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Notes on New Zealand

Page history last edited by rsb 1 month ago


Should you visit?


Yes.  If you have even the faintest idea that you might want to visit, you should plan a visit.  Plan it six months ahead - some of the things you might want to do are popular and there can be a waiting list - six months should get you anywhere.  Look online to see when bookings open up for the things you want and book the day they open.


Should you move/work there?


Tougher question.  NZ definitely needs skilled workers, but like most things, work and living is about community - if you find a good one - that's probably where you should be.  It is common to find communities in NZ that share interests in Ag, Environment, Outdoor activities.  Lots more on offer, but those are the big ones AFAICT.  Communities of interest are not the only type, but if you are trying to skill-up and work, they are important. 


However, in a small place, communities are often communities of necessity, and sometimes those can be stronger, and more satisfying, than other types.  In any case, if you find a community that you love, yeah, your average experience here should hold muster with the rest of the world. 


I will wax poetic about "place" when I talk about NZ or other awesome places, but communities are always going to be one of the largest factors for most purposes, long term.


Safety, corruption, risks, etc.


First, we are probably all going to die of heart disease or cancer, in NZ, the US, or most other places, so everything has a priority.


NZ is one of, if not the, safest country in the world, by most metrics that count. 


The common things people worry about:


Violent crime is statistically 20% of what you probably see in your country (i.e. the US).  Relatively speaking, pandemics, virii, etc. are not a significant issue.  All accidents are taken care of - if you fall down as a tourist, you get care - that's the excellent part of the NZ health care system. With some rare exceptions you will be forewarned about if you get there, you can basically walk around in any city in the dark and not worry about it. 


Obvious corruption is minimal.  Non-obvious corruption is the usual - entrenched corporate welfare and occasional gang/organized-crime is supported by government regulation (i.e. prohibition on cannabis).


NZ is fairly diverse, depending on where you are - so you should not expect as much racism as back home - that said - this is an ancient problem that is obviously still being worked on.  


All in all - Expect the run of the mill institutional corruption, racism, and petty theft to be exactly the world average - nothing special either way - just get active in politics and keep track of your belongings, as usual. 


The less common things people worry about:


Walk around in the dark in the woods of NZ  -  no animals that can hurt you exist here.  It is refreshing to come to a place where you don't worry about spiders, bugs, reptiles, or mammals - you can feel free to engage with nature - at ease - picnic in the forest, hike at night, leave that spider in your house to it's own devices. Grab that hold in that rock or that rock out of the river without fear of poison or real danger.


Skin cancer - NZ has more UV than most areas - this is a huge deal and it's what you should really be worried about - you have to follow best practices.  That is such a critical page to read - it tells you how to protect yourself - it also mentions the difference between the northern and southern hemisphere summers, uv density in the atmosphere, and other interesting things.  In fact, it goes into this wiki as a backed-up pdf, in case anyone comes here and the website is down: Reducing the burden of melanoma in New Zealand Part 1_ Prevention and risk assessment - bpacnz.pdf




Even outliers like war, climate change, and natural disasters are less likely to have an impact.  Wars are not really that threatening - just look at the modern history - invasions post-colonialism have never been and probably never will be a thing - NZ has trade on offer, not violence - and it's 5000 miles out of your way if you are trying to get anywhere else.  Climate change is coming everywhere - fires and floods will be horrible eventually but the southern hemisphere seems to be years behind years behind the norther hemisphere in this - and those are years with which to prepare.


General bent of the people re: immigrants:


I'll preface this note by saying that I am very new to NZ, having been traveling back and forth for a few years before immigrating recently.  Only a little bit of this is based on my own experience - largely this is what I have heard from a few dozen conversations with kiwis and people who immigrated to NZ and spent most of their lives there.


In general, people are friendlier and more family oriented than in most places, including most other commonwealth countries.  NZ is more Christian, on average, than the US or most countries outside of south America, but quite a bit more tolerant on average of religious diversity as well.  In general, kiwis are great folk. (Speaking less formally, people in NZ are nice as heck, and even the ones that are stuck-up folk or are violent asshats I think, deep down, are really good folk, or want to be - there is no unsalvageable material in NZ - everyone can be reached.)


