New Zealand's seasons see summer coming from December to February, and winter from June to August.
The climate varies from sub-tropical in the far north to almost continental in the mountainous areas of the South Island.
The middle North Island is a mix, with coastal areas moderated by sea breezes, whereas the inland areas enjoy greater variance through the seasons but not to extremes.
Temperature ranges from a maximum summer high of 30oC to potential winter lows of -3oC.
As a narrow country, the weather can change dramatically in a very short time - sometimes four seasons in one day.
It is worth noting that the sunlight in New Zealand is very intense, and may be stronger than you are used to. This particularly surprises people from traditionally 'hot' countries, who find they sunburn quicker than expected.
Owning your own home is part of the great kiwi dream, and about two thirds of the adult population own their own home.
There is also a thriving rental and lease market for those that choose not to purchase a home. Rental agencies or the local newspaper will provide information on available houses. Most rentals are unfurnished but furnished homes can occasionally be found. Inner city living and apartment style accommodation is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to having a back yard!
Rental and house prices will vary among regions and cities - Waikato and Hamilton are much more affordable than many parts of Auckland or Wellington, for example. You can buy a 3-bedroom home in Hamilton for about NZ$350-400,000 or rent a similar place for about $350-400 per week.
New Zealand has an excellent range of education options of world-class standard.
Early childhood services include kindergarten, childcare centres, playcentres and home-based care.
While primary and secondary education is Government-finded, private schools are also available. Some schools offer live-in (boarding) facilities. It is compulsory for children to attend school from ages 6 to 16 years, although most start at age 5.
The school year starts in early February and goes through to mid-December. It is broken into four ten-week terms.
Tertiary education is provided by universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, colleges of education etc.
There are world-class universities in all the major cities.
New Zealand education:
Tertiary education providers in the Waikato:
Central government funds New Zealand's health and disability system. New migrants who are permanent residents can receive the same benefits as New Zealand citizens.
Publicly funded services include free care in public hospitals, and subsidised treatment in the public or private health sectors for accident victims.
If you have a current and valid overseas driver licence or international driving permit, you can drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months from your arrival date.
After this time, you will need to gain a New Zealand driver licence. Depending on the country you have come from, you may have to pass theory and/or a practical driving tests.
If you don't have a current overseas driver licence or international driving permit, you cannot drive.
Some other key points about driving here:
We recommend you do plenty of homework to find up-to-date cost comparisons with the country you are currently living in. Retail prices for many items fluctuate according to season, sales, brand and the type of outlet you are buying from, so average or standard figures can hide a wide range of prices. Demand and the overall state of the economy (global and national) will also have an impact on things such as housing and rental costs, bank interest rates, and wages for particular job categories.
Petrol prices are currently (2012) around NZ$2 per litre, but your transport costs will depend on whether you live close to work or further away.
"Shopping around" including using New Zealand's very popular TradeMe website can uncover great bargains for things such as household appliances and cars.
For more general information on the cost of living and tax please visit:
The mains power supply in New Zealand is 220-240v AC, 50Hz. This effectively means that you can use all your UK appliances in New Zealand. Some items will require a change of plug or use of an adapter to fit the New Zealand-style sockets.
However, be wary of different build standards, such as washing machines unable to fit into New Zealand-designed kitchens due to different standard sizes.
It is possible to bring your cat or dog to New Zealand, provided requirements of any relevant import health standards are met.
Dogs and cats coming from rabies free countries such as Australia, United Kingdom/Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Hawaii, and Singapore do not require quarantine but may be subject to tests on arrival.