Why Are People Leaving NZ?


Many arrive, but many either leave or wish they could


Welcome to E2NZ.org while you’re here why not check out our Migrant Tales series. You’ll be glad you did.

Inward migration may be booming in NZ at the moment, but most of the permanent and long term arrivals are Kiwis returning home and looking for work.

In February 2010: ‘People Leaving NZ. What’s The Deal?’  was a question that was asked on the emigration forum Expatarrivals.com and not much has changed since then.

These are some of the answers that were given back then that still hold true today:

  • I”t’s very hard to be a returning kiwi especially with experience and qualifications. It’s difficult to get ‘a job’ let alone something in your field…even harder if you’re over 30. The average wage is low (especially if you’re female), cost of living high and kiwis are over taxed. The country has been mis-managed for some years (over spending, poor immigration, fraud) with very little to show for it. It’s also become increasingly more violent (murder, rape, child abuse, domestic violence). I would advise anyone thinking about returning to do their homework seriously! There are not many opportunities and it can be very closed shop, insular and nepotistic so if you’ve been away for a while it’s tough. The safe thing to do would be line up a job (if you can) before making any move.”
  • “You may not want to hear this as an potential emigrating expat but many leave New Zealand because there are better job opportunities outside of the country. Higher Salaries and faster career prospects entice people off the island.”
  • “I’ve heard that kiwis keep leaving new zealand because it is the most boring place on earth. there is nothing to do but go walking, or listen to crowded house records. there is no culture, jobs, excitement.”
  • “I have heard that New Zealand companies are now working very hard to recruit expats in an effort to replace the amount of young people leaving the country – this is surely a positive spin for prospective immigrants, giving them a bit of leverage to negotiate offers?”
  • Good jobs scarce. Low-wage economy. Sky-high housing. Gang problem. Insular people. Schools not good compared to UK. Housing poor quality. There isn’t much to emigrate “to” unless you enjoy scenery to the exclusion of all else. It is beautiful but there just is not much there. I know people who have regressed in their careers while in NZ because they were overqualified for everything, so you do find IT professionals with Masters in CompSci working help desks with some frequency. Their free health care is not actually free, and is staffed mainly by temporary foreign locum sawbones. If it is an injury you are covered, but not something like cancer or kidney stones, for which it is more efficient to go private before you croak on a queue. Many Kiwis leave for better wages in Oz, and some expats move on to Oz or elsewhere, or back home, after a few years. You don\’t hear from these leavers at all. You only hear all the constant public relations hype about how great it is. If you google around you will find forums discussing the downside. If you are an independently wealthy boastman or a nature freak who does not mind living in the manner of a backpacker on ramen and tiny rented spaces, you will love it. Seppos: No totalisation agreement with social security so check out tax ramifications.I knew a few Yanks who became stuck. Poms, if you love Tescos and Waitrose and M&S, don\’t move to NZ. Goods are either inexpensive and shoddy or they are the expected Blighty medium-quality but way beyond your budget in NZ. NZ winter weather is like March, cold, wet and windy, but your hearth will not be a refuge from this. The homes are draughty with no insulation and built with poor joinery and no central heating. In March temperatures this may be difficult. Nonexistent pub culture. Nonexistent culture in general.
  • Came, saw, stuck it out for a few years and will soon leave screaming.”
  • Their free health care is not actually free, and is staffed mainly by temporary foreign locum sawbones. If it is an injury you are covered, but not something like cancer or kidney stones, for which it is more efficient to go private before you croak on a queue. Many Kiwis leave for better wages in Oz, and some expats move on to Oz or elsewhere, or back home, after a few years. You don’t hear from these leavers at all. You only hear all the constant public relations hype about how great it is. If you google around you will find forums discussing the downside. If you are an independently wealthy boastman or a nature freak who does not mind living in the manner of a backpacker on ramen and tiny rented spaces, you will love it. Seppos: No totalisation agreement with social security so check out tax ramifications.I knew a few Yanks who became stuck. Poms, if you love Tescos and Waitrose and M&S, don’t move to NZ. Goods are either inexpensive and shoddy or they are the expected Blighty medium-quality but way beyond your budget in NZ. NZ winter weather is like March, cold, wet and windy, but your hearth will not be a refuge from this. The homes are draughty with no insulation and built with poor joinery and no central heating. In March temperatures this may be difficult. Nonexistent pub culture. Nonexistent culture in general.And before anyone thinks or posts that its the same everywhere and medical doctors drive taxis in NYC, USA or London UK. The difference is that those countries do not have the feel about them of being cut off from the rest of the world as NZ DEFINITELY does and despite it all those countries do offer more opportunity and better wages, even if you have to do a menial job to survive at first. I’d also like to think that those countries have long ago adapted to multiculturalism and even if its only on the face of it, at least make people feel equal to a larger degree. Unless of course you visit the small towns of West Virginia or Utah, USA but let’s face it, not many immigrants would rush there to begin with. And A LOT of NZ feels like small town, hillbilly, one-horse-towns. It’s very rural … so one becomes a bit depressed leaving the “cities” (100 000 pax = city here) to go and see the scenery as you drive through those small towns and look at the derelict housing etc.”
  • The thing about NZ IMO is that the country is so, so small that the social problems, economic problems, development problems, health problems, political insufficiency, youth problems (graffiti, teen pregnancies, truancy, gangs, drugs, poor literacy etc), living-below-the-breadline families, and terrible pollution – yes the clean green image was just a marketing ploy and e.g. recycling is faaar behind here – are in your face on a daily basis. You may live in a good area but the next rough area is often a few street blocks away. Walking distance. The only place where you may isolate yourself from not seeing the very real problems of this country is maybe Auckland, NZ’s only city (1.2 mil pax). So indeed, everywhere in the world has these problems but in NZ they are very much in your face. Now maybe this is a good thing to keep people humble and make them aware and not to isolate the down trodden yadda yadda, but if you’re going to blow your life savings to immigrate and leave friends, family and familiarity behind, I think its rather disappointing when you arrive here in reliance on the marketing campaigns by NZ Immigration and find that the countrys problems are rather close to you on a daily basis, the wages do not live up to the cost of living here, and the job opportunities (not to mention lack of promotional opportunities) may very well be the first very real problem you face … and add to that the xenophobia mentioned above when you go for interviews … Good luck to you if you are highly skilled (highly qualified) too because many a migrant can attest to the fact that New Zealanders do not generally appreciate foreign expertise. It all comes down to their inferiority crisis about being so small and isolated and indeed, the worst developed Western country in the world. Resources are and will always be lacking here. If you like living rural and in make-do way, you may just love it here.
  • It saddens me to hear some of the negative words that are being said about my beautiful country. Altough I have to admit some are true, I myself have left New Zealand for a better lifestyle, earning potential, and career that I didnt have when I was back home. Apart from this, New Zealand DOES have an AWESOME CULTURE, it is there you just need to find it. I love and miss home and would love to return to live one day, hopefull after I win the Lotto!”