You will still meet assholes, and you will run into the problem of ignorance, probably just as often as you will anywhere else.  Also, the "tall poppy" syndrome in NZ is a bias against action, science, and progress, and towards protectionism, isolation, and depression.  It's not as bad as some of the endemic collective psychosocial disorders in other places, but, if you are an immigrant - it probably won't be something that you adapt to and go along with.  The tall poppy thing can be viewed as an outgrowth of positive humility and neighborly association, but it's certainly an odd-shaped growth.


That brings us to acceptance.  You probably know that immigrants almost never "fit in" and get fully accepted.  The immigrant experiences difficulty and must accommodate that to survive.  They must also accept non-acceptance, and be the person they love to be, and then, if they survive, they can be accepted as that person, but never as a native.  We can only integrate as ourselves.  That's a good thing.  You wouldn't try to pick up a new personality any more than you would try to pick up a new accent - change happens naturally.


I'll end this by emphasizing that the vast majority of folks who don't fit into the negative-experience category will probably be nicer than they are back home, depending on where you are from.  It's super easy to integrate - just "do you" forever, and your average experience will be awesome.


Air, Water, Food, Housing, Power, Phone, Internet - mostly TBD




Quality: Objectively healthy for humans almost everywhere - always better than the large city you might be from almost anywhere else.  The only large city is Auckland, and even there, where sometimes you will see moderate AQ ratings, the air is clean by international comparison for cities of that size.  Outside of Auckland, there are the occasional, stupid hold-over coal-fired power plans for the dairy industry - just frustratingly backwards corporate welfare boondoggles - courtesy of corruption.  Avoid them and you should be good.


Clean air is somewhat of a double-edged sword - as the lack of junk in the air of the southern hemisphere, coupled with a thinner ozone layer, means that you absolutely need to put on sunblock and wear a hat when you are going to be outside for more than 10  minutes - not optional.  You just get used to good practices if you were not already.


Humidity: Way higher than average.  There are quite a few microclimates that are exceptional in this regard, but expect 75% humidity in coastal areas, 65% in inland areas, most of the year.  This takes some adjustment if you are not from a humid place - your skin will be weird for a while - you will have to control humidity in your dwelling.   I haven't figured out why there aren't more ceiling fans.



Update: There are high nitrate levels appearing in most of the water in rural regions as of this writing (2021) - at this point, you MUST check the nitrate levels, somehow, in your area.  If you have high nitrate levels, you need a distiller for drinking water, and you need to add a little salt to the water you distill, so that your body doesn't freak out with 100% pure water.  There is no other good way to get rid of nitrates and make water drinkable that I have found. (this is part of a set of related political issues - see google for "three waters new zealand nitrate" 


Most areas have very high quality natural water sources - very little treatment is done - in some cases no chlorine or flouride is added.  That is an adjustment when you come from other parts of the world.  Your hair will not behave the same in combination with your shampoo - you have to switch to a flouride toothpaste if you want that.




This is all just stuff I heard or read, so take it with a grain of salt.  The soil in NZ is rather new, the land being uncovered after the last ice age.  Farmers also use nitrogen fertilizer, so the usual issue with gigantic, but nutrient-anemic plants is present in NZ like everywhere else.  So, eating the food grown in NZ, you may be missing some minerals, as you evolved in places where the soil is older and of a different chemistry.  Consider taking multivitamins like these regularly.


As in the US, the laws favoring larger agricultural providers are "somehow" viewed as benign, but clearly hold the country back from a healthier, more prosperous populace and agricultural industry.  Ignorance and corruption aside, the net effect on you is to prevent meat and dairy from being as healthy as one would like.  However, tons of people fish, hunt, and slaughter locally - this meat is more humanely killed and far better.  It's illegal to trade for or purchase anything that isn't factory farmed - so don't get caught doing that - even though everyone else does it.


Unlike most of the civilized world, New Zealand has not banned trans fats in food, yet, even though it is obviously the moral thing to do, and provably economically sound.  To be sure that you are not eating something that will contribute to a future in which you have diabetes and heart disease -  major causes of suffering and death in NZ - WHEN IN NZ, YOU MUST READ THE INGREDIENTS  (Copied that comment for posterity in case that link dies)




Phone Service


There are two primary mobile providers (Vodaphone and Spark) and several MVNOs, such as skinny.  Skinny is mostly a Spark reseller, but works well, and is inexpensive.  Each primary mobile provider is stronger in different areas, so check with locals before you get a plan.  Copper landlines still exist and are used.


