New Zealand: Thoughts After Seven Years, Part 4, by Nivek

Part 4


Taxes, everybody’s favorite topic

New Zealand has a top tax rate of 33%. Okay, you think that’s not bad, the U.S. is right up there also. Well the trouble is you get to the 33% much faster as there are only three tax brackets. Making over $65,000 NZ Dollars per year will get you into the top bracket. That’s around $50,000 US Dollars. There are no deductions for a private person and you don’t get credit for kids or being married. The way around this seems to involve having a business and taking deductions through the business. You will most likely need the services of an accountant to keep in line with the tax laws.

On the consumer spending side of things, the 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) is built into the purchase of any items in the store. What you see on the price tag is what you actually pay at the checkout.

If you have U.S. income and you earn income in New Zealand it then becomes even more complicated. You will need to file taxes in both countries and so far I find that I come out on the short end of the stick. It is far less complicated to only work in New Zealand and have no income from the United States.

Utility Costs

Electric rates are quite high here. Most of the electricity is from hydro power and also quite a bit from wind generation. There are some areas in the country with piped gas. You also can use bottled gas if you choose but it ends up costing more than electricity. Most New Zealand people have one or two warm rooms and the remaining portions of the house have minimal heat. Many of the older homes lack insulation but the government is trying to remedy that with programs to help with the cost of insulating older homes. Newer built homes do not have this problem but they also take a different approach on home heating.

In the U.S. it’s most common to have central heating vented throughout the house but it is quite rare here. The climate is very humid and this also contributes to an uncomfortable home. The kiwis are tough and don’t seem to mind. It’s funny to see somebody outside walking or even working during the winter (June, July, August) where the temperatures are about 40 degree F. They are dressed in a puffer coat, wearing shorts and flip-flops ( “Jandles.”)

Our house is about 3,000 sq. ft. and my electric bill ranges from $300 to $500 per month throughout the year. I have a fireplace also which I like to use in the rainy winter to dry out the house. Almost every home on the south island has a fireplace.

I do not have any additional utility bills for water, sewer and garbage collection. They are taken care of with the yearly property tax (rates) on the house. I pay about $2,600 per year.

Telecommunications Costs

My Internet costs about $100 per month and it covers a high speed fiber connection, unlimited bandwidth and a land line phone. The Internet speeds are pretty good. I just ran a test and I got 100.6 Mbps download and 19.6 Mbps upload. The government is finishing a program to put fiber in most of the country. Hard to reach areas will be covered with a wireless setup.

I hope that my comments in the series have helped you get a better idea of life in New Zealand. Now it is time to move onto the ‘points system’ that I use to help in decision making with major decisions. Too bad that I didn’t have this idea before I got married! (Just kidding.)

My Points System

This is a spreadsheet I came up with to list a wide variety of items and then place a value on each item. By including as many varied items as possible I try to balance out any skewing of the results.

I don’t include the spreadsheet as a download, but I describe how I set it up.

I have the spreadsheet organized into columns such as ‘category’, ‘group importance’ and ‘item value’. I then multiply the group importance by item value to get a number called ‘group times value’.

The next step is to assign whether the category is a positive or negative towards the question. In my spreadsheet I would place a value between 0 and 1 under the positive or negative columns for New Zealand and the U.S.

I then place the result of the ‘group times value times the pos/neg value’ under the associated NZ/U.S. column. These columns are then totaled to compare the results.

I used a range from 1-10 to place the original value of the ‘group importance’ for each item in the category list. I base my value on the frequency of use. I use 1-2 for only doing the item a few times up to a value of 9-10 for things done daily. Take a look at the key table at the bottom of the spreadsheet.

My next factor is the importance I place on an ‘item value’. This will range from 1-10 also. I use 1-3 for an item that is not really needed or wanted and values of 7-9 for ‘got to have it’. I place a maximum of 10 for an item that is needed for life.

