The complete guide to moving to New Zealand

Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Jul 15, 2016

That’s it. You’ve decided to take the plunge and make the move to New Zealand. And why not? Flights can be as little as three and a half hours from eastern Australia, you won't have to spend months learning a new language, there’s only one poisonous spider, and the food is hardly going to be a dice with culinary Russian roulette.

That doesn’t mean to say you can just up your old life and rock up in New Zealand ready to carry on where you left off. It’ll still take a bit of planning, but that’s where we come in. Follow our tips and tricks and you’ll be kicking back with a Pinot Noir quicker than you can say “Central Otago”.

Getting through customs


Let’s start with some very good news; Australian citizens who want to work, live or study, don’t usually need a pre-arranged visa prior to arriving. You also won’t need to have secured a job before you arrive. There are a few related items to consider however:

  • If you’re a temporary resident in Australia, you’re not eligible for the same visa benefits in NZ as an Australian citizen. Visit this helpful resource for more information on different types of NZ visa arrangements for non-Australian citizens.
  • The Australian citizen visa is only granted when you land in NZ, so don’t try and arrange beforehand.
  • You will still need to fill out an arrival card in NZ to gain entry at customs.

  • Be mindful that if you leave NZ for any reason, your resident visa expires. You will need to arrange for travel variations that won't affect your residency status if you do plan to leave the country at some point. See this NZ Immigration resource for more info.

TIP: Even though Australian citizens easily obtain working rights in NZ, your visa will expire if you leave the country, so arrange travel variations with NZ Immigration prior to any holidays.

Good Character

Although generally straightforward for an Australian citizen to obtain a Visa, the NZ immigration authorities will check you’re in good health and of good character before letting you step foot on their soil. You won't be granted residency on arrival if:

  • You’ve been convicted of a crime in the last 10 years and have served more than 12 months in prison, or
  • You have ever served more than 5 years in prison or
  • You’ve been deported from any other country.


You also may not be guaranteed a visa on arrival if:

  • You’ve been charged for dangerous driving, or
  • You’ve been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or
  • You’ve received any conviction involving drugs, violence or fraud.

There’s a few other conditions too, so if you’re concerned about some skeletons in your closet, then check out these A5 character requirements.

Have a valid passport

Don’t get confused by the short flight distance! Just because you’re only the length of a domestic flight away, doesn’t mean you can turn up without valid international travel documents. You absolutely need your passport to travel between Australian and New Zealand. If you’re worried your passport is due to run out, don’t leave it to the last minute. Head over to the Australian Government Passport Authority for everything you need to know about renewing, or applying for a passport.

TIP: Have at least six months validity on your passport before you travel. You don’t want to have to arrange for an emergency replacement in case you need to head home urgently.

Pet Quarantine

You’ve got the passports somewhere safe so they don’t end up packed in a box with the kitchen utensils and the kids are arguing over whose new bedroom the dog will sleep in. Oh no! The dog! In between the million and one things on your “pre-move” list, you completely forgot about poor, faithful Milo the mutt.

Before you break into total panic, it’s actually surprisingly easy to import cats and dogs to New Zealand. The basics are that your pet has to be in good health and free of any disease, although you’ll need a health certificate to prove this. They must be microchipped and you’ll need to declare any medications they may be on. They’ll have to have a veterinarian inspection before travel, and you’ll need to be registered with a New Zealand vet at least 5 working days before you go.

Double check the inspection times at the airport. Your feline friend is also subject to biosecurity. Dogs and cats will need to travel as cargo, unless they’re assistance dogs. And although it may be tempting to put their favourite toy or an old blanket in the carrier with them, it will be confiscated upon arrival.

For Australians travelling to New Zealand, and provided your pet hasn't lived in another country, you’ll not need a permit to import them. Nor will they be subject to quarantine, provided they’ve been inspected at the airport, meaning you can all settle in to your new home as a family.

Although this process is a lot easier than the quarantine rules for other counties, there’s still plenty of paperwork to sort out. Definitely read the documents on the government website

It’s always worth thinking about getting help from a professional. King & Wilson have a wealth of experience in safely transporting pets, too.