I may not fully understand the official NZ phone numbering plan - but it seems that lots of other people are confused about it, too.  In general, dial 0 before you dial an NZ number, and dial 00+country-code before you dial an international number.   The emergency services number in NZ is 111.  In the US, I could rely on phone systems to filter out unnecessary local country codes - they always know if I am on a US network, and ignore the 1 at the front - I haven't seen that happen in NZ - if you add the +64, you get a rapid 400Hz number-not-available tone.  That is unfortunate for automatically dialing when you have phone numbers from all over the world in your contacts - so far, I am listing all the NZ numbers as I do US numbers - with the correct country code up front, but I punch the NZ numbers in manually.


Unfortunately, there is much higher reliability when calling over wifi than over cellular in most situations we find ourselves in, so my wife and I usually call each other with Whatsapp or some other video chat tool.




Fibre is available in most cities and towns.  Starlink is everywhere else.  DSL is almost everywhere.  As of this writing there is a sale on to get fibre installed to your home - worth knowing when it happens as that is an expensive operation.


Housing - moved to bottom of page for now.



Working full time in NZ - how to get started


General order of operations


It is best to do all of these in the order below.  In most cases, one depends on the next.  Allow about a week to get set up:


  1. Find a place to live and get a tenancy agreement signed
  2. Get a bank account - bring a passport, tenancy agreement
  3. Fund bank account and use it to show activity - (wire from the US - kiwi banks do not use IBAN, but you need the SWIFT code for the wire)
  4. Get a phone and phone service -  (although your foreign android phone might work - the least difficult path is an iphone and vodaphone service)
  5. Buy a car and car insurance 
  6. Get an internal revenue number - bring bank statement
  7. Get a drivers license
  8. Get paid and pay taxes!


I'll expand each of these on a bit, below, as I have time.




"One does not simply walk into a New Zealand bank and open a bank account."


For some purposes, you have to have a bank account - drivers license - renting - sometimes being an employee of an NZ company, etc.


Everyone I interacted with in NZ banking seemed very friendly.  However, their banking systems and methods are a bit painful.  The story here is that I wasted a bunch of time with NZ banks so you don't have to.  


This is what you do: Go online, pick an NZ bank (I use consumer.org.nz to evaluate this kind of thing - pay for it), find someone to talk to about opening an account, then make an appointment with them (if you are only there for a couple weeks, make the appointment for your next visit to New Zealand).  You have to make that appointment - if you are late, then maybe next trip. (Caveat: I have heard that there are some smaller banks that you can more easily establish an account with - might want to look into smaller, local banks!!)


This is what you do not do: Walk into any large-ish bank, no matter how well you have your ducks in a row - no matter how much money you have to transfer in - and try to open an account.  Not gonna happen.


AFAICT, you will never be served same day by any New Zealand bank to open an account - even if you are already a signer on another account with the same bank.  I have tried this.  I walked in - work visa, address proof, passport, fat deposit, but very little time on my hands, and was turned away every time - from the three largest banks in downtown Wellington.


Even BNZ, whom had already identified me, added me to a business account, and issued me a bank card, stared at me with a straight face and told me that they needed to schedule an appointment with me on another day to identify me for a personal account (this was the same person who just identified me for a business account with passport, visa, etc.). 


When you finally do get an appointment, the experience will be pleasant, but far more time consuming than necessary for KYC - bankers genuinely want to get to know you and are instructed to discover as much as possible as well.


This is outside the experience of most of the rest of the world, where walking into a bank and offering to deposit money is given a high priority.   


In contrast, banking systems in many nations can be fast.  Simple.com allowed me to open a free interest checking account in literally seconds online (upload a picture of an ID for KYC), promised and delivered on zero ability to charge me fees, and serves me fantastically well.  Any docs they need you can upload - there are no branches - they waive the fees incurred by any bank branch in the world to serve you.  And they make money doing this - no home loans - no shady stuff - low risk - they make money on the float.  


Crypto-banking can be instantaneous in some instances, and as fast as Simple.com for KYC in others. 


In NZ, TSB bank seems to have their act together - my experience has been excellent.  They are a Kiwi-owned bank, whereas BNZ/ANZ are not.


NZ Bank Account Number Schema


This is the wikipedia entry - it pretty much sums it up.  Sometimes people ask for a Branch Name, which you usually won't have - I think I just put the Branch number in there.  


BB: bank number (2 digits)
bbbb: branch number (4 digits)
AAAAAAA: account number (7 digits)
SSS: suffix (2 or 3 digits) 


Moving money from foreign accounts to NZ


I have sent dozens of wire transfers over the years from the US to NZ.


