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Picking your retirement spot in New Zealand

A recent article in the New Zealand Herald helps the decision making process. According to their findings the Bay of Plenty, and especially its main town of Tauranga, has become a popular retirement area owing to the warm, sunny climate.

Picking Your Retirement Spot In New Zealand

The others lived in rest homes, boarding houses and even some in motels. The government’s ‘ageing in place’ policy encourages older people to live in their own homes for as long as they can, by providing community support. This includes Meals on Wheels, household help and small mobility aids. Family members usually help if they live close by.

In a system similar to the UK, some older people move from their own homes into low-maintenance retirement villages where they can remain independent but are close to special services says the NZH while others move into granny flats on relatives’ property. Many Maori have self-contained ‘kaumātua flats’.

Older people assessed as unable to look after themselves live in rest homes. This is funded by government if the person cannot pay.

The list below represents just a few of the many places popular with retirees – according to the New Zealand Herald:

North Island

Kerikeri (pop. 6,000)

A family- friendly town with a strong horticulture industry and local vineyards. Popular with retirees, Kerikeri has a popular Sunday farmers market, a vibrant high street with alfresco cafés, boutiques and art galleries. Although it is a three-hour drive from Auckland, there is a local airport and flights are only 45 minutes so you can make it there and back in a day, if you need a fix of the big city.

Matamata (pop. 12,000)

Retirees, especially Tolkien fans, love Matamata for its rural surroundings and golf course, mineral pools and large indoor/outdoor pool complex. The pace is gentle and there are several retirement homes in the area.

Hamilton’s international airport is under an hour away and in 2007 the New Zealand Herald shortlisted Matamata as a great place to live. The competitive Gun Club might appeal to some, and even the world-renowned gliding site, draws the more adventurous retirees.

Any Tolkien fan will know that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit were filmed in this area. Visits to the Hobbiton Movie Set have put Matamata firmly on NZ’s tourist map. Settled under the stunning Kaimai Ranges, it is a rural, but lively town (thanks to the recent tourism). It was previously known only for its thoroughbred studs, dairy farming and for its gliding site.

South Island

Nelson (pop. 42,000)

Ideally positioned between Abel Tasman National Park and Nelson Lakes National Park, Nelson is cheerful, sunny and relaxed with all the usual amenities and entertainment and a strong arts scene with over 350 resident artists; traditional, contemporary and Maori. Paradise is never perfect and some complain about the cost of living and the town’s sandflies. A beachfront home with large terrace, with superb view in Atawhai is on for bids over NZD $725,000, and a stunning three-bed penthouse in town has a starting price of NZD $700,000.

Motueka (pop. 10,000)

Retirees love this town. Horticulture is the main industry here with hops and apple orchards. Artists and potters have set up home here - and perhaps, less obviously, reggae musicians. There is a definite ‘green’ vibe furthered by the proximity to the large International Pacifist Community at Riverside which specialises in organic farming.

Among other towns often chosen by retirees are areas on the Kapiti Coast (Waikanae), Taranki, Hawkes Bay and Central Otago.

For a comprehensive list of towns around New Zealand, see the Working in New Zealand website.

Health care

Many pensioners give up their private health insurance on retirement because it is too expensive, leaving them stuck on public health waiting lists when they need help the most.

Public health services provide older people with relatively inexpensive medical care and free hospital care. There is a large network of community-based support services which assist older people physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.


Many older New Zealanders enroll as students in community or university courses. A popular option is the University of the Third Age, an international organisation which provides learning opportunities for older people through lectures, study groups and online courses. In 2009 there were 65 branches in New Zealand.

Participation in leisure and recreation activities creates a high level of wellbeing among the older generation, according to a 2008 study by Age Concern. It found that the 10 most popular sport and recreation activities enjoyed by older people were walking, gardening, swimming, equipment-based exercise, bowls, fishing, golf, dance, yoga and cycling – 82 per cent participated in at least one sport or recreational activity every week.

Cost of living

Research by Statistics New Zealand found that a two-person household in Auckland or Wellington would need NZD $241.35 (about £149) a week for a “no-frills” retirement, which a couple living in the countryside would need slightly more, NZD $244.24 (£151) a week.

A “frills” retirement, offering more choices and some luxuries, was NZD $761.56 (£471) in city areas and slight less, NZD $693.83 (£240) in rural areas. But that doesn't include housing costs like rent, a mortgage or rates and maintenance. New Zealand superannuation for a couple is NZD $536.80 (£263) a week, after tax, leaving a significant shortfall for those who want to do more than just get by. The government’s advice: Save up for retirement.

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