TIP: Make sure your pets are fully vaccinated and all their documentation is up-to-date at least one month before you travel. Register them with an NZ vet a week before arriving.

Money, money, money


You’re going to need a bank account. And while that might sound like an extra layer of stress with all those forms and documents, New Zealand makes it easy. Relatively. You can actually open a bank account up to one year before you move. This is a great idea if you want to start putting some savings away so you know you’ll have a little something when you arrive. This also makes life easier when it comes to getting your first paycheck, as you’ll not have to wait around for an account to be opened. If you go for this option though, you will have to ‘activate’ the account when you arrive. This usually requires a permanent address, but banks do vary, so check the regulations with each one before you sign up.

The major banks are:






Some of these names may already be familiar, and it’s always worth asking if your Australian bank has any relationship with any of the banks above, as it might save some time and effort hunting around for a new account (ANZ and Westpac the obvious examples).

As in Australia, there are plenty of ATMs and it’s common to pay for things using a debit or credit card, even for really small purchases. New Zealand is rolling out contactless and mobile payments, so you’ll find bigger places offer this, too.

TIP: Open a bank account before you arrive in New Zealand, that way you’ll hit the ground running when you land.


This is nice and easy. In New Zealand they too have Cents and Dollars, so no verbiage to get your head around there. The exchange rate does fluctuate of course, so keep check via a reliable currency converter to get a feel for the actual cost of things, particularly early on while you are finding your feet. Once you start to earn local currency, the conversion back to AUD won’t be as relevant.

TIP: Download an exchange rate mobile app for the early days of your arrival so you know exactly how much things really cost.

Cost of living

Your cost of living will greatly depend upon the lifestyle you're used to: gourmet dinners, fine wines and designer clothes are not going to be considerably cheaper. However, according to a 2016 cost of living survey by international firm Mercer New Zealand cities such as Wellington and Auckland were in 83rd and 61st place respectively, compared to Sydney and Melbourne in 31st and 47th spots. There are plenty of resources online to help you figure out a rough average cost of living to help you budget, at least initially until you’re settled in.


To paraphrase the old saying, death and taxes are inevitable no matter where you reside. In New Zealand you’re subject to a GST, or Goods and Service Tax. This is a standard 15% on most things you’ll pay for in shops. You’ll also pay a variable tax depending on your income, of between 10.5% and 33% of your income, through the PAYE system. To register for this, you’ll need an IRD number, which we suggest getting as early as possible otherwise you might be put on a higher tax rate initially.  Much like in Australia, Kiwis also pay taxes on housing taxes and we’ll cover those in the next section, Setting up a Home.

TIP: Register for an IRD number as soon as possible to avoid paying more tax than you need to.

Health insurance

Again, if you weren’t already convinced that moving to New Zealand is a good idea, then free healthcare might just tip the balance. If you’re an Australian who has been living in NZ for more than two years, or if you are a permanent resident looking to stay for more than two years, then you’re entitled to free health care. You will need to show the healthcare professional your passport and residency visa, but you can have it. It can seem quite confusing understanding what you may or may not be entitled to. This guide from the NZ Health department covers everything you need to know.

You may also decide to go for private healthcare if you wish. If you already see private medical staff, start by chatting with them to see what you’re covered for and if it extends across to NZ. Even if not, they may have contacts with reputable providers. For dentistry, all under 18s are free, though it's not available at every practice, so ask before you sign up. Most adults use a private dentist and make sure to ask about treatment costs before you need them, as there’s no set government imposed cost.

TIP: Certain dentistry practises offer free care for Under 18s. If you have dependent kids check with your dentist before booking them in for an appointment.

Setting up a home

North or South?

Have you thought that far ahead yet? Well don’t worry if you haven’t, there really is something for everyone. Whether you’re thinking of leaving behind city life for the great outdoors or want to experience the hustle and bustle of the big city, you’ll find it in New Zealand.