Bank-bank international wire transfer data points:


Recently, I initiated two wire transfers, for the same amount from First Republic bank in CA, US, to two NZ banks.  I asked that they both be initiated as close to simultaneously as possible.  One of the NZ banks (NBS) used Westpac as an intermediary.  The other one (TSB) used BNZ as an intermediary.


Westpac peeled off 2% for their service.  BNZ did not.  I got a closer exchange rate to the XE.com spot (more favorable to me) when I sent to the bank that used BNZ as an intermediary than when I sent directly to BNZ.  


The right thing to do:


For large amounts, use Transferwire (now Wise.com) or OFX.com.  XE.com is slightly more confused and their website is a little more buggy.  OFX and Wise still have issues, but they are just more on top of it and their rates seem at least as good.


Donating to Charity:


TL;DR - This is too complex for a TL;DR, but be aware of the Gift Trust, and if you are from the US, the Rudolf Steiner Foundation.


If you are giving crypto, consider: sell it to the organization, then give the money you get from that org back as cash via the Gift Trust or the RSF.  Should be golden via taxes and crypto regs.


The first few times I found a charitable organization to give to in NZ, I just gave the money because it was needed right away - I didn't get a tax deduction.  I got wise after that and started a fund through the Rudolf Steiner Foundation for subsequent gifts, and eventually the NZ gift trust created a relationship with the RSF and now you can give through the gift trust as a US citizen to registered charities, and take the tax deduction.  SpaceBase, a company I am involved with, was the first organization so certified to my knowledge.


Indigenous communities are in the roughest circumstances in NZ of all communities - schools serving mostly indigenous kids are particularly underfunded in NZ - much as they are in most countries.  I found a group of teachers in a Special Character School, Tai Wananga, who were doing amazing work with a tiny fraction of the money that mostly white schools received, and was lucky enough to be able to donate to them.  With a tiny donation, they were able to stretch out a STEM program in epic ways - they do more with less than I have seen in any school - and although they face challenges from federal and local authorities in just trying to do basic day to day work all the time - they handle them without missing a beat.  They set up a little website for others to donate. 


Taxes for migrants


Initial Consult with a tax accountant - My Notes - redacted for privacy, but containing super valuable info.  These notes specific to my situation - US couple immigrating to NZ. ALL ERRORS MINE.


  • Tax Resident Status

    • Currently we are both “NZ tax residents” and “transitional NZ tax residents”

    • We are still “transitional” residents for tax purposes because we did not previously stay in NZ for 184 days or more in prior years

    • As “transitional” tax residents we are exempt from being taxed on foreign passive income for 48 months (4yrs)

    • NZ provides the 4 year exemption to give new residents time to get finances/taxes in order without suffering penalties, and to decide whether they are staying in NZ permanently (after the 4 year exemption, the taxing structure changes tremendously)

    • IRD application - make sure to tick YES as “transitional tax resident” 

    • Our current transitional tax resident status ends 4 years from our arrival date.  Once we get our IRD numbers we need to provide them to our accountant.

    • Until your personal belongings arrive and you have a permanent dwelling (e.g. rental for a fixed term), the 4 year clock does not begin.

  • US <--> NZ Tax Treaty

    • NZ always taxes 1st and US taxes 2nd

    • As US citizens, regardless of whether we receive any US income, we need to file a tax return (we are taxed just because we are a US citizen)

    • NZ has a volunteer compliance model, which means that they may waive penalties if you make a voluntary disclosure of a tax shortfall

  • Foreign Passive Income

    • Equity or debt investments

    • NOT considered passive income if you are a sole or controlling shareholder

    • If you sell a foreign passive income investment, capital gains after sale are not taxed by NZ

    • If you sell stock in the US from a US owned group, NZ will NOT tax

    • Important: NZ will assume a 5% dividend distribution on equity investment, even if dividends are not regularly paid out (so consider carefully what equity investments you hold onto)

  • Foreign Active Income

    • Any salary earned from a foreign company for work performed while in NZ is considered “NZ-sourced income” and is taxable by NZ

  • Director or Controlling Shareholder of  Foreign Company

    • If you are a director or controlling shareholder of a foreign company, then the foreign company is considered a NZ tax resident 

    • For any such companies you must immediately inform Inland Revenue (IR) and ask them to make a determination on which country is the taxable country

    • This is really important to prepare for *before* you immigrate - you really must ensure that the LLCs and Corps you are involved with overseas are aware before you immigrate - tax implications for them.

