‘Auckland is home now after 11 years’
My New Zealand: Accountant Ciaran Lowney has been involved with the Irish community in Auckland since moving there in 2003
Ciaran Lowney: ‘I have never had any trouble getting work. Kiwis like can do people, and demonstrating this to complement your skills will count for a lot.’
Why did you decide to emigrate?
I moved to New Zealand in March 2003. My then fiancée Louise is a Kiwi, and after living in London for six years I decided I wanted a change. Louise was happy to go to Ireland but I was keen to come here.
Louise is from Auckland. When we arrived we discussed going to other parts of New Zealand, but I got a job a few days after I arrived and quickly settled in. I’m an accountant and found there were more opportunities in Auckland, as the country’s biggest city. New Zealand is like Ireland, and Auckland, like Dublin, is huge in comparison with other cities. Although Wellington is the capital, it’s much smaller than Auckland. That’s not to say there are no jobs in Wellington, just that there are many more in Auckland.
What type of visa are you on?
I arrived on a two-year working holiday visa in 2003. I was then granted residency, though I think they have changed the rules since then and the application process is different. I am now a New Zealand citizen.
Where do you live?
I live in the North Shore of Auckland. I own my own home in a quiet suburb. I commute about 20 minutes to work, also on the North Shore. Auckland is a modern, vibrant city.
Is there an Irish community there, and do you participate?
There is a large Irish community in Auckland. I helped to run the Irish People living in New Zealand Facebook page for a number of years, and am now on the board of the Auckland Irish Society. The society is over 100 years old, and has a active member base. Other similar societies exist up and down the country. GAA is growing each year. I don’t play but have helped out promoting them, and with their accounting processes.
Where do you work?
I am chief financial officer with a real estate company. New Zealand is obsessed with property - on average Kiwis move house every seven years - so we are very busy.
What is your impression of the economy in New Zealand? Is there work for Irish people who might be considering moving over?
The economy is good overall, with strong growth, and low unemployment. But society is quite unequal, with a big gap between rich and poor. Low pay jobs are quite common in retail and hospitality. Taxes are low, and social welfare is high however.
I have never had any trouble getting work. Kiwis like can do people, and demonstrating this to complement your skills will count for a lot.
New Zealand employers place a lot of emphasis on New Zealand experience. Newly qualified and inexperienced graduates or those who have just arrived may struggle against New Zealand candidates, but enthusiasm and positivity in interviews will set you apart. My first role was not my dream job, but it was a foot in the door, a chance to start earning, and more importantly, a chance to get New Zealand experience.
Is Auckland family-friendly?
My only son was born here, and yes it’s very family-friendly. School holidays are a major thing here, kids are always welcome at restaurants, and all the local parks have playgrounds.
There is a very generous “working for families” tax credit which shows how important kids are. Free access to doctors for kids under 12 has been introduced, and 20 hours of early education are paid for by government.
How does the cost of living compare to Ireland?
I’ve been away so long, it’s hard to say. Newcomers talk about supermarkets being expensive but cars, wine and clothes are quite cheap. I tend to agree. There are only two supermarket chains here, with no Aldi or Lidl to keep the big boys honest.
Houses are very expensive, which has driven up rents. For items like TVs and fridges, you should never pay the ticket price. Haggle and you will get a discount. Also most retail stores (non supermarkets) have sales every other week, so never play full price as you will get a sale pretty soon.
Are there any downsides?
The distance is the biggest thing. When I lived in London, it was an hour away, but New Zealand is really the other end of the world. When I moved here first I thought I would get back to Ireland more often but the cost and the time the flights take (about 26 hours) are huge barriers. The death of a family member is something that hasn’t happened yet, but it will happen inevitably at some stage, and the journey back will be difficult.
What tips or advice would you give others considering the move there?
Don’t underestimate the distance. It’s the cost - and time off work is a huge issue. Prepare to miss events like weddings and the birth of nieces and nephews. It’s sad I won’t know my niece and nephew. Skype doesn’t compare with the real thing.
Once here, don’t just hang around in Irish bars. Kiwis are a good bunch and they are genuinely pleased we are here - mix it up, do different things. Socialising with other Irish can be fun, and provides a connection with home, but try other things as well.
Try not to compare New Zealand too muchwith Ireland. They don’t have Superquinn sausages here but their versions are just as tasty, their bread is fine, and their chocolate is different but nice.
The one caveat is their tea. I’ve tried every version and they are all horrible. Despite costing four times as much as the local stuff, I still only drink Barry’s.
Have you made plans for the future?
We’re very happy here, so I don’t think I will move back to Ireland. That’s not a negative reflection on Ireland, as I’m very proud of where I come from (I run a Facebook page called Positively Irish), but here is home now.
Any other thoughts?
It’s not for everyone - but if you do come, make the most of it. With the right attitude you will do very well. Do what the locals do and they will welcome you in. See as much of the country as you can, wherever you live, and enjoy it.
This article forms part of The Irish Times Destination New Zealand guide.