Auckland is often described as one of the most liveable cities in the world, which is a great start if you’ve only ever lived in a small town. The capital Wellington is ideal if you work in finance and is also known for its arts and culture.  Both cities almost provide the top and tail to the north island. In between you've got prime agricultural land and beautiful tropical beaches.

The South Island is home to dramatic scenery, fantastic wine regions and smaller but forward-thinking towns like Christchurch, which was rebuilt in a very modern style after devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

Obviously depending on your job situation, the skills you have and family considerations, one island may be more suitable than the other. There’ll be more competition for jobs in bigger cities, plus there’ll be more tourists. New Zealand is a backpackers haven given stunning scenery and being globally famous for being the home of Bungee jumping.

TIP: Ensure your skills are in demand in the town you seek a move to. It’s no use being an accounting wiz in the countryside where the only jobs are on farms.

Housing considerations

If you’re still not too sure where you want to live, maybe start thinking about how you want to live. You’re not likely to have a huge house and a sprawling garden with a pool in the middle of Auckland’s CBD. If it’s important for your kids to have somewhere safe to play, you might want to think about a location with a garden, or at least a nearby park. Equally, if you’re a young, career-minded couple, you might prefer to be closer to the office in a smart-looking apartment.

And there’s the weather to think about too. Yes, New Zealanders pay a lot of attention to the weather, particularly in winter. Northern winters are warmer, so if you’re heading south, make doubly sure you’ve got an insulated house. Also find out about the cost of heating; there’ll be more about this in the Utilities section coming up.

Schools, proximity to the office or place of work are important factors, too. Public transport is on the whole very good in New Zealand, however, once you’re out of the bigger towns, it can be less frequent and a bit more difficult, so you might want to think about getting a car.

Last, but by no means least, there’s the cost to think about.  You’re unlikely to find a sprawling, four bed room home in the centre of a big city. And if by some miracle you do, you’re going to be paying serious dollars for it. Rental costs change, but for a guide to how much you might pay for a particular type of property, check out this link

To buy or not to buy?

That is definitely the question. And one we can’t easily answer for you. Make sure you do your research before you commit to either renting a property or buying one.

There are plenty of rental options available, from private landlords to real estate agents. If you go through a letting agent, you may be asked to pay up to two weeks rent (plus GST), and its also standard procedure to ask for a month or four weeks rent as a bond. This means you could be looking at paying up to six weeks’ worth of upfront rent before you step over the welcome mat.

If you’re thinking of buying, there are a mountain of things to think about. No different from buying a home in Australia. The process is fairly similar, and if you own a home already, you’re going to have to figure out whether you want to sell or rent your place out. Renting it out can be a good interim option until you’re fully settled in New Zealand.

No matter the type of dwelling you’re considering living in, or whereabouts, a really good resource is TradeMe It has lots of useful information on the topic, properties for sale, rental options, and an eBay-style classifieds area that is handy when you need to pick up furniture or other household items when you need to move in.


Whether you rent or buy, you’re going to need water and electricity. There is a sizeable push towards eco-friendly energy in NZ, with much of the electricity driven by wind generated, or hydroelectric sources. Gas is most commonly used for cooking, home hot water systems and depending on where you live, you may have gas piped directly in to your home. There are a number of energy and gas retailers in the market and it’s a good idea to compare prices via a service such as PowerSwitch in order to get the best deal going.

Water is treated, so it’s perfectly fine to drink from the tap. If you’re renting, your landlord will pay your water bill as it is covered in your council rates. However, some homes also have water meters, too. In this case, as the tenant, you’ll need to pay this.

It’s free to watch TV, and the country has recently gone totally digital, meaning great quality pictures all round. If the basic channels aren’t enough, you can get a Freeview box or you can pay for your TV. The main pay TV option is Sky

If you’re not sure how much living costs are going to be, try ENZ’s online calculator They’ve also got a wealth of info about average prices across major towns in NZ.

TIP: Use a price comparison service like PowerSwitch to help you get the best deal on your electricity and gas.

Internet and Phone

Assuming you are not one of the last remaining individuals holding against having a mobile phone, you’ll probably want to set up your current smart phone with a local SIM card.

