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Side trips
Kiwis are spoiled for choice no matter where they live, but “beach culture has always been a big part of our culture,” said Shane Mason, an Aucklander and video editor. “It’s pretty common to leave town during the summer and spend Christmas and New Year’s at the beach.” From Auckland, popular getaways in the Northland region for all sorts of water sports are Mautauri Bay, the Tututaka Coast, Waiheke and the Great Barrier Islands. The Coromandel Peninsula and Raglan, a surfing town, are hugely popular with North Islanders, as is the wine region of Martinborough and Hawke’s Bay. Christchurch residents and Cantabrians head to the west coast, Akoroa and the thermal pools at Hanmer Springs for their breaks. “Most Kiwis have their own secret spot they can slip away too,” said Mason. “I basically am happy anywhere with a beach and a barbecue.”

Australia, or the “West Island”, as it is cheekily nicknamed, is popular for short, inexpensive shopping and sightseeing trips in Sydney or Melbourne, or even for a rugby match. There are hundreds of thousands of Kiwis living in Australia, so many go over to visit family as well. Flying to any other major cities takes a long time: London is almost a full 24 hours and it is 13 hours to Los Angeles. Even holiday spots in Asia like Bali can take up to 11 or 12 hours.

Practical info
Renting can be difficult in New Zealand, as most people buy, so ex-pats may only rent for a short time before buying a property. But be warned, rents are expensive, as high as NZ$500 to 600 a week for a two-bedroom flat in the city.

House sales are recovering, but have not reached the boom levels of 2007. At the same time, all regions have had an increase in the number of properties sold. Auckland sale prices reached a new high last month: the median price of a house there is NZ$490,000. “Prices have continued to firm, particularly across Auckland,” said Smith. “The Official Cash Rate (interest rate) will remain at 2.5% until March 2012, giving confidence to home buyers and investors and keep the second- and third-home buyer market active.”

Sales in Hamilton remain flat, with an average sale price of NZ$315,000, and Wellington prices are rising, with an average sale price of NZ$392,000. The earthquake in Christchurch lowered sales and prices in 2011.

“New Zealand is a good place to visit but a great place to live,” said Mason, who currently lives in Berlin. “I’ve discovered there is no place like home.”

Further information
Scoop: city-specific blogs and news
Metro: Auckland city and lifestyle magazine
North & South Magazine: regional lifestyle and current events publication

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