Kiwi Filter: Where should we live in NZ?
June 21, 2016 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Like the title says, we'd love some insider info as to which towns/regions would best suit myself and my partner. First things first: It absolutely must be sunny: i.e., lots of sunshine hours, relatively little cloud, little rain and wind (adios, Wellington).

Weather maps seem to suggest that the following areas best meet this requirement:

Napier/Hawkes Bay
Tauranga/Whakatani/Bay of Plenty.

Have I missed anywhere else?

So again, sunshine (i.e., lack of grey, drippy, dreariness) is non-negotiable. With that in mind, which sunny spots ALSO are:
  • Interesting! We'd like access to some moderate degree of culture (i.e., things to do, such as theatre, meet-ups, cinema, museums, concerts, etc.).
  • Liberal/Open! This mystery/magical place must also be open to "alternative lifestyles." So vegan people, GLBT people, hippies, artist-types, etc. are out and about and no one bats an eye. Where families come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Friendly people! We are somewhat shy and will be trying our best to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, but is there one town/region that is more easy-going and outgoing to help us along in this regard?
  • Has jobs! This area shouldn't be super-rural or based on agriculture, and should offer some reasonable array of white-collar type employment.
  • Has nearby beaches and wildlife! A large reason for the move is to improve our access to outdoor life, for picture-taking and simply communing with nature. :)
So residents and citizens of NZ: your personal point of view as to which towns/regions best fulfil these criteria would be greatly appreciated - thanks!
posted by Socky McSockface to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It looks like NIWA publishes a map of annual sunshine hours along with other data (scroll down; on the right).
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:39 PM on June 21, 2016

As a native New Zealander, I find this hard to answer. Remember Auckland is our biggest city and still isn't quite 1.5 million in population. If you want interesting, liberal/open, and jobs, and you've eliminated Wellington, then I would pick Auckland. By US standards the countryside is still close and there are acceptable/accessible beaches in the city and good ones close by.

The problem with the towns you have named is that provincial New Zealand is more conservative, has less going on, and has economies dominated by primary industry, and those "urban" centres are still small, homogenous and struggling to provide highbrow culture.

In summary: Auckland if you can accept some rainy days.

For what it's worth, my employers hire a reasonable number of people from overseas, and we always ask people if they have been here before, and if not, suggest that they visit before they commit to emigrating. People often underestimate how isolated and expensive it is here and suffer culture shock. Your best plan if you can is to tour around and evaluate towns for yourself.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:39 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

The NZ Gov't reports similar data.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:40 PM on June 21, 2016

Agreeing with spleen here: the closest fit is Auckland, but the problem is that your list of bullet points doesn't really correspond to any particular area of New Zealand that closely. Central Wellington is probably the most "liberal" (in a MeFi sense) part of the country, but the weather and housing stock ... well. It is what it is. I'm not a Mainlander, so I can't talk to the South Island with any real knowledge. Which leaves Auckland. I like Auckland fine, but like any NZ city, it's (as spleen says) expensive, isolated, and really quite small. Try before you buy, I say.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:49 PM on June 21, 2016

If you want good weather - Sydney. Otherwise Wellington (and I'm a Aucklander originally) will tick most boxes sadly.

The areas you mention are indeed sunshine areas but many of these attract what used to be called blue rinse.

No one comes to NZ for the weather. It rains a lot.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:01 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

We've been to NZ for several months, so it isn't a totally abstract concept. And where we're from it rains A LOT and is grey most of the time. Everything I've read suggests NZ will be an improvement for us weather-wise (if we stick to the regions with high sunshine hours).

I'm gathering that there is no perfect paradise for us given our criteria, but we're certainly not considering Auckland or Wellington. SO, of those places I've mentioned, which is best? I've read that Nelson is more arsty/liberal, but is that true? Or, at least, any more true than the other regions?

If we had to rank order the criteria, after good weather, it would be (1) Liberal/Open, (2) Nearby Beaches/Wildlife, (3) Interesting Culture, (4) Friendly, and (5) Jobs would be at the bottom (just assume we can find something, even if it means working remotely).
posted by Socky McSockface at 2:10 PM on June 21, 2016

So regions that have the most sunshine hours tend to be where the vineyards are. You have most of those listed except for Martinborough. That's close enough to Wellington that you could make a day of it when there is something good on at the theatre.
The biggest town nearby would be Masterson.
posted by poxandplague at 2:46 PM on June 21, 2016

posted by nvly at 2:46 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you can't bear to live in Auckland or Wellington consider maybe Kapiti Coast or the Wairarapa near Wellington (Greytown in particular has a friendly LGBT community)

Or an island in the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, Waiheke used to be the thing but got gentrified. Or out west, again being ruined by over development.