It’s an easy process getting your mobile set up, and there are four main providers to choose from:

To get set up, you’ll need to take your current mobile into one of these branches. For more information check out this handy NZ Tourism guide to telecommunications.

If you go without a mobile phone or run out of battery, you can also go old-school with the various public pay phones dotted around the country. They’re easily spotted with the blue and yellow colours, and they take coins or phone cards.

To connect up to the Internet, the same mobile phone providers have you covered too. Broadband is only just being rolled out in NZ, so it’s more likely to be in the bigger cities or in really rural areas where there’s no cabling at all. Speeds can be slow in some areas, although this is improving. Larger cities will also have 3G and possibly 4G, but this is quite expensive so be careful how you use it. As is the case with home utilities, its worth checking out an aggregator that compares providers to get you the best deal. Broadband Compare is one.

The libraries also have free internet available if you’re not quite settled in your new home yet. For more details, click here

TIP: Avoid using 3G on your mobile for internet as it's really expensive. If you’re in temporary accommodation initially, use their wifi, or free internet in public libraries.

How will you get around?

Public transport

If you decide to live in one of the major hubs like Auckland, Christchurch, or the capital Wellington, you might find there’s no need for a car. You can get around either on foot, or on a bike. Public transport in these areas is also very good, with regular bus services and both Auckland and Wellington have intercity train services. For regional and local train services – plus some bus info, have a look at RailBus New Zealand Outside of these larger suburban areas, people are often spread out, with plenty of countryside in between. Services are not as frequent or as wide-reaching in more rural locations, so you may find you’ll need a car.

Get a NZ driving licence

Your Australian driving license is good for the first 12 months you’re in New Zealand. Depending on the type of residency you have, you may be given an extra 12 months each time you leave the country. For most people, though, they’ll need to obtain a NZ driving licence after the first year. You’ll not need to take a theory or practical test if you’re coming from Australia, which makes the whole process a lot less stressful! When you’re ready to swap, have a look at this government website:

You may opt to bring your car with you – they drive on the same side in NZ, so no freaking out on the roads over which side you should be on. The Australian standards for motor vehicle registration are very similar to New Zealand standards, so most vehicles can be legally imported to New Zealand without requiring modifications.

There are some rules regarding the importation of cars, vans and motor cycles. You are required to be in the country when the vehicle arrives. You will also be required to have all the purchase paperwork, registration and safety documents from the manufacturer. If you have owned and used the vehicle for longer than 12 months and you have resided outside of New Zealand for longer than 21 months, then you may be entitled to import the vehicle free of GST (Note whilst the import of motor vehicles are generally duty free, campervans are dutiable). You will however be required to complete an undertaking that you cannot sell the vehicle for a further 2 years.

The dramatic depreciation in value of most cars during the first 3 years after purchase, results in many ‘ditch hoppers’ choosing to ship their cars along with their personal effects and furniture. Experienced international moving companies like King & Wilson can provide you with more advice and a quote to include your car as part of a move to New Zealand.

The New Zealand Customs website has all the detailed information

TIP: If your car is currently financed under a commercial hire purchase, novated lease or chattel mortgage you will need to check with your financier as most finance companies will insist upon the vehicle being paid out before you are permitted to ship the car overseas.

What will the kids do all day?

School Options

Deciding on a school for your little darlings is hard enough without getting them settled and then up and moving to a new country. The good news, though, is that NZ take real pride in their education system. What’s more, they’re not completely academically focused, meaning that if your child has an aptitude or passion for more vocational routes of education, then there’s something for them too.

Kids legally have to be in school from aged 6 to 16, although many start primary school when they’re 5. Primary school usually lasts until age 12, but some students may go to an ‘intermediate’ school when they’re 11. These last two years and aim to prepare students for secondary school.

In terms of education, New Zealand has three main strands: State Schools, State ‘integrated’ schools or Private schools. State schools are government funded and are a popular option for most families. Facilities are good, they have a range of sporting and extra-curricular activities on offer, though most of these will require parental contribution.

