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Moving to Wellington

(20 Posts)
Wouldratherbekayaking Sat 21-Dec-13 14:38:56

I've just been offered a job in Wellington working for the NZ govt and if visas come through, it looks like we'll be moving from Kent to NZ in April...

My DH and I both grew up as expats, so we're not too worried about most aspects of the big move. But I was wondering if there are any other Wellington MNers out there who could offer their advice on good suburbs to live in for a young family? And things to think about when moving our DSs overseas?

In terms of locations -
I would love to commute to the CBD in 15 mins or less, as my 1hr15 commute here and wanting to be at home more is a big factor in our move. We've been looking at Ngaio, Khandallah, Seatoun, Wilton, and similar on trademe. But it's hard to get a feel for places online. Some of the rentals look really dire for a lot of money! We're planning to rent for a year or two until we are sure we're settling for the long term, with a budget of up to $750/wk for 4 bedrooms.

As for the family-
We have two DSs, 8 months and 2.5 yrs, and for the first few months my DH is going to be full time daddy day care, at least until we find a kindy for the eldest. Any tips on good toddler activities would be really welcome, as he's terrified a bit daunted by the prospect of looking after two little ones (he looked after DS1 two days a week here, but not since DS2 was born and I've been on maternity leave...). DS1 is a sensitive soul, so we're bracing ourselves for a bloody nightmare an unsettled few months. DS2 on the other hand is the most relaxed little soul around. :-)

Thanks! And if no one is in Welly, any generic advice on settling into NZ would be really welcome too.

elizabethsmum Sat 21-Dec-13 20:59:52

Will watch your thread with interest as we are considering moving to nz possibly early 2014. We are in a similar position with 3 young dc. I would be working full time and dh part time initially. We are both in healthcare so I am in the process of starting to get organised with our professional registrations in the new year. Good luck to you- I think there are several mnetters on the where to live in nz threads that may be able to offer advice.

I have a friend in Wellington who recommends a rental with a heat pump if that is any help!!

elizabethsmum Sat 21-Dec-13 21:00:57

Sorry I meant 2015! We could have gone in April 2014 but too soon for us to be sufficiently organised!

TheFunStopsHere Mon 23-Dec-13 03:20:16

I'm in Wellington in one of the suburbs you listed. Any of those suburbs you mention would be good - Seatoun is a little further away (traffic that side of town can be heavier because of the airport and getting over Mt Victoria) but nothing compared to what you're used to I'm sure! Hataitai, Wadestown, Northland, Karori and Kelburn also good.
$750 a week should be enough (although maybe not in Seatoun and you might have more luck getting a nicer 3 bedroom home than an average 4 bedroom house which are often rented by groups of students) but I don't know what sort of standard if housing you expect. NZ houses are colder and can be a bit of a shock. Heat pumps make a difference. You really need to work out what balance of sun and wind you want - sun-facing houses here make a massive difference in terms of avoiding ending up in a damp dark house, but with the sun in Wellington comes wind! It can be hard to find a sheltered sunny spot. Trade Me has plenty of rentals but you could try going through one of the agencies like Oxygen or Quinovic if you want to tell them what you're looking for.
Public transport is pretty good though so you might be able to look a little further out and use the excellent buses and trains.
Plenty of things here for kids. Most suburbs have playground a couple of mornings a week - Plunket (look them up online) will be able to help you find one. They tend to be drop in and fairly relaxed. Mainly Music is good (also online) and tons of swimming pools and libraries in Wellington all of which have toddler groups. Kindergarten (public) starts at about 3.5 years but there also plenty of private nurseries. And lots of people do Playcentre which is a NZ-wide parent run pre-school.
Yell out if you have other questions. And well done on the new job!

lavenderbongo Mon 23-Dec-13 04:28:30

Hi - we live in Wellington but not near the city centre. Technically we're actually in a suburb of Porirua. Whitby and Plimmerton are lovely family friendly areas to live with great schools and Kindys. We rented a large four bed house in a great area for just over $500 a week. My DH commutes into Wellington and it takes him 25 minutes by train.

Its a bit cheaper to rent out here and you get more for your money. We are also on the edge of the Kapiti coast which has beautiful beaches.

I'm afraid I cant give you much info about the other areas nearer the city centre. We briefly looked at Karori and Ngaio but found they were too expensive for us. We ended up narrowing down our search area by looking at the Deciles of the schools. These give you an insight into the average income of the people in the local area. A Decile 10 school has the kids from the highest income families, a Decile 1 school the lowest income.

We moved over here when kids were 18 months and 4. Its great over here and there are lots of kid friendly activities and support. I have also met a fair few stay at home Dads so your DH would not feel at all odd going to the local playgroup or Plunket group. I found our local Library a great resource for finding local playgroups and other kiddie activities.

Its also worth checking out some of the blogs on moving too NZ on expat blog and some of the Mumsnet ones.

Hope this helps.

