After roughly three weeks in New Zealand, you come to notice a number of things about the two islands. Combined, the population is 6.4-million and growing. The south island is the lesser island, with roughly 1.1-million. The north island with 5.3-million.
The basic difference?
The north island has Auckland, which is a magnet now for business and technology start-up operations. I might add that it's also a major magnet for Chinese immigration and business-start-up shops. You can draw a 40-mile circle around Auckland and probably find almost half the population of the island in that metropolitan area.
The connecting force of the north isle is Route One (going from Cape Reinga on northern most tip), to Wellington (the capital) on the far south of the isle. It's safe to say that Route One has intense traffic and always in some stage of renovation.
I had this unique experience traveling north, when the cops closed off Route One because of a truck accident, and put everyone onto a dirt-road situation. It was a 12-mile detour along a road that you'd typically avoid....and find yourself on a cliff-road where you might fall 200 feet easily if you went two feet further to the right.
The landscape? An American would say it looks an awful lot like Washington state (with the Volcanic-like landscape) and Tennessee (with the rolling hills). There's some point where I ventured off Route One onto Route Four....discovering a mostly rural area, cattle ranches, and small towns with just a gas station and general store.
The south isle? It's the mountainous region....more like the Alps of Europe than anything else, which takes up maybe one-third of the south isle. The rest is mostly flat, farming land, and this is the region that typically draws a lot of tourism.
Christchurch, Queenstown, and Invercargill make up the bulk of population in this region.
Why do people want to migrate into New Zealand? I think it adds up to four simple feelings:
1. It's safe. You just don't see crime, drug usage, or crazy folks.
2. The weather isn't that bad. Summers are generally mild....maybe into mid-seventy to mid-eight range. It does rain a fair bit but that gives you the 'green-look'. Winters (especially on the far south), can offer up snow.
3. Low stress. You see a minimal amount of stress in just about everyone.
4. Everyone claims to be an expert craftsman, transmission mechanic, grill cook, carpenter, and animal vet. Once you get beyond Auckland, you kinda notice that things are rigged up in a fixer-up kind of way and folks make due with the limited knowledge that they have. You could call up some neighbor and mention that you had brake issues, and he'd come over with his tool kit, to offer up his vast knowledge (enough for four 3x5 cards) and fix the issue. I think people are impressed with this attitude about getting the job done.
But all of this immigration business is driving up home costs, and it's a shocker to note that homes around Wellington and Auckland will easily run 500,000 to one million NZD (340,000 to 680,000 USD). A decent home with real property? You'd be talking about 800,000 USD easily. All of this is begging for light rail growth and home development forty to sixty miles away from the metropolitan areas.
I stood one day in Queenstown and admired the bank-real estate ads....noting a simple one-bedroom condo could run you in the range of $250,000 USD easily, if you were within the city limits. We took off one day from the airport to fly around the range.....and you could see tons of growth around the airport with forty-odd buildings being constructed (banks, grocery operations, hotels). If you made it into Christchurch and noted the construction efforts from 2011 earthquake episode, there's probably well over 3,000 construction guys at work. There's probably enough work there to guarantee a stable work situation for at least ten more years.
The thing though that gets into your mind after a while.....you are at the edge of the Earth. Getting anywhere with civilization (like Auckland) might take you two hours in the air. Getting to Australia? Maybe 3.5 hours in the air. There are some folks on the extreme north of the north isle....who might only get into a real town or real grocery....maybe four times a year. As much as the landscape begs for you.....the reality is that you need to accept limits on your life.