State ‘integrated’ schools are very similar, however they’ll usually be a faith school, or something like Montessori. These are less popular, but nonetheless are also state funded for the most part.

Private schools are rare in NZ, though they can be found, and fees will vary, so make sure to do your research if this is the kind of option you’d prefer.

When kids reach high school age, they’ll study towards the NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement). Students will take a number of academic – and possibly vocational – courses which will be assessed through exams and coursework. These lead to credits that amount to a level 1, 2 or 3 NCEA.

After school care

It’s not always possible for you to wave the kids off in the morning and be home to welcome them at 3.30pm after a hard day learning things. If your kids are under 14, they legally can’t be left home alone. Chances are, you’re going to need some sort of after school care. There are a ton of community and school programs on offer, most of which will have some subsidiary cost.

TIP: Ensure you have adequate childcare provision for the kids if you work long days.

Post 16 education

Really?! You’re still having to sort this out?! Hopefully by this point your surly teenager will have at least a rough idea what they’d like to do. Whether that’s continuing education in colleges or university, vocational on-the-job training, or would like to just jump straight in to the world of work, there are plenty of options to stop them sitting on the sofa all day watching TV.  Get them to study the New Zealand Qualification Authority website

Under 5s

Most under 5s do have some sort of education as part of the early childhood education system (ECE). There is a competition for places, so try and get your little ones registered as soon as possible. Again, for residents, you’re entitled to the first 20 hours a week funded by the government. For a comprehensive guide to understanding the options for younger children, have a look at this publication

Work Stuff

Job searching

Luckily, coming from Australia, you won't need to go through the hassle of having qualifications recognised or, provided you’re living on a residency visa, you’ll not need to apply for a separate work visa. If you’ve been offered a job already, try and get it locked down and secured with signed contracts or whatever paperwork you need before you go. For the most part, this won't affect your travel arrangements and entry to the country per se, but you don’t want to arrive under the impression your job is secured only to find out it’s not. Plus, you’ll need to know exactly where you’ll be working so you can sort out things like housing and schools.

If you’ve not already got a job under your belt, there's no harm in looking early. Have a look at recruitment websites to see what sort of roles are available, pay and any associated benefits. The two biggest job boards in NZ are Trade Me Jobs and SEEK It is worth setting up profiles on both websites to have all the best jobs that match your skill set, arriving in the your email every day.

There are certain roles always in demand, and geographically some roles are only found in cities, so it’s worth taking the time to really have a think about if you want to take the next step on the career path – of if you fancy a total change of direction.

Use this time wisely – get your CV up to scratch and ask current/previous employers for any letters of recommendation or resume of your skill set. A great resource for getting your CV ready for the New Zealand job market is this website

TIP: sign up to recruitment websites and get job alerts posted direct to your inbox.

Pack and close up shop

Book your flight

The earlier you can book your international flight the better price-wise. If you can travel outside the school holiday peak season, you’ll save money too. This usually means travelling around February to March, May to June, late July to mid-September, or mid-October to mid-December. The sooner that you can lock down your moving date the better so you can plan ahead and save. Check out this Australian Government education resource for school holiday dates.

Check out Skyscanner or Webjet, a couple of the handy air travel aggregators to help get you the best ticket prices possible. Especially if you are not fussy about which airline you fly with.

Cull the clutter

Packing up your life and starting a new one is a good chance to cleanse. Don’t stick everything you own into boxes and transport the lot to your new home. Take the time to cull! There are a few good reasons for this.

You may have been hanging on to old heirlooms from a previous life that don’t need to make the journey across the Tasman. If the planned move is unlikely to be forever, then look into storing a few old boxes with a friend or relative or utilising King & Wilson’s long term storage services. You can revisit your old university text books again one day when you resettle back home. Or if the move to New Zealand might be indefinite, ask yourself whether you need eight boxes of old cassette tapes from the early '90s before you realised that CDs weren’t a passing fad…and while you’re there, how about that CD collection?

