops and stuff it was obvious that education was lacking throughout...the culture and history was interesting, and it was clear there was a divide between the Maoris and the whites.
We did meet some great people though and were treted very well in most situations.
Houses....(swanky sheds sorry)
Some of the houses are shitte in no uncertain terms, all the swanky places you see and visit are well out of most peoples price ranges, but down in the back roads of most towns you get to see the real NZ not shown in the brochures, down trodden and very very poor looking, some of the smaller towns reminded me of the inner states, middle america redneck country and did not impress in the slightest if honest, some of the areas outside of brochure country looked dead as, unless you wanted to work in a cheese factory or a dairy youd be unemployed, skint and bored. sorry but thats the truth.
We approached a new house bulider just up the hill from Lake Taupo, we went into the show house and he was happy to chat to us and explain how they build in NZ new and what the differences are, it was great as he had worked in Reading in the uk and was honest with us, he said compared to the UK the houses in NZ were way way behind (his words), he said improvments are being made but they are slow and expensive, we both agreed that it was the land that was of attraction to many who come over and that is nice, most houses in NZ are single story which at first is odd, but then when youve been in a few i became a fan of them and they are built like that due to the available land around them.
Some of the farmstays we stayed in had back boiler systems set up, and of course the wood burner in the main lounge, now dont get me wrong the heat off those babies is intense albiet hard to control the tempreture - we had this sytem in place in the 70's... mostly wood built homes as well. To be honest did we feel the cold?, mmm only in one or two places if honest so the houses are not that cold, we were never chilly in bed or anything so not a major concern. Most of the homes you will like if you visit are the swanky ones between $400,000 to 1 million dollars, all the others are questionable for sure.
If we had £100,000 equity in our home we would move there yes, but we dont...that for us is the bottom line and the one thing that forces us at present to stay put.
To summerise -
We would if we could afford it move to any of the tourist places, as they are stunning Queenstown, Wanaka, Arrowtown, Picton, Turuanga, Mount Manganui, Christchurch, plus many more then we would, but we cant so we wont be....
We had a great holiday and we wholeheartedly recommend anyone to visit we are even planning on returning over the next few years so please go and check it out its lush, but with the reccession and the limited equity in our home we will not be emigrating for the next few years, the situation may be very different then so well never say never but not at present, itsa shame but thats the reality, we felt that the lower population, one of the main attractions was also one of the main problems as well, sometimes in some places it seemed too quite, and with being so far from the culture and fascination of Europe it seems silly to leave our own country when we are doing very well here.
We think NZ has a long way to go and it needs at least another 10 million people to get its economy going, and another thing that puts us off is the cos of the emigration its all money money money, take take take and no give back...if they wanted skilled people so bad why the high costs involved...
And so thats that............
Just before I go though I will leave the address of the website thats helped us most along the way, its not a popular sight as it tells the truth something thats rare these days.
Pictures to follow...