  • NZ Investment Advice

    • Stay away from NZ trusts; while most countries have “trustee-based” trusts, NZ has a “settler-based” trust regime; investing in such trusts (does not include charitable trusts) could have adverse tax consequences in the US, because since the systems are different, a tax credit in NZ is NOT a tax credit in the US.  Lawyers love the idea of trusts, but accountants know they end badly.

    • Don’t invest in a PIE (portfolio investment entity), because as a US resident you will be taxed 60% (*by US or NZ?) rather than the normal 28%.  Again, something that financial advisors love but accountants know ends badly.

  • Cryptocurrency 

    • If you have it on a server, mining or staking, you will want to argue it is “passive” because if it is not on a NZ server.

    • However, NZ recently passed a law that says capital gains income should be taxed at moment of staking, weirdly taxing both principal and interest.

    • Important to monitor the Inland Revenue (IR) discussions (which are very active at the moment) regarding how they treat cryptocurrency and how it SHOULD be treated.

    • IR focuses strictly on interpretation of statute rather than the policy outcome (something that needs to be addressed)

    • If you intend on being involved in shaping cryptocurrency laws/policy in the N.Z. (e.g. sending a white paper to IR or the Ministry of Internal Affairs), it may be good to use an intermediary - if your contributions are very visible, the IR will try to argue that you are in business in NZ as a cryptocurrency specialist or trader, and will treat your cryptocurrency investments as active rather than passive income.

    • <redacted> recommends <redacted> as an intermediary who might be able to assist with presenting a white paper or other report; the comments will carry more weight.

    • Overall, things seem more weird, arbitrary, and unformed in NZ than in many other parts of the world, but it's something you should be able to work out.

  • Charitable Donations

    • Instead of a tax deduction, you get a refund; you need to provide the IR with a donation certificate in order to receive the refund

    • To get the refund, you must donate cash NOT in-kind donations; one way to get around this by “selling” the donee the goods and then donating the proceeds of the sale back to the donee (e.g. if you want to gift old bikes to a youth org, sell it to them and give them the cash and you will get the deduction)


Ack!  So much to put here.  I'm  going to get to this, for sure, but right now I'm putting it all together.


Be careful to immigrate during the right time of year - If you are moving from the US to NZ, you want to avoid being a resident of two places at once.  There is a window of time, each year, during which your move can be taxed much more heavily.  - TBD - I need to look this up again.


When you fill out your IRD form, be careful to note that you are a transitional tax resident - there is a checkbox on the paper form, but maybe not on the online form - I don't remember - in any case, you can email IRD or call them and explain and they will help if you mess up.  IRD is helpful - but you want to get problems addressed with them right away - don't be afraid to reach out to them!


If you are a US citizen, you must file a form telling the IRS exactly what accounts you have overseas that have more than 10KUS equivalent in them.  If you fail to file that form, I heard that the fine is something like 10K per account.  My US CPA says that this is generally just filed with taxes.


More to come on this note.


Buying a car


NZ gets super high-quality used-imported cars (priuses, etc.) at ridiculously low prices from Japan.  Buy one of these.  You can get a gently used but very sound reconditioned japanese car for around 5K NZD that will last you a lifetime.  New cars are about the same price as in the US. 


Used-domestic cars that were originally made for the NZ market are comparatively expensive - we bought one because we wanted something really specific and no used-imported or new cars fit the bill - but generally - just get the used-imported car and save a ton.  You should only have to pay as much as we did if you can't find what you want in a used-imported car.


Adapting US electronics to NZ


Many power strips you might bring from the US will not work with 240V 50Hz AC.  So I don't recommend you bring power strips - that will end in a firey death for them.  Almost all US small electronics (laptops, etc) have 120/240V wall adapters that will work fine in NZ.  Larger electronics that do not use external power supplies and simply plug directly into the wall with a cord will rarely work on NZ voltages.  You can rewire a house to support both 120 and 240V, at some expense, if you have a licensed electrician do it, and I have heard this is often done to bring over a whole house set of appliances, because the available selection of large electronics in NZ is smaller.


Instead, buy a few NZ power strips with double-wide socket spacing.  Then buy one adapter from NZ to US plugs for each double-spaced socket, and plug your US small electronics into those. 

