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The best cities for UK ex-pats in New Zealand

Looking at moving to New Zealand from the UK? Here are some insights to help you find your place.
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Ours may be a small country, population-wise, but when it comes to choosing a place to live, it’s not lacking in variety.

From the lush green pastures and golden beaches of the North Island, down to the rugged mountains and pristine lakes of the South Island, there’s a lot for UK ex-pats to enjoy, in and outside our biggest centres. 

So, if you’re considering moving to New Zealand from the UK, here are some insights from our friends at PSS International Removals and others*, to help you find your place. 


With over 1.6 million people, Auckland is the economic capital of New Zealand and its biggest city by far. 

Thanks to abundant job opportunities and relatively higher wages compared to the rest of the country, Auckland tends to attract the largest number of ex-pats from all over the world. 

However, it comes with its own ‘big-city premium’, as cost-of-living is generally higher too. 

This is largely driven by grocery bills and housing costs: according to, in May 2022 Auckland had the highest median weekly rents in the country ($595), followed by Wellington ($580), and the Bay of Plenty ($570). You can click here to check the weekly rent in your area of choice.

That said, Auckland region’s natural beauty may pay you back many times over. Despite being a big centre, you don’t have to drive far to find long sandy beaches, bush walks, and unspoiled nature. And if you’re looking for entertainment events, most local and international acts usually make a stop here and/or in New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch, located on the South Island. 

With plenty to do, a diverse food scene, and a plethora of career opportunities in many different sectors, you may even forget about Auckland’s unpredictable weather. 


The Southernmost and ‘coolest little capital’ of the world, Wellington is a mid-sized centre perched on the hills around its namesake harbour. 

Despite its small size, it offers a good diversity of everyday activities. The food and café scene is lively, and compared to Auckland, Wellington seems to offer a more balanced and relaxed way of life. From bookstores and record stores through to design boutiques, gourmet shops, and an active film and theatre scene, the city packs a lot of character in a small package. Though still high, cost-of-living is slightly lower than in Auckland, and people usually find a job relatively quickly (especially with Government branches and agencies).

Some say you can’t beat windswept Wellington on a sunny day, and it’s an ideal location for anyone wanting convenient access to both the North and the South Island.


New Zealand’s second-largest city with about 380,000 people, Christchurch is still in the process of re-building after the devastating 2011 earthquake. This also means that there are plenty of job offers in construction and trades. Software, medicine and hospitality are other popular sectors. 

Compared to Auckland and Wellington, the weather is more stable and relatively dry, with rain falling on fewer days than in other major centres. It’s also more affordable overall, especially when it comes to renting or buying a home - which has always made Christchurch quite popular with ex-pats.

If you’re looking for a relaxed way of life but also enjoy city living, Christchurch may be for you. You might watch an international star perform one day, and explore a mountainous national park or a scenic coastal area the next. Plus, you’ll have access to all the activities of the South Island, including skiing and visiting craft breweries and vineyards.


Also known as the ‘adventure capital of the world’, Queenstown has a lot to offer for thrill-seekers and anyone who enjoys skiing, kayaking and climbing. And there is also plenty of opportunities to relax and take in the natural surroundings. 

Located in the southern part of the South Island, Queenstown is a lively ski resort in winter, and in summer enjoys a number of festivals and events. However, it may not be ‘everyone’s cup of tea’ due to being far from most major cities and having a cold climate. Cost-of-living can also be quite expensive. 


With a population of 120,000, Dunedin is the second-biggest centre on the South Island. ‘Dunedin’ is also the ancient Gaelic name for Edinburgh, hence its nickname ‘Edinburgh of the South’. 

But the resemblance doesn’t end there: the town holds its own St Andrew’s Day, to celebrate its Scottish heritage. Dunedin even has a (mock) castle, Larnach Castle, built in 1871-1874 as a private residence. 

Ex-pats move to Dunedin in search of a balanced lifestyle, quality education for their children, and old-world character, as well as a great outdoor culture. 

Getting ready to make your move?

There’s a lot to think about when moving to the opposite side of the world. With this in mind, don’t miss our other guides:

Plus, if you’re considering transferring your UK pension to New Zealand, keep us in mind: you can transfer your UK pension tax-free within the first four years of becoming a NZ tax resident, and we can help you understand if that’s the right move for you. 

If you have any questions, click here to contact us or give us a call on 0800 UK 11 NZ. 

Sources: PSS International Removals |