Once you have the items listed in your category column, you can print it out and view the list to mull it over and think more about your point values. You can add additional items to the category list and adjust the numbers as needed. I feel the more items you add to the category list should tend to smooth out any over weighted items. You have to be fair about grading so that you don’t push the results to either side.

This is just an example of the spreadsheet. Once you have it set up it is easy to modify for different scenarios. The math is simple using multiply and summation commands.

I hope this article is a benefit for you in thinking about a potential move to New Zealand. Our family has been very happy and we have met our expectations. I would be happy to try and answer a questions if I am able to. Just contact me through my web page.


  1. Regarding the notion of having the “point system” before you got married (which I thought was hilarious, by the way), my husband was a confirmed bachelor for 27 years when we met and first became friends. He encouraged me to try dating websites (which I steadfastly refused to do, for a variety of reasons). When I innocently asked “How do you keep track of all these various dates?”, he replied that he kept a spreadsheet to tally up his “point system” for the many women he dated. (He tends to be a bit of a linear thinker… LOL!) I was slightly horrified at the blatant analysis taking place, but also very much amused, and I wasted no opportunity to rib him mercilessly about it. Then, as we realized that our friendship was turning to an old-fashioned courtship, I admonished him that “I better never turn up on that crazy spreadsheet of yours!!” I have never been quite sure if I successfully stayed off the spreadsheet or if I simply earned the highest number of points, but years later we are still happy. 😉

  2. I enjoyed your article about moving to NZ. I can understand why you would take your young family to live there. While I have never been to NZ, I have lived or visited cities on every continent except Antarctica. While I have my favorite places I have never found one which I wanted to stay in more than a few years. I have always been ready to come home to the USA at the end the school year, work assignments or vacations. While I can’t stand New York City, every time I come back from overseas, I cry when I see the Statue of Liberty and also American landmarks on the west coast or in the south. While the USA is full of terrible problems right now, I choose to stay put and speak/fight for freedom in the USA.

    1. My sentiments exactly!

      However Finland is called Little America for that reason… It really emulates the good ole’ USA in many respects – minus the problems. It might be a place to ex-pat to if needed.

  3. Than you for sharing in clear detail what living in another country could look like. I found it very informative. But I was born, raised and plan to eventually die is the USA. It’s my home.

  4. After reading your write up on NZ, it’s sounds like a nice place to visit but i sure wouldn’t want to live there. From what i have read the gov. invites the wealthy in but for the working class fellow i don’t it think would bode so well for him, ie. $60.00 sheets of plywood,
    You did not talk to much about religion in your piece i wonder how much presence the church is there?
    This also got me to thinking about how many songs that have been written about the greatness of America and i couldn’t think of one about NZ much less any other country in the world.
    I couldn’t be contained to an island I love to have the freedom to roam, and for all the warts that we have here in the USA I’ll take this Country first!

  5. Everyone I’ve ever known who visited NZ loved it…

    On the other hand, as someone has already mentioned, they are a little too close to China for my comfort.

    In the first part of the article, the author mentions how old timers would thank him for the US saving them during WW-II from the Japanese. The same vulnerabilities still exist. Its a small country incapable of defending itself. If the Chinese ever intend to extend their boundaries to include New Zealand and Australia, by that time, I doubt the US will have to will or means to stop them.

    I can hear the Transgender Joint Chiefs of Staff of 2069 issuing a statement that white people have occupied those islands long enough, and now the Chinese should have their chance. And besides that, ever since the Air force switched to environmentally sensitive electric powered gliders, we can’t cross the Pacific ocean.

    On the plus side, NZ does have Kiwis. I hear they taste like chicken.

  6. I appreciate the efforts of the author here, but this should have been condensed into a much shorter article. A four part series on moving to NZ? Seriously, how many of us would really contemplate that move? Not so many, I think.

