Best Places to Retire in New Zealand: A Guide
New Zealand is definitely one of the more desirable places for international retirement thanks to its many advantages. Those include moderate weather, incredible scenery, long coastline and big mountains, political and economic stability, and an English-speaking population. It is a bigger country than you might think, very narrow but extending almost 1,000 miles from north to south in the southern hemisphere. New Zealand is a stable parliamentary democracy, which recognizes the British monarch as head of state. It has a modern economy with many tourist conveniences and efficient local services. Here is a link to a Wall St. Journal article about the experiences of a woman from the U.S., age 50, who moved to New Zealand: "A New Life in New Zealand". Updated 6/2020.
Residency. Becoming a legal resident is not easy for residents of most countries. There are residency programs for those with essential skills, entrepreneurs, and investors. Here is the link to the New Zealand web page on visas and travel, which includes a useful interactive tool, but mostly set up for people wanting to work in NZ. If you choose to use an immigration adviser they must be licensed by the Immigration Advisers Authority in New Zealand. People over 66 can get a temporary retirement visitor visa for up to 2 years if they have NZ $750,000 to invest in New Zealand, plus NZ $500,000 to live on, and NZ $60,000 annual income. Children cannot be part of this application.
Crime and Security. New Zealand was recently named one of the least corrupt nations on the planet. It is also a country with a very low crime rate, although common sense is always a good idea. Some heavily populated parts of New Zealand are in areas of high seismic activity.
Taxes. You are a tax resident in New Zealand if you:
- are in New Zealand for more than 183 days in any 12-month period, or
- have an "enduring relationship" with New Zealand.
New Zealand has double taxation agreements with most major countries including Great Britain and the U.S., so you will not be subject to double taxation on your worldwide income.
Medical. US Medicare is not honored in New Zealand. Citizens, residents and those with a work visa are eligible for publicly funded or subsidized essential medical care. Visitors to New Zealand must pay for health services unless; the health services are needed as a result of an accident, or the visitor is a resident of Australia or Great Britain and requires urgent medical treatment. The cost of a medical evacuation to Europe or the U.S. would be prohibitively expensive. You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. Comprehensive private healthcare options are available.
Cost of Living. The cost of living in New Zealand is comparable to all OECD countries. Imported items such as cars, electrical and computer equipment and petrol cost are on a par with what you'd find in Australia or other similar countries. New Zealand is 7.45% more expensive than the U.S. according to Numbeol.com, although rents are 15% less expensive. Mercer’s 2012 Cost of Living Survey ranks cities worldwide – 1st place being the most expensive place to live. Auckland (56) and Wellington (74) are far less expensive than many other major cities including Sydney (11), London (25) and New York (33), so New Zealand’s major metropolitan areas are more affordable than those in other countries. The numbeo.com price comparison (CPI plus rent) shows New Zealand with an index of 81, vs. the U.S. with 60 and UK at 73. The Local Purchasing Power Index shows 81 for New Zealand vs. 89 for the UK and 136 for the U.S. In late 2013 1 NZ $ was worth .82 US $.
In New Zealand a Goods and Service Tax (GST) of 15% applies to everything, including clothing, except income and financial transactions.
Best Places to Live. See the list of the New Zealand towns and cities we have reviewed in the top right hand column (which we will be adding to from time to time). Cities have plenty of attractions and living options, although they will generally be more expensive. Kerikeri, an historic town of 6,500 that is a 3 hours drive north of Aukland, is a place very popular with retirees.
Pluses and Minuses. New Zealand is not a cheaper alternative than most other developed countries. It does offer a wonderful lifestyle and friendly people. It is known for its outdoor activities, some of them extreme such as bungee jumping and high risk kayaking. There are any number of places where expats will feel comfortable living. Some expats report that it can be hard to break into local society, but that criticism is probably valid everywhere. It is a small country population wise, and flights to the rest of the world are long and expensive. The economy is stable and prosperous.
Weather. New Zealand has a temperate climate with moderately high rainfall and plentiful sunshine.
While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10°C (14°F) in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures. The average New Zealand temperature decreases as you travel south. January and February are the warmest months, and July is the coldest month of the year. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30ºC (70-90°F) and in winter between 10-15ºC (50-60°F). See link to New Zealand Travel Guide.