Buying a step down transformer for an individual appliance is possible, but kind of nuts - it's hard to find a good one these days anyway.  For a little thing like a coffee maker, you might be able to use amazon.co.uk, and find a 220V version of what you want, but the selection will be limited. 


If you are into electronics, you won't be able to attend a flea market where acres of parking spaces are filled with the contents of garages and workshops of entrepreneurs and engineers, but you can scrap and get what you need done.  You might end up buying a lab power supply early on, and some other electronics repair equipment.  I did.  Big metro areas have quite decent access to components and test equipment, but it's a bit on the expensive side for the higher end stuff.  Living in a small town, I have to fix more often than replace, and I really appreciate being encouraged to release my inner repairman, instead of buying stuff online as the easiest path to fixing a problem. 


Buying stuff online


Amazon US will ship some items to NZ, as will Amazon.co.uk - it's often worth checking both.  Local NZ retailers will ship as well, of course, and their websites might be your first stop for most items.  It's worth being super careful to double check your orders soon after moving, to make sure shipping info, appliance voltage, etc. are all kosher. 


You won't find Starship robots delivering local things, but you can get a good amount of food delivered in big metro areas - Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch.  Uber eats and some restaurants will deliver in those places.  Trademe is somewhat useful as a craigslist clone.  I hear Facebook marketplace is a serious thing, but I am loath to check.  Yelp doesn't appear to be used.  


For bigger ticket items, you can often negotiate with a retailer or distributor to arrange private delivery, and the postal service and FedEx work jus as you would expect.


I know there are some "container clubs" out there (here is one that was recommended to me - myus.com).  I'll update this when I'm less frustrated - I haven't had a drip coffee in six weeks out here - and there is not one coffee filter in all of golden bay - hard to focus on this espresso.  


Update: I have used myus.com successfully.  They store your goods for 30 days for free and consolidate them into one package before shipping - much more efficient and cost effective than what I was trying before.  However, duties are imposed seemingly arbitrarily and without explanation, slowing the shipping down considerably.  You will get a text asking you to pay duties with no explanation, and it will take days to release the package after that point.  It only takes a couple days for packages to transition through the US and across the world to NZ, but once a package gets into NZ, expect a week transit to your home - that's been my experience twice.


Finding businesses, classes, meetups in NZ


TL;DR - Facebook.   Sigh.


I still haven't figured this out.  In CA, you find literally everything online - without using facebook.  Word of mouth is not a thing.  There are always several directories of businesses, meetups, classes, etc. that are well-maintained and heavily used to look into.  In NZ, not so much. 


In NZ, I generally search physically for stuff, ask around for contact info, and I never feel like I fully know what is going on or who is doing what.  It's obviously much easier to use the net to find things in big metro areas, but it still feels like word of mouth is the primary means of promoting anything.  It is far more time consuming to find things.


The only online outlet that seems to be consistently helpful is the one I swore off the year it came out - Facebook.  So, that's the only help I have for you, as I basically am reduced to asking others to check facebook for me, or just doing without.  At some point I will break down and start supporting that thing again, so I can be a more involved part of NZ. 


Do you need to use a VPN?


TL;DR - Yes, you do, for a few things - search engines - connecting to some workplace firewalls.  However, the best strategy for entertainment might be to stop watching so much of that stuff.


Before coming to NZ, I had travelled a good bit, but usually for vacations or business trips of a couple weeks or less.  Now that I have actually moved to NZ, and use a VPN most of the time, it has dawned upon me how much more I should have utilized a VPN in the past.  Changing your location via VPN will completely change your search results, for one thing, and your access to web sites and content is, often, vastly improved with a US VPN connection.  NZ search results on major search engines are a serious liability - research goes much more slowly. 


So, probably sign up for a service.  If you don't, the information access you have will suck time and knowledge away from you.  For local stuff, obviously I just search with my NZ location.  I have added a few other countries for special searches. 


Slightly technical bit - I use ExpressVPN as a stopgap, but the best VPN to any country is to a high-bandwidth private connection, instead of to a service like ExpressVPN that pumps a high volume of mixed traffic through a single IP.  If you can set up an openssl-based VPN on a friends gigabit home connection overseas, that is ideal.


Will you need BitTorrent?


Yes, if you really want certain video content.  No matter how hard you try, the major content providers will not let you give them your money to buy a large percentage of their content outside the US.  So to get some content (which you will of course download over a network that you control and take responsibility for), you will have to download bittorent and become familiar with finding content with it.