Wouldratherbekayaking Mon 23-Dec-13 19:57:10

lavenderbongo, I've just had a look at Plimmerton and Whitby and they look lovely! I thought it would take longer to get out there. We live in a small village here and love the outdoors, so swapping the woods here for beaches on the doorstep in NZ sounds perfect for us. My DH would have us as far up the Kapiti Coast as possible. But I am torn by the idea of being able to walk/cycle to work from some of the closer-in suburbs…

I think we will rent a furnished place for a couple of months in town and see how family-friendly the working hours really are once I've started. And then we can look at unfurnished places in person, while we wait for all our things to arrive.

Thanks for the tips, thefunstopshere. I've heard some really horrifying stories about damp and housing, so we'll definitely prioritise heat pumps and sun when we look at places. I was a bit shocked by the cost of renting and quality you get for it when I first started looking. Once we are sure we're staying for good, we'll sell our house here and try to buy somewhere we can do up ourselves as we did here.

I can't quite believe it's all happening - as soon as the contract papers arrive in January, we're putting in the application for my SMC visa.

Good luck, elizabethsmum, your timetable sounds a lot more sane than ours, but when this opportunity came up, we just couldn't turn it down! grin

LuubyLuu Thu 26-Dec-13 09:15:47

Hi, also in Wellington, came here 16 months ago and love it! We're across the harbour in Eastbourne, which is a longer commute, but with the trade-off of a great community and beaches and bush on the doorstep.

All the suburbs you mention are good, I'd add Karori to your list as it matches your criteria and is packed with families. In your position I'd get some short term accommodation for a few weeks and have a good look at the areas, visit a few cafés and libraries. It will soon be obvious where you want to settle.

I wasn't working when we arrived, and with an active 2 yo joined lots of activities. Playcentre is a great place to start as you'll get to know lots of parents quickly (like a structured playgroup, kids 0-5, mine was open 4 mornings a week, plenty of Dads).

Can't help so much on rentals, we bought v quickly after arriving, which was incredibly straightforward, even without a Kiwi credit history.

Let me know if you'd like to know anything about working in Welly. I've found it to be quite family friendly. I'd stock up on work clothes before you arrive (although I've found this to be more casual than in Uk). In fact stock up on clothes full stop, hit the sales! Boots and coats are expensive here, and kids clothes and shoes- buy ahead...

Good luck for the move!

Wouldratherbekayaking Thu 26-Dec-13 15:25:19

Thanks - we did look at Eastbourne, the idea of a ferry to work sounded fun, but it is a bit too far, at least for when we first arrive. We're thinking of a holiday let when we arrive for 8 weeks, since they'd be fully equipped… any downsides to this in Welly, apart from expense?

We've just spent three days without electricity or central heating here, so I'm getting a feel for what life in the wrong damp, uninsulated NZ house could be like in winter! Thanks goodness for wood burning stoves. grin

Do any of you know people who work in the NZ civil service (and especially anyone who also worked in the UK)? Would be really interesting to hear what they think of it and the working culture.

TheFunStopsHere Thu 26-Dec-13 20:26:49

The only downsides of an apartment/let that I can think of is that they're likely to be central city so not exposing you to likely suburbs you might ultimately live in, plus some parts of the central city can be very quiet (empty!) in the weekend. And they might also not be perfect for small children. But I think it's a really practical and sensible way to start off and means you're not having to buy lots of furniture and appliances when you first arrive and are waiting on your stuff from the UK (furniture and appliances are comparatively expensive here and there is limited choice).
In terms of the work culture, I'm a Kiwi but I've worked in the UK and NZ public sector (our term for civil service). You could have a look on expat boards for views on differences. Things are fairly relaxed here I think by comparison. But not overly different. I think one major difference is that NZers can tend to be generalists rather than specialists - possibly in part to the small population - so most people will give most things a go and have competence across a variety of tasks but not a lot of depth in specialist areas. This is starting to change and can be different depending on which Dept you're coming in to. They all have quite different reputations for work ethic and skills. Some people from the UK certainly can find things a bit too relaxed and don't like the 'good enough/she'll be right' attitude of some individuals but it definitely goes with the emphasis on a decent work-life balance. There is a big push at the moment on increasing the quality and use of research-led evidence for policy across government departments but some concerns under the current govt that policy advice is ignored in some areas regardless. But that might be not just a NZ issue at the moment. Definitely have a look at a few expat sites to forewarn yourself about cultural differences - I doubt you'll find things drastically different but perhaps a little looser than the UK in places.

lavenderbongo Wed 01-Jan-14 07:57:33

My DH worked in the UK civil service and is now in the NZ civil service (or equivalent). He has achieved a better work life balance but still works bloody hard sometimes smile

Whowouldfardelsbear Wed 01-Jan-14 08:14:02

I live in Wellington in Tawa. About a 15 min commute by train and very family friendly suburb with all amenities.

I work in the civil service - whic h department are you going to? I find that they are better at recognizing hard workers here, and that is better reflected in pay rises etc. However, job security is not great with lots of restructures in the public sector.