We have family in Coromandel, an old hippy area, there used to be a commune in Colville left over from the 70s still going. All the commune kids we met came from Coromandel or the Hokianga.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:47 PM on June 21, 2016

Oh yeah was going to suggest Raglan too
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 2:48 PM on June 21, 2016

I also like Raglan. Auckland and Hamilton easy driving distance away, picturesque coast, nice community. Gentrifying very rapidly, it has to be said. Better weather than Hamilton or Auckland. You won't get your culture fix much in Raglan itself, but you can be in Hamilton in less than an hour and Auckland in less than two.

Just watch out for those West Coast beaches. Only swim between the flags/in patrolled areas. The surf and the currents are something else.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:31 PM on June 21, 2016

You need a university town to have cultural and lgbt opportunities. Nature and beaches are everywhere in NZ. Nelson would mean you could go by ferry regularly for weekends to Wellington for cultural events but you wouldn't have local community in the same sense. Why is Auckland out? Auckland is more a group of neighborhoods than one big city, and some if those neighborhoods are pretty relaxed and beach-nature places.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:33 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

For alternative lifestyles & sunny climate, the Nelson region is worth checking out.

Your main issue will be employment - for a reasonable array of white-collar type employment by far the best places jobwise are Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch. Finding what you want in the regions is not impossible, but it will be more difficult. Be prepared to be flexible.

It rains a lot.

In places, yes it does, others, not so much.
OP is considering Blenheim/Marlborough which are currently in their third year of drought.
In the South there is a strong contrast between a wet west and a dry east.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:50 PM on June 21, 2016

Liberal/Open! This mystery/magical place must also be open to "alternative lifestyles." So vegan people, GLBT people, hippies, artist-types, etc. are out and about and no one bats an eye. Where families come in all shapes and sizes.
Here are the results of the 2014 NZ general election, arranged by electorate. That sea of blue represents support for the socially conservative, right-wing National Party. (And I wouldn't take the "red" nature of the South Island's West Coast too literally, either, in terms of "openness." That's tribal Labour support born in the coal mines.) Rural and provincial New Zealand tends to be quite a socially conservative place (though of course there are pockets of artsiness and hippiedom, just not where there are likely to be large numbers of white-collar jobs). The holiday home and runabout crowd you're likely to encounter in rural holiday towns, though friendly enough, will likely not see eye to eye with you on politics or GLBT issues and identity.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:45 AM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks to everyone who contributed some ideas/thoughts. We'll look into Raglan and Greytown (and surrounding areas) a bit more, as we didn't know about those towns.

You all are making me re-think our decision to avoid Auckland and Wellington too. Hhhmmmm......

[To answer questions: Auckland was originally out because of the ridiculous cost of living AND because we don't want to live in a city-city. And Wellington was out mostly because everything I've read tells me the grey/cloudy weather - and the wind! - would not accommodate my desperate need to live somewhere with decent weather.]
posted by Socky McSockface at 5:20 AM on June 22, 2016

Despite what you read, Wellington gets 2050 sunshine hours/year, as many as Auckland or Christchurch. It can be very windy though, especially around the equinoxes.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:16 PM on June 22, 2016

I'll have a shot. I don't think any one town gives you what you want:

Nelson/Blenheim/Malborough: Nelson is probably the best bet out of the places you mention. It's got an arty, liberal side. It's sunny and it's got good outdoor options. But it's small. Cultural options are fairly limited (though Wellington is a quick flight away - not a ferry journey, that would take you a good 4-5 hours at a bare minimum). That said, my brother has lived there a while and has struggled to make friends. I could ask him about the LGBT-friendliness if you like (his mother-in-law is a lesbian). And there aren't a huge number of jobs, other than the council or polytechnic.

Napier/Hawkes Bay: Napier is an attractive town. Again good on sun and outdoors. I don't know too much about the social/employment situation there.

Tauranga/Whakatani/Bay of Plenty: sun and the outdoors. Lots of jobs, though maybe not the ones you want. Right-wing, not a lot of culture and probably less gay-friendly or arty. I spend a fair bit of time in Tauranga with my girlfriend's family and find it dull and conservative, with a definite undercurrent of bigotry.

Stats NZ's regional reports might give you some useful background - you can dig pretty deep and get regional/city stats on jobs, population (so diversity), etc.

Honestly, I'm biased but I would pick Wellington. The wind can be bad, but overall the climate is mild and it's actually reasonably sunny. But there are actual white-collar jobs here, and the economy is dominated by the public sector, which leans liberal. (In Wellington Central, the Greens got 30% of the vote in 2014, and the left got 60% - when the right absolutely dominated at a national level). It's definitely a gay-friendly city - I recently had a same-sex couple tell me how much better their experience was here than back home in Australia.
posted by Pink Frost at 3:05 AM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

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