For more on minimalist packing check out this interesting perspective from

Tip: Cull unnecessary belongings and possessions before packing boxes

10 Weeks Before Moving Day

Give yourself plenty of time to plan the logistics of packing. A good international removalist, like King & Wilson will be your best friend in this regard -- they won’t want you leaving this to the last minute either. A few things to think about 2-3 months out from the big day:

  • Put together a folder or box for all documents and receipts relevant to the move.
  • Start a conversation with an international shipping company such as King & Wilson to get an estimate.
  • Create a floor plan for your new home to get a sense of how many of your large sized furniture or appliances you may need to get rid of.
  • Your belongings will be arriving by sea, however it only takes a couple of weeks for your boxed up life to arrive in New Zealand. You may therefore only need to pack some additional clothing, linen, towels and key crockery and key kitchen utensils in your flight luggage. You may also consider pre-arranging excess baggage as it is much cheaper to book in advance than turning up on departure day with more than your baggage allowance. King & Wilson offers a smaller air shipment service to cover off this need as well.


  • If you haven’t done so already, get yourself a New Zealand bank account, and if possible start to pay a little in to it so you have a cushion when you arrive.

Tip: Start a conversation with international movers now rather than later

6 Weeks Before Moving Day

Now you are edging closer to the big move, you want to start ticking off what will and won’t make it on the journey. For example:

  • Take an inventory list of all items around your home that will need to come with you.
  • Start selling off large or redundant items via Gumtree or ebay that you don’t want to take with you.
  • Hold a garage sale or take advantage of any local market stalls or jumble sales
  • If you are not wanting to ship your car across, then start the process of selling your vehicle on Carsales or a similar online classifieds service
  • Begin getting any paperwork you need for bringing your pet, make any necessary vet appointments and have any vaccinations your animal needs.
  • Start to compile your paperwork: things like CV copies, letters of recommendation, health certificates, medication lists. Basically anything you might need to register for a service, or secure a house/job.

4 Weeks Before Moving Day

With less than a month to the move, you need to start getting your hands dirty and actually packing a few things away, particularly items you are not using day to day:

  • Collect moving boxes and packing supplies. Or if you move your home with King & Wilson, simply use the international shipping cartons provided.
  • Start by packing things you don't use much currently like extra dining or kitchen utensils and seasonal clothing. Visit this resource from Energy Australia on the right way to pack when moving house or this interesting blog post on the subject by Frugal Mama.
  • Donate the things you don't need (or that you haven’t been able to sell off).
  • Think about consuming your pantry stocks and frozen goods as well as home cleaning products, shampoos and soaps.

Tip: Start by packing the things you do not use day to day

1-2 Weeks Before Moving Day

Eek! You are merely days away from the move now and need to be thinking about leaving behind a clean, empty home for a new inhabitant. You also need to think about tying up loose ends at home, the flight and what you need for your first days in New Zealand:

  • Confirm all your travel arrangements.
  • Finish packing your essentials.
  • Clean and defrost your refrigerator 24 hours before you move, turn off all the pipes and make sure you didn't leave any appliances on.
  • Cancel the newspaper subscription, contact Australia Post to redirect your mail to your new address in New Zealand, disconnect your utilities like the electricity, gas and internet.
  • If you know your new address in New Zealand, you may wish to pre-arrange your utilities connection. A specialist international moving company like King & Wilson can arrange this for you.
  • Give away any houseplants and any food you’re not going to be able to eat. New Zealand is just as strict about what you can import as Australia, and unfortunately your beloved potted fern isn’t one of them.
  • Say your goodbyes, provide your new contact details and travel itinerary to your family and friends.

Tip: Don’t forget to redirect the mail to your NZ address.

On Moving Day

You’ve made it to the big day. The job now is mainly to get out of the way of the professionals and focus on your breathing:

  • Let the professionals do their thing. A good removalist will take care of packing your belongings carefully and thoroughly.
  • A good international shipping mover will also cover off all the necessary shipping documentation to facilitate prompt customs clearance and quarantine inspection once your belongings arrive in New Zealand.
  • Get to the airport, put on those noise cancelling headphones and relax for 3 hours or so in anticipation of your new adventure!