Hitchhikers in NZ:


Are awesome.  Beautiful people from all over the world.  Pick them up.  Take them for a meal.  Share with them.  Put them up in your airbnb.  Learn about them.  You will fine a unique and wonderful set of people.


Moving your stuff to NZ 


If you have a container load of stuff, you can ship that, but expect a couple months of transit time - definitely the cheapest way to ship large items (and the only way in some cases).   You get a one-time exemption from GST (goods and services tax) when you ship your stuff - ship everything you need or want - GST is 15% of whatever they say the value is.


If you want to ship a box or two, then you can get that done via air post in short order, but it will be a week or so and cost about twice as much as taking a checked bag on a flight over.  Somewhere else in this document I mention myus.com - an aggregating shipper - useful.


So, the cheapest, fastest way to get a moderate amount of stuff moved is to take the maximum number of checked bags on your flight over.  We took 8 checked bags, and it wasn't that bad.  A bit of schlepping, but we didn't have to wait any time for things to arrive.  We planned on buying a subaru outback when we arrived anyway, which can haul that many bags handily.  No one is going to charge you GST on your bags of used stuff.

Cities you will probably fly to:


I'll try to compare some of the big cities in NZ to cities I've been to elsewhere (mostly in the US) to save time.  These are all launching off points for some part of NZ, and all connected to an excellent system of airports.




Like: Vancouver, Canada.  Maybe prettier.  This is probably where you will fly into NZ.   Good for a few days, at least and as a launching point for the north island.  Lots of nearby spots with beaches and hikes just out of town.  Great food.  Launching off point for the north half of the north island.




Like: San Francisco, but tinier, better designed, even windier, and with much less of the colorful zaniness.  This city is actually quite unique.  It's a good place to do business and get work done.  You can tour the government building and learn how the basic political system works, among other things.  Launching off point for the south part of the north island.




Like: Sausolito, CA.


Nelson is a short ferry ride from Wellington, but has tremendously warmer and less windy weather.  As far as I can tell, i's not a particularly spectacular town in and of itself, but it is a fantastic hub through which the Northern half of the South island can be explored. 



Like: Oakland, CA, with a little bit of Seattle mixed in.  But with no high crime areas.  Becoming a happening tech hub at this point.  Great town.  Great people.  Good food.  Nice launching off point to start a tour of the south island.  Like most very low-lying big coastal cities, probably going underwater in our lifetime.  Close to heaps of outdoor stuff, winter/summer sports.  Launching off point for the south half of the south island.




Like: Aspen, Colorado


There are tremendous hikes starting in the general vicinity of Queenstown, and the views in that area are not to be missed. 


Maybe stay away from downtown.  You can do everything you need to do from nearby towns to the north and south.  If you are anything like me, seeing the gucci and louis vuitton stores in Queenstown is just going to bum you out and ruin the view of the mountains.  I would suggest driving through Queenstown and stopping for a coffee or a hike for a day.  Check out it's amazing vistas.  Hike, ski, etc.  Keep moving.  I may be unreasonably pessimistic about Queenstown from my brief experiences downtown - it's a big place, and I haven't experienced it all.


Alternatives: Glenorchy, Lake Wanaka, and Te Anui are perfectly fine towns to stay at, recharge between hikes, and enjoy the real reasons to be in the area: the land and the people. 




Absolutely charming city near the southernmost extent of New Zealand.  Quite cold in the winter.  Probably the furthest airport south you will travel to.




Lovely little city in Hawkes Bay, which shares the title of "best weather" with Nelson and Golden Bay.  Lots of Art-Deco buildings and a wonderful Art-Deco festival once a year.  Wine country.




A quickly growing city of industry with all the amenities you would expect - solid hospitals, schools, airport, and a burgeoning art scene partially thanks to low housing prices - not a bad combo at all.


Towns you might visit:


Takaka/Golden Bay:


An attractive and welcoming hub for visitors to Golden Bay and the fantastic Able Tasman area.  Great outdoor activities, hiking, climbing, fishing, kayaking, beaches.  Similar weather to Nelson - much smaller and quieter most of the time - gets quite crowded in December as it is the vacation spot of choice for many kiwis.  It might be safer to fly on a small plane to and from Wellington than to drive over the hill from Nelson, depending on how you estimate it - but it involves scheduling and cargo space is very limited.  We tried really hard to live in Takaka but we didn't make it for a variety of reasons - including having to drive the hill once a week - persistent allergies - and a few other smallish reasons.