You may also be interested in

Migrant Tales – ‘Musings From the Land of Shrimp’ and ‘the Myth of 93% Satisfaction

The Myth of 93% Satisfaction

In 2006, the NZ Department of Labour triumphantly announced a spectacular level of satisfaction among migrants with the “Kiwi way of life”. The “93% satisfaction level” has been quoted widely and often since. It was one of the ‘facts’ which helped shape our decision to make the move to NZ..

The report is an exercise in bad math and data manipulation. I can take the same data, manipulate it in a similar way in reverse and conclude that only 17% of the new permanent residents liked “the friendly and relaxed pace of life”. Or that only 12% felt they were “safe from crime and violence”. These would be lies, and likewise the DOL’s conclusions… read more

240 thoughts on “Why Are People Leaving NZ?

  1. Hello, back again, I got criticised last time for trying to put a more positive spin on NZ so I’m not going to now. Just to say, being new migrant has its own problems, you’re trying to adjust to a different country from the one you grew up in. I have had to leave NZ again because of the education system, it’s too laissez faire, the kids are hardly given any factual information until they get to year 9, and then only scantily. What is all this about, why are they starving the young in NZ with knowledge about history, geography, everything children in other first world countries learn. For anyone who’s interested, here is a link to a UK curriculum for years 7 and 8 and beyond, I can honestly say my son last year in year 7 in NZ really only covered maths and literacy, a tiny amount of language, two pages of science, and an hour of so of DT. Compare the richness of this from a school in Wales, it doesn’t…enough said. If the education in NZ could be reformed, kids challenged and given a far richer curriculum, maybe these other problems people are pointing out would start reducing, as the country has such enormous potential and so many positive qualities.

