New chances in New Zealand


It is the home of the All Blacks and Middle Earth, and it is increasingly home to a growing number of Irish migrants, seeking a fresh start in the southern hemisphere

It’s hardly a surprise. New Zealand and Ireland share the same language, possess a passion for sport and have similar social scenes.

The country is comprised of two main islands, the North and South. Auckland, its largest city, and Wellington, the capital, are located on opposite tips of the North Island.

The South Island is more sparsely populated. Christchurch, which was badly damaged by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September, is its largest centre.

Over the past 10 years, about 30,000 Irish people have received permission to work in New Zealand. The country’s economy remains relatively sheltered from the global recession.

Unemployment fell to 6.4 per cent in the September quarter, down from 6.9 per cent in the June quarter.

However, Kiwis are not well paid, particularly those working outside Wellington and Auckland. The average wage is only 950 New Zealand dollars per week, about €560.

Yet the decent climate, laid-back lifestyle, lack of heavy traffic, breathtaking surroundings and easy access to both winter and summer sports mean most are happy with lighter wallets.

There is a broad range of options, both long and short, available for those wishing to live in New Zealand.

Working holiday visas are a good starting point. The visa gives Irish citizens aged between 18 and 30 the chance to live in New Zealand for 12 months, provided they do not take up permanent employment. Temporary work visas are also available.

Those applying for a work visa need to have a job offer. The employer must then prove the role cannot be filled by a New Zealand citizen or resident, or that it is listed on the country’s immediate or long-term skills-shortage list. Both lists are extensive.

There are 71 roles in the intermediate list, with industries such as tourism, oil and gas, engineering and construction heavily represented. Of the 65 on the long-term list, most positions are in health and social services. But specialised roles in finance and construction also feature on the skills-shortage list, as do teaching, cooking and university lecturers.

The full list, with more information on required qualifications, is on the Immigration New Zealand website ( It’s worth noting the Canterbury quake may result in changes to both lists.

Those who work for two years in a position on the long-term list can apply for residency. For those whose occupation is not on the essential-skills list, residency is still an option.

The skilled-migrant process has two steps. First, you submit an expression of interest. Then, if you have enough points, you will be issued an invitation to apply for residency. Immigration will then assess your application.

Points are based on applicants’ age, experience, employability and qualifications. There are, of course, plenty of other options available to potential migrants. For example, the recently introduced Silver Fern Job Search policy allows those aged between 20 and 35 to enter New Zealand for nine months to search for skilled employment. However, the scheme is limited to 300 places a year.

The length of the application process varies depending on the visa. Gaining residency is a long, drawn-out process that may require an interview. A working holiday visa may be approved in days.

Give yourself plenty of time and be prepared for a full medical exam and a police check.

Visas for those who have a partner living and working in New Zealand are also available.




In February this year, Rita Whyte from Dublin moved to Christchurch, along with her partner Martin Crummy (26).

After graduating from the Mater Dei Institute of Education in Dublin, Whyte, a secondary school teacher, could not find work at home.

As Canada did not appeal to her and as Australia’s immigration process seemed more difficult, the couple choose New Zealand.

Both now have jobs in Christchurch.

“My parish priest knew someone from New Zealand and he happened to put in a word for me and the job was there,” she says.

The work ethic of New Zealand teachers has surprised Whyte. “Teachers get paid a lot less for the hours they put in. You can’t just waltz in and out of work and you don’t get paid anything extra for the extra hours you do.”

But the move to Christchurch has not been traumatic.

“I think there are similar attitudes. It hasn’t been a big culture shock,” she says. “The weather is the big plus. It’s not as cold as at home and there’s a more laid-back lifestyle. It’s not as rushed as back home. And I was able to make friends very easily,” she says.

Only the September 4th earthquake and continuous aftershocks have caused disquiet about New Zealand life. Whyte’s partner Crummy ran into a doorframe, suffering a gash to his head, when the quake shook their home. The aftershocks have continued to rattle the city and may do so for months.

But their secure employment means the pair do not want to go back to Ireland.

“The economy means I don’t want to go home for a good few years. Everything just looks bleak,” she says.

Whyte speaks to her family twice every week and plans to go home only to get married next year.

How to emigrate to New Zealand
  • Anyone considering moving to New Zealand would be advised to start with and
  • For a full list of job search sites see General job search sites include, and (New Zealand’s answer to eBay), which are all good resources for those searching for work.
  • A job search site specifically designed for New Zealand-bound migrants, and immigrants already there, is
  • Immigration New Zealands nearest branch is located in London. See londonbranchhome for more information.
  • For news and information on what is happening in New Zealand see and, two of the country’s main online news sources.

Emigration Nations:Series continues in Life Culture

In part 1 of the series JAMIE SMYTHlooked at where the new Irish emigrants are going, and NIALL STANAGE  assessed the prospects of those moving to the US:

In part two, LORRAINE MALLINDERfound out how the Irish are faring in Canada:


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