If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you’ll know by now I’m a big fan of a good checklist.
If you get yourself sorted with nothing but these 8 items when you arrive then you’ll know you’re pretty much right to just crack on with having a sweet as time with all your new cuzzy bro kiwi friends.
Pick a Phone Plan
The major telco’s in New Zealand are Vodafone, Spark, Skinny and 2degrees.
Other than the price and plan options available for each, you may want to check with people in your area which provider has the best coverage and strongest signal. There’s no use paying for the cheapest prepaid plan if you have no reception!
Another hot tip – don’t sign up for a plan at the airport. The provider I ended up signing with had significantly inflated prices at the airport store compared to the store in town. Now that you live here get the local price not the tourist price!
Find some Accommodation
Hopefully you’ve arranged some short term accom for your arrival. When it comes to long term accommodation it’s handy to know your rights whether signing a lease, becoming a boarder, joining a flat share or any other tenancy arrangement you might make. Head to the Citizens Advice Bureau website for some clarity on your rights in each scenario before signing any contracts, but here’re a few key points:
- Expect to be asked to pay a bond equal to 4 weeks rent. This should be held by “Tenancy Services” (a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Department)
- Rent in advance: your landlord can only ask for 1-2 weeks rent in advance max when you move in, and this counts as your first payment
- Your landlord can only increase the rent of your periodic tenancy once every 12 months, and not at all until the end of your fixed term tenancy
Housing will be a bit different in each region so it’s hard for me to give you specific advice or average prices. As one example though, tourist hot spots like Wanaka and Queenstown experience a massive influx of seasonal workers in the winter for the snow season, so try to get in early (i.e. by May), and expect to pay $150-$250 a week to rent a room plus bills on top (as of 2021).
Open a Bank Account
If you’ve been to the UK or read my post about opening a bank account there, you know my frustrations with this process! Fortunately as an Australian citizen in New Zealand it is nowhere near as tedious.
All you’ll need is your Australian Passport and proof of your New Zealand address. This could be a lease agreement, utility bill or a letter from your landlord (if they are an account holder with the bank you’re opening an account with) confirming you reside at their address.
Once the bank manager has these documents your account should be open within 1-2 days and a bank card in your letterbox in 7-10 days. Kiwi life is so much easier once you’ve got Kiwi dollars in the bank!
I have no affiliation with any bank, but the big players you have to choose from include ANZ, BNZ, Westpac, Kiwibank and ASB.
Additional note: it may be possible to start the application process prior to arriving in New Zealand, however you’ll still need to verify your identity and address once you’ve arrived to activate the account.
Get an IRD Tax Number
The New Zealand Government’s Inland Revenue Department (IRD) is responsible for taxes. Typically your income tax is paid on a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system similar to Australia and the UK, with income tax rates varying from 10-39% based on your earnings (read more about it in my post Explaining the NZ tax system here).
It’s really easy to apply online, all you need to do is head to the IRD website with your passport and visa details handy to set up your online account (called myIR), complete your application, and you should receive your number by email or text in 1-2 days.
Once you’ve been given your IRD number, you’ll need to work out your tax code. Your tax code will determine your income tax rate so your employer knows how much to deduct from your wages on your behalf. Your employer should give you a form to complete with a pretty confusing algorithm to follow based on your individual circumstances, but don’t worry you won’t get in big trouble for getting things wrong (IRD got in touch with me after a few weeks of working to say they thought I might need to switch codes based on how much I was earning, which was easily sorted by my practice manager).
Only your employer and your bank really need to know your IRD number. Keep it safe from others to minimise your risk of identity fraud.
KiwiSaver is the pension or superannuation system for funding retirement in New Zealand.
Your employer is obligated to make contributions to your KiwiSaver account from each pay (3% of your pre-tax pay), and you have the option to make additional voluntary contributions of 3%, 4%, 6%, 8% or 10% from your wages.
The government also makes a co-contribution of up to $521.43 (as at 2021) if you have contributed at least $1042.86 each year.
The idea is that you can only access these funds when you retire, however, there is an early access arrangement in place for Aussies working in New Zealand who want to transfer their funds back to their Super fund on returning to Australia. Unfortunately, the New Zealand Government contributions are deducted from the total transferred across, but it still means you’re not missing out on accumulating money for your future.
* Additional Note: I plan to do this on returning to Australia myself. I’ll update this post with the steps and timeframes when I do!
You’re able to opt-out of KiwiSaver if you’d prefer (but in theory it’s an extra 3% on your wages!). If this is the case you can complete an “Opt Out Request” form and give it to your employer, or login to your online IRD account myIR and do it there.
If you do decide to go ahead with opening a KiwiSaver account:
- Pick which institution you’d like to use from the KiwiSaver website (for ease I just went with my banking institution so I could see the balance growing in my banking app. You may have different investing priorities you’d like to consider).
- Your employer should give you a KiwiSaver Information Pack and KiwiSaver Deduction form (if not you can find them on the KiwiSaver website)
- If you’re self employed there’s also instructions for you on the KiwiSaver website here
The healthcare system in New Zealand is almost entirely publicly funded, with very few people having private health insurance. In part this is due to the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), a government funded entity that covers all of the costs associated with accidental injury (including physiotherapy! I’ve written more on this here).
If your home country has a reciprocal health care agreement with New Zealand it’s unlikely you’ll need to make any additional arrangements for health insurance. Google your nation’s specific agreement with New Zealand however, as it’s important to know whether you need to pay for any extra cover before you end up in a pickle, rather than during! For example, you may need to reside in New Zealand for two years before you become eligible for public healthcare.
One important note for the Aussies out there, while we do have a reciprocal health agreement with New Zealand this does not include ambulance costs. If you are picked up by an ambulance or helicopter then you could be hit with an $800 bill! And ambulance insurance as we know it in Aus doesn’t really exist in New Zealand either…
Accidental (i.e. ACC) ambulance costs are covered for Kiwis and those who have lived in New Zealand for 2 years (even locals who suffer a non-accidental injury such as a medical event like a seizure, heart attack or stroke are hit with a bill for their ambulance trip because it is not an injury from an ‘accident’, ACC is such a weird system…).
So what about that awkward 2 year gap before you become resident? The best solution I’ve found so far is to pay for a $55 annual membership with St Johns Ambulance. Based on the eligibility criteria it’s still not entirely clear to me whether Aussies are actually able to sign up (although a reply to my email enquiry enthusiastically said I could!). But I figured in the worst case scenario I’ve donated a bit to fund the service, and I’ll keep $800 in the bank just in case they do end up charging me for that heart attack…
You’re allowed to use your own nation’s drivers licence in New Zealand for up to 12 months. After this time you’re legally required to change it over to a New Zealand licence, otherwise you’ll cop a fine from the police if they pull you over.
In saying this if you leave New Zealand for whatever reason and come back, the countdown starts again when you re-enter the border.
Buying a Car
I’m no mechanic so I can’t help you when it comes to avoiding picking that lemon of a second hand car. But if you can afford it, the freedom owning a car affords you is totally worth it in New Zealand!
As well as the cost of buying the car itself you’ll need to pay for:
When deciding whether you can afford a set of wheels also bear in mind that petrol is really expensive here! Primarily because of the road-use taxes tied up in the price. Now you’re a local, ask around your new found friends for the inside goss on the cheapest pumps in your home town.
Right. Now you’ve got all these boring bits done, go get out there and have some fun – there are mountains, rivers, beaches and cafes calling you!
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