    Click to access Curriculum-Plan.pdf

    • Thank you, it took me quite awhile to piece it all together. Not even maths and literacy are taught as though they want the children to actually be properly literate. I am over the NZ system completely, and now trying to get my child’s education back on track from ten steps behind. I am going to do an MA in education and try to put something back into the country, watch this space, you never know I might splutter out a documentary one day. I met a young, twenty something bright young woman on the beach the other day, she had just returned from Edinburgh, she said when she talked to people her age in Scotland she felt totally deprived, they knew so much, she knew nothing. It’s perfectly possible to go through the NZ system and learn no history whatsoever, not even geography, how river valleys are formed!!! It’s incredible. All these educational researchers and an education system which is completely inadequate…very sad indeed.

  2. One can never generalise. It all depends on your attitude. When people talkabput crime or govt mismanagemnt, as a South African I can only laugh. NZ is a paragon of efficiency compared to many places and after South Africa seems like paradise. Yes it is expensive but the currency and the ibflation are stable and you can plan for a future. Kiwis are polite and want to make things work. It is fine, just fine.

    • “One can never generalise. It all depends on your attitude.”

      Shit smells like shit. You can roll it in glitter and its still a turd.

      “NZ is a paragon of efficiency ”


      “..and you can plan for a future. ”

      Yeh, If you smoke crack and then kid yourself into a deluded fantasy. A future you say? Dream on.

      “Kiwis are polite and want to make things work.”

      False. Swindle, fraudulent, scheme, racket, trick, diddle, con, trick, flimflam, gyp, shakedown, bunco, boondoggle, codswollop, baloney, tosh.

      “It is fine, just fine”.

      Yeh, sure it is. Keep telling yourself that.

    • Yes, the levels of crime and corruption in New Zealand are definitely not on the scale of South Africa – but do not be fooled by the big wide deserted windswept streets and the quiet damp back alleys. Crime does exist here and I would never laugh about it. Some of the attacks on foreign tourists here in recent years have been absolutely appalling and they would rate alongside what goes on in the more unstable parts of the world.

      If you stay here for any length of time you will also come to realise how ignorant, unworldly, xenophobic, and naïve many kiwis can be. They are quick to point the finger at the rest of the world but refuse to accept what is happening in their own backyard. While you will almost certainly be able to plan for a secure future here – that future may however be incredibly windy, wet, cold, colourless, and boring.

  3. [Edit: If you’ve come here via a link from Stormfront be advised NZ is not a “white country” and never has been, rather like the USA. Take your racism elsewhere. Admin]

    I’ve come across this website too late. We’ve moved here, and when people ask if I was from NZ, or my wife was (neither), I never fully understood why they would ask that. I do now.

    After 6 months of applying for work I still haven’t had one interview, and you would think thats because I am a recent graduate who chose to do photography or nursing or teaching or any of the current glut of qualified graduates that are being churned out who are fighting each other to get work. No, I work in retail and marketing and have for 20 years for some of Australia’s largest and most successful retail companies, and did quite well. I’m rapidly finding out, my international (even though we’re neighbours) doesn’t count for much, and reminiscent of school, even though I should be progressing I’ve been relegated to the bottom grade again, but the problem is I know more than everyone I’m being told I don’t compare to, in a level I shouldn’t be in.

    I’m resigning myself to now apply for roles that I did 10-15 years ago just to get my foot in the door, while we live in an incredibly overpriced rental which has all the previous and aforementioned design highlights and build quality of an open shed with a toilet, watch out for any 10c off discounts from petrol stations and buy everything from Pak and Save as this is the only way to afford vegetables and proper proteins.

    I’m living the dream or is it the 100% Pure New Zealand nightmare.

  4. Never thought you were for even a moment!
    Junk science rules nowadays , and as I recall a psych degree in NZ was pretty much a no-fail option for those too lazy to do quantifiable subjects which required real testing and evaluation to pass.
    It’s the emperors new clothes all over again with Womens Studies , Liberal Arts, etc.

    Stone-age languages and touchy-freely subjects at the expense of practical learning.

  5. Spot on comment on “social science” ;- an oxymoron if ever there was one, and of no practical use whatsoever.

    Meritocracy is not to be had even in more progressive countries as a value and nepotism and Leftist dogma are the the new truths. Look at Canada and the virtue-signalling idiot in charge there.

