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MAR 27/2013

Living and working in New Zealand

Working in New Zealand can be exciting, challenging and a wonderful opportunity to combine lifestyle with career choice. We provide international candidates with every possible support at each step of the way.

The country in brief

Where else in the world can you surf in the morning then ski in the afternoon? Or lose yourself in an isolated rainforest only an hour from a crowded city bar? New Zealand is a playground for thrill seekers and adventurers or people who just want to get away from it all. Spectacularly beautiful landscapes include vast mountain chains, steaming volcanoes, sweeping coastlines, deeply indented fjords and lush rainforests.

New Zealand can be found in the southern Pacific Ocean, 1,600 kilometers East of Australia. It’s made up of the North and South Islands separated by the Cook Strait - and a number of smaller islands, with a total land area of 270,500 square kilometres.
An independent nation and a member of the British Commonwealth, it has a diverse multi-cultural population made up mostly of: European, Maori, Asian and Pacific Island people.

Equivalent in size to Great Britain, California or Japan, New Zealand has a population of approx 4.5 million – making it one of the world’s least crowded countries

Interesting fact… Kiwis

New Zealand’s first settlers, the Maori, named the kiwi bird for the sound of its chirp – kiwi, kiwi, kiwi! This flightless bird, about the size of a domestic hen, has an extremely long beak and plumage more like hair than feathers. New Zealanders have adopted this nocturnal, flightless and endearing creature as their national emblem.

Referring to New Zealanders as Kiwis probably dates back to the First World War, when New Zealand soldiers acquired this nickname.

In the international financial markets, the New Zealand dollar, the basic currency unit, is frequently called the Kiwi. The dollar coin features a kiwi bird on one side.

Perhaps the best-known kiwi is the delicious kiwifruit. Originating in China, kiwifruit were grown in New Zealand domestic gardens for decades as Chinese gooseberries. However, when enterprising New Zealand farmers began propagating the fruit intensively for export, it was given the name kiwifruit and has achieved worldwide fame.

The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document and established the country as a nation. Today the Treaty continues as a living document and is the subject of much debate on race relations in New Zealand.

Culture and lifestyle

The society is diverse, sophisticated and multicultural and the honesty, friendliness and openness of Kiwi’s will impress you. English is the common language spoken, although you’ll also hear ‘Maori’ spoken – the official language of the country.

The Maori were New Zealand’s first settlers. They made an epic journey about 1000 years ago from legendary Hawaiki, probably in Polynesia to the North. The great explorer Kupe, who legend says first discovered New Zealand, named the new land Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud.


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 -10⁰C in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall and abundant sunshine. Snow fall is mainly only in the central North Island where the ski fields are located and on Mount Taranaki. The South Island gets the most snow due to the Southern Alps that run the length of the Island.

The clear, unpolluted atmosphere and relatively low latitudes produce sunlight much stronger than Europe or North America, so be prepared to wear hats and sun block if you plan to be out in the sun for more than 15-20 minutes.

You can check on weather conditions in New Zealand in newspapers, on the television news and on the New Zealand Met Service website:

Economy and Government

New Zealand is a modern parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster parliamentary system. The parliament is currently made up of 120 members.

Time zone

New Zealand is one of the first places in the world to see the new day. It is 12 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). In summer the country has daylight saving, when clocks are put forward one hour to GMT+13. Daylight saving begins on the last Sunday in September and ends on the first Sunday of the following April, when clocks are put back to GMT+12.


Three and a half hour flight from Eastern Australia, a non-stop overnight flight from the United States, and around 10 hours flight from most places on the Pacific Rim, like Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo, it takes around 24 hours to fly to New Zealand from the UK. You can make the journey either via Asia or the US.


Work permits are arranged through the New Zealand Immigration Department.
Visas currently available:
•    Work Visa – valid for three to five years depending on qualifications
•    Work to Residency Visa – for healthcare professions who wish to stay permanently in New Zealand
•    Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) Visa – eligibility determined by a points based system assessment.
•    Working Holidays Visa – valid for a period of up to 24 months and is open to people aged 18 to 30.

Professional registration

You’ll need registration in your field of practice prior to seeking work in New Zealand. For healthcare professionals who are not from a comparable health system, a skills conversion course may be required. For certain professions, an English language assessment might also be needed.


Dress is informal and relaxed on many occasions. Smart casual clothes are acceptable at most restaurants and nightspots. Men are generally not expected to wear suits and ties, except in more formal bars and restaurants in major cities.

Getting around

In New Zealand, all motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road.
The speed limit on the open road is 100km/h (approx. 60mph). In built up areas the speed limit is 50km/h. Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times. All children, from birth, must by law be restrained in an age-appropriate car seat/capsule.

Driving licence

You can legally drive for up to 12 months if you have either a current driver’s licence from your home country, or an International Driving Permit (IDP). Recent law changes mean all drivers, including overseas visitors, must carry their licence or permit when driving. If your licence is not in English, you should bring an English translation with you or obtain an International Driving Permit


Education facilities are located in all areas of New Zealand. To find out more about the schools located in your area, go to:
School is compulsory for children aged from six to 16 years, at primary, intermediate and secondary school. Most children start school at five years of age; The New Zealand Government funds state schools. You may have to provide additional funding for example, sports clothes, school trips, text books. Private schools are also available.

