I very much enjoy living in NZ. By many measures living in Australia is a far more pleasurable experience, and perhaps the fact that net migration favours Australia is perhaps evidence enough of that.....nevertheless I am currently living in NZ. The question is why?
Each person is different - they each have their own personal context. The things I most appreciate about NZ was:
1. Cheap housing - it was an opportunity to buy very cheap housing at a time when the USD was very low (0.53-0.55) against the NZD. Its now 0.73, so it was a good financial decision.
2. Climate - NZ climate is fairly similar since its an elongated island, however it gets colder as you go south of course. If you are coming from Chicago or the UK, it will be a pleasant change. For most Australians or anyone coming from a tropical climate, winter might be intolerably cold. I find it bearable from Sept to April, however most people stay indoors I guess in winter. It is also very wet. In Wanganui it rains a lot, and its often very windy. The good news is that it tends to rain overnight, which is rather peaceful if you have an uninsulated roof, and 0.5mil houses in NZ don't have insulation. The winds are fresh, which makes them refreshing if you are well-clothed. I constantly hear that Wanganui has the mildest climate anywhere. This is a statistically deceptive piece of inflation. It is because clouds accumulate over the land at night keeping the place relatively warm overnight. The mildness is a result of cloudiness. A feature people might not applaud during the day. In Sydney, I do not miss the sun. In Wanganui, I am lucky if I see the sun for days. In the last 2 weeks I have seen about 5 hours of sun and received about 1500mm of rain. Based on two years living here, that is not unusual. We did have an usually dry and sunny Spring last year. Winter was particularly wet with gail winds.
Australia has of course greater climatic variability and balance. Tasmania's climate is similar, but Sydney is mild 9 months a year, with a pleasant rainfall of 1200mm. Other areas tend to be drier.
3. People: People vary of course but I find people generally very friendly. There is a high crime rate, so I find people only relate through groups or group activities. I have joined Toastmasters and a philosophy group in town, and enjoy those. I think NZ still retains those small-town values that it always has. I think even rural towns in Australia have lost that warmth....unless they are very small, dying towns, in which you are probably less inclined to live.
4. Activities & nature: NZ does have splendid natural settings. I find the problem however is that it is inconveniently divided by an expensive ferry shuttle, and the low road density, and the under-provisioning for use of those natural features is a problem. They are many trails in Australia all over the country. In NZ, there are very few, and they are poorly marked. Australia is beautiful too of course in a very different way, but the distances make seeing everything an obstacle. Sydney and Melbourne are well positioned to enjoy a lot, but its all spread out. For NZ, unfortunately the more temperate climate is on the North Island (Bay of Plenty & Napier), but the splendid mountains are on the South Island.
5. Income and cost of living: Australia and NZ have fairly similar costs of living. The recent increase in GST in NZ, probably gives Australia a 15% advantage. But Australia has a 30% advantage on pay rates, so clearly wins by this measure. Australia offers a wider diversity of job opportunities too, which means you are more likely to get the job you are trained for, and thus more likely to get the salary you are 'worth'.
If I make this article purely about comparing rural living in Australia and NZ, then one has to acknowledge that you will pay a lot more to live near a major city in Australia. In NZ, you can get a $60-80K house within a few 100kms of a major city, in Australia its 5-6 hours. This is because these city people like their lifestyle farms, so you have to get out of commuting distance. i.e. Land releases are restricted severely because your job as a tax slave in Australia is to keep the economy pumping along. Restricted land releases artificially keep land prices high. Why? The greater land prices are, the harder you have to work to pay it off....or live in the distant rural areas.
For me, living in NZ has been a very desirable experience. I do intend to live here for a few years, at least until I can become a dual citizen, and then I will make a reassessment. I will I think always have a house here, and perhaps I will commute between Australia and NZ. But I find Japan very special as well, and I have family in the Philippines.
Oh! I don't believe it. The rain has stopped! The clouds have parted, and its time to leave. :)
I must say the opportunity to experience a new country was part of the appeal of NZ. I'm not disappointed, however Australia overall does offer a more desirable experience. I do however have a lot of frustration with the way the country is governed, so I choose not to live there for now. Australia must have the unfairest tax system in the world, a punitive government, and unprincipled politicians who make unilateral decisions to impose or change taxes at a moments notice. You cannot plan for anything. I have seen criminals show greater empathy and respect for people's rights...if we ever had them.
Oh! Too late...after editing...the sun has disappeared.