    • Thanks for the vote of support.
      However, I regret to inform you that I was not joking.
      That is the actual title of a Social Science Master’s Thesis in New Zealand

      “My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”
      ― George Bernard Shaw, John Bull’s Other Island

  6. I’ve been away from NZ for three weeks, I expend a lot of effort trying to convince myself to live in UK which a lot of people leave because of similar issues – class system, depression, overcrowding, poor housing, education, lack of well paid jobs, salaries which haven’t risen for years, social problems, racism, etc, etc, all of which goes to prove that there is no perfect place in the world, it’s where you feel comfortable and at home that matters, like others who move to NZ I am torn because of family not place, I don’t need to convince myself that I love NZ, however I won’t return to this thread as it’s for people who have decided NZ is not for them, which I respect entirely, migrating is an incredibly hard path to choose, we’re not birds!

    • I have no plans to leave NZ but can honestly say that I have spent time in University Cities in the UK and have never witnessed the sort of student behaviour that is common here. See attached link for an example. Even this week, I have encountered people lying asleep in the middle of the road at 1pm in the afternoon and had students falling down in front of my car drunk as I have driven down streets. I am fearful for my own children more than anything as they will be part of this culture.

  7. What are you trying to prove by re-quoting this? Every country has it’s different parts, NZ is no different, the trick is finding the place which you can be happy in. As far as UK goes, if you read mumsnet, as I do, you will find countless stories of people trying to find that elusive friendly community where good schools, friendly neighbours, nice scenery, affordable housing all co-exist. I genuinely tick so many more boxes in the Kapiti coast, the only disappointing factor for me is that the primary schools are skills based instead of content based, so one’s child won’t learn basic facts of history, science, geography and all that an English born and educated person takes for granted as constituting a basic education. This is profoundly disappointing, but other factors are wonderful, it’s a small Pacific island, a long way from everywhere..if this appeals, you might like it, plenty of people do.

    • Oh, it’s that familiar chestnut again “We must raise the standards of education”
      Well, this is how you do it, assuming your lecturers have integrity in awarding marks
      (Disclaimer: I did a B.Sc in New Zealand, and they do have integrity in that faculty … you can tell from the failure rates – 90% of the people going in … did not graduate)

      1. Breed with those who are demonstrably more educated, have integrity, and are capable of doing what they’re qualified for.
      Reason: Intelligence is genetic, for the same reason a person with fetal alcohol syndrome due to a sozzled mother won’t be the next Einstein. Also, psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder is genetic too – hence why the requirement for integrity above. If you’re not racist or anti-miscegenation there is an easy way to get that done.
      Downside: mating with the people with social sciences could be dodgy, having kids with someone who has a Master’s from a thesis about the portrayal of German water nymphs will be a disaster for a technologically dependent world. Also, expect the kid, or even you or your partner to get bullied. People have a lot of “tolerance” for movie stars, politicians and the rich to make their own partner choices, but not very much for everyday citizens.

      2. With the complicity of the universities, say those from community X should be marked more leniently while everyone else, but especially immigrants get marked more harshly.
      Reason: You want to preserve your “culture” and “laid back lifestyle” … but want to be part of a global community where the country relies on cheap labour from immigrants BUT wants to talk about a “work-life balance”(really only applicable for managers)
      Downside: immigrants talk, but especially on forums. Will be disastrous if this is found out, so the only immigrants you should allow to stay on after completion of their qualifications are those with low self-esteem and poor grasp of the English language(<-seen this in action many many times).

      3. Fail people who deserve it, regardless of ethnicity.
      Reason: Modern society relies on qualified people to take responsibility in exchange for the big bucks. Work done poorly, the way Gerald Morton Shirtcliff (Gerald Shirtcliffe) signed off in Christchurch … gets people killed.
      Downside: the kiwi exceptionalism mentality gets attacked. Even more domestic students will drop out! The local women might pair off with immigrants! Cushy jobs for the connected will get reduced in number! More competition for contracts! (Though this step is happening for the sciences in NZ, typically the qualified science graduates are treated as drones … writeup coming about the state of socialisation in NZ(from what I observed) soon, sure to make people have, in the Latin, dolor ani … or Annie Dolor if you want to be humourous)

      P.S. Another reason immigrants get into difficulty with their relationships in NZ, may be because some people think “You’re after our passport, it’s the best one in the world!!11”. Well, for some immigrants who had the honour of correctly being able to understand the subsequent nasty actions from those thoughts – we’ve already got better permanent residencies than kiwis will ever have. We simply made an honest mistake in attempting to discover if one of you were interested to join us on life’s journey – however, given that kiwis live in what they call “Godzone”, well, us immigrants should have taken the hint and not even bothered, rather than wait to hear the dishonest offer of “let’s just be friends”! 🙂

  8. Also, there is a new website in NZ called Neighbourly, neighbours helping and connecting with neighbours, it’ll help you have insight into NZ if you don’t live there or haven’t been.

