7 hard truths about New Zealand

April 1, 2010
Panama City, Panama

No place is perfect. There’s not a single country on the planet that is a total paradise, so prospective expats need to be willing to make compromises and trade-offs.

Naturally, it’s much better to be well-informed in advance about the challenges and limitations about a particular country… it’s easy to tout the positives, but finding objective information about a country’s negative aspects can be difficult to find.

Panama, for example, is a place that I’ve been vocally bullish on. But it’s nowhere near perfect… there are significant infrastructure challenges, corruption, and inefficient bureaucracies to deal with.

On the balance, though, the positives outweigh the negatives in my assessment; most importantly, the country is consistently maturing on an upward trend.

New Zealand is another country that gets a lot of favorable press in the expat community, but I think it’s important to balance the information with a realistic description of the country’s challenges.

As such, I’ve once again asked my friend Mark who is on the ground in New Zealand to give his take:

Simon has asked me to write a few articles for SovereignMan.com to discuss living and immigrating to New Zealand; now it’s time to talk about the bad and the ugly.

As Simon likes to say, no place is perfect…  but lack of perfection sometimes equals opportunity, and New Zealand is no exception.

So, here’s the “bad”–

Censorship: There is now Internet censorship in New Zealand.  As of February 1, 2010, some New Zealand ISPs have begun implementing a new government Internet filtering scheme.  This is bad news, but unfortunately in-line with Internet monitoring around the world.

Internet and wireless service:  In general, they are expensive compared to North America, and much less reliable. However, plans are in the works to bring fiber to the door of every NZ home.  Furthermore, the wireless duopolies of Vodafone and Telecom are starting to get some competition.

Bureaucracy: According to an OECD report, New Zealand has more government departments and ministries than any other developed country in the world.   To be fair, John Key’s National Party government has been unwinding some of Labour’s socialist agenda, but there is much further to go.

Taxation: New Zealand is not a tax haven, and depending on your line of work, you could be paying more than in your home country.  It looks like the top tax rate will be falling from 38% to 33%, but GST (sales tax) is getting a boost from 12.5% to 15%.

Now a little of the “ugly”…

Drunk driving: The local paper just ran a story about a guy who has had 17 drink driving convictions, and he is STILL on the road!  Drinking in general is a problem here; it embarrasses a lot of Kiwis, but little is being done to solve it.

Teen angst/violence: Auckland and some of the other larger cities have gang issues.  The police DO NOT carry guns, so there is little deterrent when trying to break up a drunk mob of teens in a park.  Many police officers end up in the hospital after taking beatings from civilians.

New Zealand’s “green” image: This is excellent marketing at best. The locals are totally uneducated about organics; New Zealand drops 1080 poison from helicopters to kill possums in its national parks, builds full-scale hydro dams on pristine rivers and has open pit coal and gold mines.

It’s “green” because of its low population density, period!

So, what do I think of this?  Look, New Zealand isn’t perfect, but I’m quite happy with a relatively unspoiled, empty, economically sound, English speaking, educated country.

Lack of perfection is what provides us with opportunity, and New Zealand holds a lot of opportunity for anyone with a little initiative.

Simon again. As usual, Mark’s New Zealand notes are on the money. I’ve mentioned before– New Zealand passes my ‘fundamental country test.’ When you look 10-years out, is New Zealand likely to be in a better position than today? Absolutely.

I know that Mark is working diligently on a new e-book about NZ immigration and investment with a lot of insider, actionable advice and contacts… if you have interest in something like this, or a request of what you’d like to see in his book, let me know by posting a comment here and I’ll pass it along to him.