Ohakune is the mountain town of the north island, with a couple ski resorts, a few good mountain biking and hiking trails, and a lovely small, diverse town with a business center.  The Northern Express train runs three or four times a weeks through Ohakune - a 4.5 hour ride to either Wellington or Auckland for a weekend - enough time to take in a good book and some scenery. 


Housing - mostly TBD


As of this writing - there is a housing crisis on - in most places in NZ, there is very little for sale or rent.  Sales don't matter to you if you are immigrating anyway - you have to be in-country for 12 months after becoming a permanent resident to buy property in NZ.  That said, some people have received exceptions (see below).


The housing crisis is of the form where there are plenty of homes to house everyone near their work - but the homes sit empty for a few different reasons ( financial incentives, mostly ).


Lots and lots more to come - I am studying this.


Housing and buying as an immigrant


On buying as an immigrant:


You need to be a Permanent Resident, and a Tax Resident, with Ordinary Residency, to buy real estate.


You know what a Permanent Resident is.


The tax service, IRD, considers you a Tax Resident when you have been in NZ for more than 183 days - the 183 day rule.  Once you have been in NZ for more than 183 days, your worldwide income is taxable in NZ.


Not by coincidence, you have to be in-country for 183 days to buy a house.  The ability to buy real estate, therefore, is an incentive to become a tax resident.  


Since that's revenue - there will likely be zero ways to get around the 183 day rule without dropping millions into banking or other industry.


<commentary> The 2010 ban on foreign purchases also restricts international travel and work plans for permanent residents who want to buy.  It also effectively means that many permanent residents could have their homes forcefully sold if they have to leave the country for more than six months.  Here is an article on that.  It could happen that the govt ultimately sees some specific restrictions as an unintended consequence of a hastily written law.  AFAICT, making this legislation serve the needs of kiwis is a challenge because you can't easily measure or explain the penalty for discouraging skilled immigrants in simple terms - but it's easy to use immigrants as a convenient non-voting population to demonize - and divide the rest of the voting population - for that reason, simple, divisive laws will pass easily, and complex laws reflective of real problems cannot.  Immigration is hard. :( </commentary>


Ordinary Residency - "You are ordinarily resident in New Zealand if you have been living in New Zealand for at least 12 months, have been present in New Zealand for at least 183 days of those 12 months, hold a New Zealand residence class visa (or are a citizen or permanent resident of Australia or Singapore), and are a New Zealand tax resident." Linz page.


There is a formal process for getting exceptions to the Ordinary Residency rule, or "consent" to buy.  This LINZ page directs you to a pdf on how that works.  Another link, as that one seems unreliable, and an upload.  Basically, call the OIO (overseas investment office) and they will help you.   Note: some of this law is based on legislation called the One Home To Live In Pathway - which is described on the linz site


As far as process is concerned, the main thing that you need to fully understand before you buy is the LIM report


There is no buyers agent and no title/escrow company involved in NZ, so the buyer has no advocate, and no way to directly communicate with the seller - miscommunication and misrepresentation is going to be unavoidable.  Direct buyer-seller markets for real estate are really needed across the globe.


You have to do your own searching, and you are supposed to retain a lawyer to go over the offer and LIM (don't think the lawyer is actually a requirement, though).  As a permanent resident but not a citizen, you will need to collect the info required by the OIO, and sign the One Home To Live In Statutory Declaration to get consent if you need it.  That declaration states that:


You solemnly and sincerely declare that: − I intend to be in New Zealand for at least 183 days in every 12-month period beginning on the date I am given consent until I become a New Zealand citizen, or ordinarily resident in New Zealand. − I intend to become/I am a tax resident in New Zealand, and I intend to remain a tax resident until I become a New Zealand citizen, or ordinarily resident in New Zealand. − I have disclosed all relevant information about myself for tests relevant to this application. − I have read, understood and accept the privacy disclaimer, and − All of the information in this application is true and correct.


That last bit is critically important.  It is also important to recognize that if you get this exception and you have to leave the country for more than six months for whatever reason, you will potentially lose your home.  So, tricky.


I will put a lot more about housing here in the future - in the meantime - this is fun - https://bitcoinhivemind.com/blog/futarchy-sf-rent/




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