  9. I’m here as my mother is in hospital, we live in Waikanae, the Kapiti coast, really try living in the UK for several decades, it’s overcrowded, cold and depressing – all of which NZ is not.

  10. The weather is wonderful, warm and equable, been living there off and on for 12 years. It’s a part of the planet which is relatively unspoilt and has plenty of space, the people are really friendly. Try driving in the UK with millions of cars polluting the roads, radio programme about teenage depression, overcrowded schools and you will start to see the huge benefits of living in a country (NZ) with buckets of common sense, a generally positive attitude. Look again, NZ is a heaven on earth, I really believe that.

  11. I’ve never been to NZ but from what i can tell, the weather looks crap. No matter what you may have heard, the weather is also crap in SA. With the exception of the Cape with its wondeful mediterranean climate, the rest of the country gets bitterly cold in winter (colder than most mediterranean countries), while summers are very very wet and miserable. Who ever coined the term: sunny SA, was either from England or Sweden or somewhere close, or was probably high on something.

    • I dunno what part of SA you live in, but Johannesburg is nowhere near as cold as NZ. I lived in Wellington, beautiful, clean, functional, 1st world, but also small, depressing, and devoid of any real culture. I love hiking, but not every damn weekend, that’s NZ.

  12. Whoever is the grub that said “I hate these negative things being said about MY beautiful country”. Sorry but you don’t own New Zealand. These posts are mostly spot on. Living in new Zealand feels like you are isolated from all the fun and energy that is happening elsewhere in the world. Scenery is beautiful, but so what. There are heaps of beautiful spots all over the world. People in New Zealand tend to be negative, and it creates a miserable feeling living amongst a bunch of sad faces. I believe people are miserable here due to a huge cost of living, and super low wages in comparison to the ridiculous cost of living. … these financial issues people face lead to drug use, crime and suicide… In which new zealand is slowly creeping up these statistics every year. .. please consider long and hard before you move here

  13. Hi all. Thanks for your post. I currently live in Zimbabwe, I work for one of the big 4 accounting firms and have opportunities to work for the same firm in either Auckland or Johannesburg, South Africa. What would you recommend?

  14. Fascinating discussion. Should be made more prominent to help others before they burn their fingers here. My wife and I and our two children came here about four years ago as keen relatively highly skilled professionals— she as a trained engineer and I am in a sought after profession with two post graduate university degrees, all recognised here and on the immigration skills shortage list. After failing to get a job, with her forced to look after the children and worried about dwindling funds my partner and I started what can by all measures be called a very successful business from scratch. We ambitiously and keenly elected to secure an income and then purchase a property.
    Since then we are constantly amazed at all the avenues invented here to drain money from small businesses ( I guess that is what they mean by Kiwi ingenuity) and the general cost of living. We had to further discover that property prices had gone up by around $200 000 where we now live. Currently we find ourselves in an area with substandard schools and a growing number of ‘nitwits’ driving fancy new cars with short tempers. Working long hours we go home to an overpriced rental where our privacy and busy Iives are persistently interrupted by seemingly hurried and impatient estate agents employed by greedy feckless stay at home landlords—a spinoff of the current boom times for greedy property developers and investors.
    We are also thinking of leaving this lovely country we would have liked to call home now. The problem here is simple:
    Culture and open mindedness – too few thinkers , scientists, artists , sensible young people, philosophers and idea makers and just happy content people in general. A sensible government. Affordable ‘liveable’ housing.
    Too much and too many:
    Corruption- Living here really makes one wonder who pays whom to be ranked high on the lifestyle and corruption free list?
    Profiteers, bankers, ‘old boys club members’, accountants, estate agents, rule makers and rules for small business (a growing need for legal services is generally a sign of a drop in moral standards of a society).
    Drugs addicts, drunks.
    Rugby players.
    Homeless people for such a small country.
    Ripoff artists.
    Yes we may be leaving soon also…

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