Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The definitive guide to moving abroad and whether it's right for you

New Zealand

This is a preview to the chapter New Zealand from the book Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Paul Allen.
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I must confess, I haven’t been to New Zealand, so I can only speak second-hand. The reports from everyone I know who have been there though are always the same. And just watching The Lord of the Rings films confirms it. New Zealand is evidently a place of spectacular and varied natural beauty.

The country has over 15,000 km (9,000 miles) of coastline. The South Island, with its mountainous backbone, boasts 18 peaks higher than 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), with the tallest, Mount Cook, reaching 3,754 meters (12,316 ft). The North Island is noted for its volcanoes.

And that combination of geographic richness and low population density (the population is less than 4.2 million, with a land area larger than the UK’s) has made New Zealand an outdoors paradise.

As a result, it draws sports/adventure enthusiasts of all ilks to sample the fantastic opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, rock and ice climbing, whitewater kayaking, sailing, skiing, surfboarding, gliding and a host of other activities.

Its long geographic separation from any other landmass also provides New Zealand with a unique array of plants and animal life. Indeed, 80 percent of its flora is found only there. In addition there are no snakes – so I suspect my wife will be looking to move there imminently!

The country enjoys a predominantly temperate climate, as illustrated by the graph below1. However, the mountain chain that runs its length has a major impact on the rainfall of the different regions, with the west coast seeing much more than the east. The North Island, where most of the population is concentrated, sees rain on at least 130 days of the year.

Auckland, the main economic hub, is New Zealand’s largest city. At present the greater metropolitan area has a population of 1.3 million, but that’s predicted to grow to 2 million by 2050. And given the city’s low population density that has led to fears of future urban sprawl, with its related difficulties. In addition, the geographic dispersion, meagre public transport network and high rates of car ownership and usage mean traffic congestion and air pollution are issues of growing concern.

Despite such problems though, Auckland ranked joint fourth in Mercer’s 2009 quality of living survey. Meanwhile, the nation’s capital Wellington – nicknamed ‘Windy Wellington’ for its predominant weather feature – came out 12th in the rankings.

And country-wide, New Zealand’s environmental record remains impressive. Most notably it came top of the Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index. And although it slipped to seventh in the 2008 rankings (as mentioned above), that was not because of a deterioration in its own score, which increased marginally. Rather, it was as a result of the marked improvements made by the other countries that came out ahead.

As for the expat experience, New Zealand came a close second to Canada in NatWest International Personal Banking’s recent Quality of Life Index. In particular, it obtained high rankings for its schools and healthcare provision.
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