School uniforms are not usually worn at primary schools but are worn at most intermediate and secondary schools.

The school year has four terms, with the new school year commencing in early February.

There are many good childcare facilities in New Zealand, which are required to be registered. Private childcare centres charge a fee to take care of the child.

•    Primary school: Children up to 10 years,
•    Intermediate school: Children from 11 to 12 years,
•    Secondary school: Children from 13 to 17/18 years.

After the age of 17/18 years, further study is from a choice of many New Zealand institutions: Polytechnics, Universities and Colleges of Education. Note that anyone attending tertiary education will be charged international student fees unless they are a New Zealand Resident.


New Zealand has a wide variety of religions. Anyone can attend any place of worship they choose. The largest religion is Christianity (including Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches). Many ethnic groups also have their own places of worship.

Registering with a GP

To register with a GP just call your local Medical Centre and ask to register. You will need to provide identification.

Finding accommodation

You can choose from cities such as multi-cultural Auckland - the subtropical ‘City of Sails’, centre stage Wellington or the South Island’s garden city - Christchurch and ‘Edinburgh of the South’ Dunedin. If city living isn’t your thing, we have stunning regional areas including the farming rich Waikato and our esteemed wine producing areas such as Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough and Central Otago.

To find permanent accommodation in New Zealand it is best to use the internet. The website Trademe ( or checking the local real estate agents rental boards online:

•    Crockers Property Management
•    LJ Hooker
•    Harcourts
•    Bayleys
•    First National
•    Century 21
•    Ray White

It is usually easy to find rental accommodation in New Zealand. There may be fees for a real estate agent or a letting centre. A bond must be paid for a flat or house to the Tenancy Tribunal. Bond money is an amount paid to be refunded at the end of the lease unless there is any damage to the property. A bond will usually be equivalent to two to four weeks’ rent. Landlords usually ask for two weeks rent to be paid before the tenant moves in.

There are deposits required to connect electricity, gas and the telephone. Most rental properties are unfurnished or semi-furnished. Single, family and shared accommodation is fairly easy to find in all parts of New Zealand. In the major centres as a rough rule of thumb, you will pay approximately $150 to $300 per bedroom per week. Therefore, a three bedroom house would be $450 - $900 per week. Landlords are generally looking for a minimum of six months’ commitment from the incoming tenant, this is usually negotiable. Long term rentals are common.

Finance and banking

New Zealand’s unit of currency is the dollar (NZ$), comprising coins with values of 10, 20 and 50 cents, $1 and $2, and notes with values of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought in or taken out of New Zealand, however, every person who carries more than NZ$10,000 in cash in or out of New Zealand is required to complete a Border Cash Report.

Exchange Rates

Banks should be able to tell you what the current exchange rate is with the New Zealand dollar. Foreign currency can easily be exchanged at banks, some hotels and Bureau de Change kiosks, which are found at international airports and most city centres.


Tax in New Zealand is tiered and depends on how much you earn. The maximum tax rate in New Zealand is 33%. GST (Goods and Services Tax) is 15%.

To pay tax in New Zealand you must have an IRD number. If you do not have an IRD number then you will be charged the highest tax rate. To register for a tax number you must contact the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) when you arrive in New Zealand and complete the required paper work. Their website is 

Applying for a Bank Account

Many New Zealand banks offer migrant banking services so that you can set up a bank account before moving to New Zealand. Contact your Medacs Healthcare consultant for more information.   

Banking hours are usually Monday to Friday, 9- 4.30pm, with banks in malls open over the weekend. Cash machines are located outside all banks and in shopping malls, or wherever there is a block of shops.

International credit cards and ATM cards will work as long as they have a four-digit PIN encoded. Check with your bank before leaving home.



Post Offices are open 9am – 5pm on weekdays, with some also being open on Saturday mornings. Mail within New Zealand can be sent in a variety of ways. Regular postage stamps are $0.70; delivery time is two days between major centres, a bit longer for rural areas.

For international mail use an airmail sticker. From New Zealand to Europe, letters will take between six and 12 days to deliver.


The monthly fee covers the following services in your line rental:
•    Monthly home line rental
•    Standard national and international calling rates
•    Unlimited local calling
•    111 Emergency operator assistance
•    Your White pages listing
•    Maintaining the Telecom network

Most public call phones take cards purchased from bookstalls and newsagents, with a minimum value of NZ$2. Some public callphones also accept credit cards, but very few accept coins.

Mobile phones

There are several mobile phone networks in New Zealand. You can arrange a variety of payment plans or choose ‘pay as you go” options.


You will need a RJ45 type plug to be able to connect your laptop into a computer socket in New Zealand, and an adaptor with a flat two or three-point power plug to connect to the power supply.

Helpful websites

Emergency numbers

The emergency number in New Zealand is 111 for police, fire or ambulance.

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