Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Destination in Focus: New Zealand

Practical advice on visas, finding a job and a place to live in New Zealand, with useful links to Irish organisations, social and business networks and emergency assistance, prepared in collaboration with the Auckland Irish Society.

Thu, Jan 5, 2012, 09:50


Written in collaboration with Eoghan O’Sullivan of the Auckland Irish Society.

New Zealand has been a destination for Irish emigrants since the mid-1800s. Many Maori have Irish surnames, which reflects how the Irish intermarried with the locals, where English colonials were more likely to remain apart from the indigenous population. Many towns around the country have a St Patrick’s church built by Irish immigrants who worked on farms, mines and in the bigger towns.

The 2006 census showed 12,000 Irish-born people living in New Zealand. Approximately 2000 one-year working holiday visas are issued annually, and many of these people go on to obtain permanent residency.

The economy in New Zealand is still dominated by agriculture and tourism. The climate is mild, but the mountains get a lot of snow in the winter, which has led to the development of many ski resorts, which have become popular places for young Irish to work.

New Zealand has an emigration problem of its own, with a record high of over 1000 young people leaving every week for Australia, attracted mostly by higher wages, especially for low skilled labour in the mines.  Going abroad to work for a few years has become a rite of passage for most Kiwis, and the recent strengthening of the NZ dollar (by 30% against the Sterling) has led to many delaying their return from Europe. This outflow of young people from New Zealand means that there are a lot of opportunities for immigrants with the right skills.

Housing is expensive, with prices now more than double what they were in 2003, which has led to comparisons with Ireland during the property boom.Renting can be expensive but on the whole, New Zealand is a relatively cheap place to enjoy yourself and an outdoors lifestyle.


The Immigration New Zealand website has all the information you need about applying for a visa for New Zealand.

To find out which visa is right for you, see and fill out the questionnaire.

New Zealand offers an unlimited number of one- year working holiday visas to Irish citizens aged between 18 and 30. Apply online here.

If you don’t meet the requirements for a working holiday visa, you can still apply for a Temporary Working Visa.

Permanent residency is available for people who have the skills, qualifications and experience New Zealand needs, and meet the requirements of the Skilled Migrants Category.

If you are aiming towards residency and have skills in demand, a job offer from an employer or an exceptional talent, you can apply for the Work to Residence visa.

If you use an agent to assist you with your visa application, note that they must be registered.


Find a Job

The unemployment level in New Zealand is 6.6%.

If you are prepared to move around NZ there is a huge range of work from farming in rural areas to corporate jobs in the cities. There is a particular demand for civil engineering related roles in Christchurch to help rebuild the city after last year’s earthquake.

Immigration New Zealand has an Immediate Skill Shortage List and a Long Term Skill Shortage List, both of which list occupations and skills that are prioritised for visas. and are the biggest nationwide jobs websites, and most large companies will use them to advertise upcoming positions.

Local recruitment agencies are most useful for temporary office or farm work, while international companies like Robert Walters are better for professional positions. You can register with these companies from Ireland.

Local work experiences is highly valued in New Zealand, and it is not uncommon for immigrants with many years experience abroad being asked to demonstrate some local experience. Organisations such as Omega (Opportunities for Migrant Employment in Greater Auckland) help newcomers get around this. The Irish community activelyhelp people find work and in some cases act as references, so network as much as you can.

The minimum wage in New Zealand is $13 per hour. For information on income tax, see the Inland Revenue website. You will need to register with the Revenue and obtain an IRD number (which takes about 10 days) to start a job or open a bank account.

Immigration New Zealand has a section on its website with useful information about working and finding a job in New Zealand.

Construction workers looking to assist with the Christchurch rebuild after the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 could contact Work in Christchurch, an Irish-run recruitment and relocation service.


Find a Place to Live

Rental accommodation in New Zealand is typically unfurnished, with a 3-month minimum lease. Tenants have to pay a 4-week tenancy bond, which is managed by a government agency, and a rental fee of one week if an agent is involved.

Popular property rental websites include or also has cheap second-hand furniture.

Expect to pay about twice as much rent in the city as you would in rural areas.

Irish clubs, business and social networks

2012 marks the centenary of the Auckland Irish Society and also the 25th anniversary of the Harps GAA club.

Irish People in New Zealand Facebook group:!/pages/Irish-people-living-in-New-Zealand/304459054079

Directory of all things Irish in New Zealand:

Directory of Irish bars:

Auckland Irish Society:

Auckland Irish Society on Facebook:!/AuckIrishSociety

Lansdowne Club, Auckland:

Christchurch Irish Society:

Hutt Valley Irish Society:

Hastings Hibernian Irish Club:

Kapiti Coast Irish Society:

Taranaki Irish Social Club:

Wellington Irish Society:

Auckland GAA:

Harps Gaelic Football Club:

Celtic Gaelic Football Club:

St Pats GAA (Auckland):!/profile.php?id=100001460255755

Wellington GAA:

Christchurch GAA:

Gaelic Football & Hurling Association of Australasia:

Bohemian Celtic Soccer Club:


Travel advice for New Zealand from the Department of Foreign Affairs:

Irish Consulate, Auckland:

Irish News

List of Irish programmes on local and national radio stations:

Scéal Community website:

Other useful tips:

The legal drinking age in New Zealand is 18, but bars are strict and you will be asked for ID to prove you are over 18 if you look under 25. Apply for a local driving licence to use as ID, or a Hanz-18 age card. .

Second hand cars are really cheap, especially Japanese imports. Expect to get a good 12-year-old car for under $3000.

If bringing money across use a money broker instead of the banks – is recommended.

For information on travel in New Zealand, see the government tourism website:

Loads of Irish bars in NZ which tend to be the most popular places in town, good for making friends and building up a network