Life in NZ
Making the move to New Zealand can be a happy decision with a successful outcome. Planning for the difficult moments will help the transition become a safe and easier one for everyone involved.
Like thousands of migrants before you, you will come to see that the challenges you face are almost always outweighed by the benefits.
Since the Maori people named New Zealand ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, weather and climate has been of paramount importance to the people of New Zealand, many of whom make their living from the land.
New Zealand has mild temperatures, moderately high rainfall, and many hours of sunshine throughout most of the country. New Zealand’s climate is dominated by two main geographical features: the mountains and the sea.
New Zealand Seasons
New Zealand has a largely temperate climate. While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10 C in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine.
Because New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The north of New Zealand is subtropical and the south temperate. The warmest months are December, January and February, and the coldest June, July and August. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30ºC and in winter between 10-15ºC.
You can check on weather conditions in New Zealand on the New Zealand Met Service Website.
Dress is informal and relaxed on most occasions. Smart casual clothes are acceptable at most restaurants and nightspots. Men are generally not expected to wear suits and ties, except in a few of the top formal bars and restaurants in major cities.
In summer a light jacket or sweater should be included in your luggage should the weather turn cooler or you visit the high country. You can expect some rain, so include a light waterproof jacket or coat.
Pack warm winter clothing if visiting between May and September. Layer your clothing.
Driving – key points for overseas drivers and new residents
You are allowed to drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months using either an International Driving Permit or your current overseas driving licence. After that you will need to get a New Zealand driving licence.
If your licence is not in English, you should get an International Driving Permit or bring an official, English translation of your licence with you. Further licensing details are available from the Land Transport Safety Authority.
Vehicles drive on the left side of the road.
The urban speed limit is usually 50 kph (31 mph). Elsewhere it’s usually 100 kph (62 mph).
Driving times between the main cities
From Christchurch to:
– Auckland: 14hrs 20mins plus ferry crossing* from Picton to Wellington
– Blenheim: 4hrs 35mins
– Dunedin: 5hrs
– Nelson: 6hrs 20mins
– Picton: 5hrs
– Queenstown: 7hrs 15mins
– Wellington: 5hrs plus ferry crossing* from Picton to Wellington
* Ferry crossing time is normally 3hrs
You can also get more information at www.nzta.govt.nz
Childcare and education
We are often asked for information on childcare facilities and recommended schools.
We have compiled some points we think you should take into account when considering where to to accommodate your preferences:
If you have children who need looking after while you are at work, New Zealand has many childcare options, such as childcare centres, crèches, home-based care and family day care or nannies. Childcare centres for young children offer session care (i.e. up to four hours a day) and are open for up to eight or nine hours (between 7.30am and 6pm) or full day options. Some centres may offer casual care in morning or afternoon sessions. Childcare centres will charge a sessional, weekly or daily fee, and an hourly fee for casual care.
Childcare centres are either licensed to take either under two-year-olds or over two-year-olds. Other options such as Montessori or Rudolph Steiner centres, have their own aims and philosophy.
Home-based care services provide a caregiver for very small groups of children in supervised homes in the community where the family needing the care lives. The main organisations that provide family daycare are Barnardo’s, Porse, Home Grown and Selwyn Toddlers. Their fees are charged on an hourly rate and the times are flexible – they can include evenings and weekends to help parents who do shift work (irregular hours).
Most of these services can offer the 20 Hours ECE (early childhood education) subsidy funded by the Ministry of Education. Any three, four or five year old child in New Zealand can be enrolled in ECE and receive 20 Hours ECE even if they are not a New Zealand resident or citizen. For more info visit the Ministry of Education website.
Education and schools in New Zealand
In most circumstances, your children will attend the local school they are zoned for. If you choose to live outside the zone of your preferred school, your children may not get places – particularly if the school is a popular one with a reputation for high standards. Spare places at popular schools are allocated by ballot. Exceptions to zoning may include attendance at a school with a special character – such as a religious school.
School rules are set by the Board of Governors. The Board is elected by parents. School rules usually mean that school-uniform is compulsory at secondary school. In addition to wearing the uniform, pupils / students usually must not wear make-up, jewellery, unusual hair colourings, nose-piercings, etc.
In addition to the state sector, there is also a flourishing private education sector.
Children who attend any of the better state schools in New Zealand receive a very good education.
Most children start Year 1 on their fifth birthday.
Primary schools teach Year 1 to Year 6 children.
Intermediate schools teach Years 7 and 8.
“Full Primaries” teach Year 1 to Year 8 children.
Secondary schools teach Year 9 to Year 13.
Education/school costs in New Zealand
State education in New Zealand is meant to be free of charge. However, there are costs. You need to pay for your children’s school uniforms, pencils, pens, glue-sticks, stationery etc. Textbooks can be provided free of charge, unless their use involves writing on them and they cannot be returned to the school. Some schools charge for textbooks.
Most state schools charge a fee of somewhere around $100 – $300 per year per child, although some charge considerably more than this. Some state high schools charge an annual fee of between $400 and $900. If more than one child attends the same school then it is usual to get a reduction in fees. Although payment of the fee is voluntary, called a donation, most parents pay. The donation pays for extra resources for your children’s school, photocopying, etc. and it is tax-deductible.
The New Zealand government provides more money to schools in socially deprived areas than it does to schools in better-off areas. The result of this is that, in order to make ends meet, schools in better-off areas tend to charge higher “voluntary” fees than schools in poorer areas.
Education, school days and holidays
School days are Monday to Friday. Primary schools usually start at 9 am, or a little earlier, and finish at 3pm. Secondary schools usually start at 8.30am and finish at 3pm or 3.15pm.
The school year runs from February to December and has four terms. Each term is roughly ten weeks long. Summer holidays last about five and a half weeks at primary schools and about a week longer at secondary schools. The Autumn, Winter and Spring holidays each last two weeks. For more information on New Zealand Education please visit the Ministry of Education web site.