  7. NZ sounds much like Southeast Alaska. I am over it. After 50 years in SE I am moving to the real last frontier: Idaho. My wife likes Pocatello and Twin Falls. Any advice?

    1. Southern Idaho is not for everyone. Its LDS (Mormon) majority discomfits many folks who hold to other doctrines and denominations. The summers can also be unbearably hot. Water is scarce in southern Idaho and almost all of it is provided via grid power. In the event of a grid-down collapse, that region would quickly revert to desert. I urge my consulting clients to look for property only north of White Bird, Idaho. Water is so much more plentiful in the north! My favorite retreat locales in North Idaho are still the lower river valleys–such as around St. Maries and Bonners Ferry. Just my pre-’65 10 cents worth…

  8. Mr. Rawles,

    Thanks for the comment. It reinforces my long time affection for the Bonner’s Ferry area. I shall point this out to my “director of operations”.

    Thank you again from a long ago Clearwater Trading customer.

  9. comments for part 4

    Thanks for the many comments. I will post this in all four parts of the article. It was the editors option to split the article up the way he did.

    1. I moved to NZ for my children’s primary education years. I did not plan to stay as long as I have. My son started in school year 1 (age 5), now in year 8 (age 11/12).

    2. We never gave up our U.S. citizenship as we always planned to return to the states for high school and university years. We picked up NZ citizenship and a passport as a bonus. We can use it or forget it, but we have it and that may mean something someday. Believe it or not, there are some places in the world you don’t want to have a U.S. passport on you.

    3. I agree the costs are high here and I tried to give you an idea of what some costs are. If you want to relocate, you better have some cash reserves or a highly sought after skill. All in all, you can have a good life here. Everyone will be different.

    4. The medical is a two level system. One side is all public and you wait your turn. The other is private. You pay for the ability to be seen quicker and by private doctors/surgeons. That’s why the taxes are high.

    5. It is not the U.S. and can never have the infrastructure that we have in the states. You are moving down the ladder to a more rural and simpler system. Yes, they do things different here in the way the government tackles problems. It is far less stressful living here and can be much slower. Time to enjoy life instead of buying that next big screen TV or another new car. It’s what you make of it.

    6. Yes, China is having great influence in NZ and Australia. If China wanted to take over, it probably would not be too difficult, aside from a few arguments, then World War X would start. If that were to happen? Well that’s what all of the ‘doom and gloom’ books are about.

    7. One person questioned the idea that the schools have a program where the kids go away from home on increasingly difficult outdoor trips. Yes, it’s a risk to let your children leave home, but they have to learn. It’s something I probably wouldn’t do in the states, but they do learn responsibility and how to get through a hard hike. I am very impressed with the strength and determination the children learn by the age of 12.

    8. Another person made a comment about kids in school with ADD and how they handle them. Well, in the U.S. I think that is mostly a result of kids sitting in front of the TV/video game all day and eating bags of snacks. The playgrounds in NZ would be an ambulance chasers dream come true. You see quite a few kids each year with broken arms and legs. Guess what, they learned that sometimes you fall down and get a boo-boo’. But these same kids are usually running right along side their friends playing, cast and all.
    The kids in class are monitored at the start of the school year as to their abilities in math, spelling, reading… and placed in groups that ‘push’ them to do better. The slowest kid does not slow down the rest of the class. They realize some kids are dumb and will most likely learn how to operate a shovel someday.

    I know I didn’t reply to everyone’s comments. I would be happy to answer if you want to email me through my web site.
    In closing, I tried to give you a sense of what it is like here. I am sure the same problems would be found for where ever you want to go. Again, my primary purpose was education for my children and a chance to run through a park barefoot.
    My next challenge will be to try and teach them to live in America with all of the problems in the states, but also all of the benefits which make the U.S. great.

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all 4 parts!
    My son has recently been talking to a friend who is considering making the move to New Zealand so I forwarded your VERY informative article to them.
    You did a great job, thank you, and blessings to you and your family.

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