Hopefully if Labour win the next election they will put more money into the public sector and employment - it has been run down to the ground by the current National Government.

Whowouldfardelsbear Wed 01-Jan-14 08:16:37

PS. Wellington is very windy, and the ferry commute rarely looks appealing to me!

GhettoPrincess001 Wed 01-Jan-14 09:44:22

I've lived in NZ for nearly 3 years. I've really only visited Wellington. I spent a day in Seatoun when I accompanied my husband to Wellington on business. I got a return ticket on the bus. He works for an NZ govt department and their national office is in central Wellington.

We live in provincial NZ where his office is and we live in the same town so he can walk to work and back. Beats the train commute from Surrey to London and back Monday to Friday.

yawningbear Wed 01-Jan-14 19:10:44

We lived in Wellington for nearly 2 years and loved it. We moved out when DD was only 3 months around April time and that first winter I was very, very cold! We rented in Island bay, which was gorgeous but the house was old and cold, even with a heat pump. We bailed out when the lease was up and moved to Brooklyn to a new build which was much warmer and better all round.

Both suburbs were great for kids and very friendly and both had Playcentres, definitely good to get involved with one. If I went out again with young kids I would want to make sure I lived near one. Also lots of Dads looking after the kids. Both suburbs also had cool cinemas and cafés galore. It really is a stunning place and has the best little zoo in the world. I had so many glorious walks around that zoo with DD.

It is a hard adjustment though, or it was for me, I underestimated the impact of being so far away from friends and family and all that I knew well. But there are many, many things about living that were simply amazing and if I could just take a handful of other folk with me I would go back in a heartbeat.

Good Luck!

yawningbear Wed 01-Jan-14 19:14:50

Meant to add that we stayed in a holiday cottage for the first 3 weeks whilst we looked for a rental- not sure if it still for rent but it was called Pineview Cottage in Island bay. The owners were lovely, really friendly and helpful. The other thing to consider is that most of the rentals, if not all, were unfurnished.

yawningbear Wed 01-Jan-14 19:17:01

I think we got a discount because we booked a 3 week stay and it was going into winter.

Arohaitis Wed 05-Feb-14 11:16:29

You give us very little to go on except that you want to be near work, eg your budget for buying a house (NB most banks are wanting 20% deposit and interest rates are higher if you have less to try and reign in soaring house prices) are you planning on more children, what your attitude to education and schools is (state/private) etc.

Assuming that you are working in the CBD/Thorndon area where most gov jobs are, are not intending to have (many) more than 2 - so will only have boys, and like most mumsnetters thinks schools are pretty important.
I have three comments to make a) they have an intermediate system b) schooling options for boys are not great c) schools are zoned for admission

Khandallah and Seatoun are two of the most expensive suburbs, Seatoun is on the other side of town so your commute will be long.


I would suggest Karori probably the most family friendly suburb in Wellington, the schools are good they are what is called a 'full primary' so avoid the need for intermediate schools, if you are in Karori you are zoned for one of them, if your husband will be with the kids it has a library, swimming pool, lots of Churches with playgroups, loads going on for kids big and little. It is on the right end of town for the CBD and the right end of town to get out of (nature trips etc) some people don't like it because there is only one road in (earthquakes) but in reality there are kind of two and Wellington itself has only one road in anyway! Accommodation wise you get so much more for your money, you are more likely to get a decent sized plot of land the houses tend to be better maintained, and cheaper. It is not as beset by hills as a lot of suburbs (difficult access to houses, no flat land for kids to play on etc etc.) However for boys very importantly it is in zone for Wellington college which is generally considered to be the most desirable boys school in Wellington. It is however single sex as are most of the schools, Wellington high is the mixed school in town however it is not zoned, so you can go there where ever you live.
Once you go further North the school choices change so might not be relevant.


Wouldratherbekayaking Wed 05-Feb-14 13:17:57

Thanks for all the tips everyone, they were really helpful. Sorry not to reply, it's been a month of manic planning. We're now all set to arrive in April.

We've ended up renting a holiday let for a couple of months in Northland/Kelburn near Zealandia… the right combination of baby/toddler friendly house, local activities and walk or bus commute for me to CBD.

We'll see whether we're happy living that centrally, as I have a feeling we'll be tempted to move more the Plimmerton/Whitby way by the seaside, with a bigger house.

Arohaitis, thanks. We're not too worried about schooling, the little ones are still small. Two is definitely plenty! Can't really imagine three at this point, really not sure how my parents managed with the six of us. shock We're planning to rent for a couple of years, as we want to be sure we're staying for the long term before selling our UK house.

Elizabethsmum if you do end up coming out to Wellington next year, let me know if you need any help, I think I've now exhaustively researched bank accounts, flight options, shipping, childcare, and so on!

elizabethsmum Fri 07-Feb-14 21:48:23

Wow sounds like it has been manic! We have not got a lot further in the process yet as DH had applied for a new job but didn't get it so we are now back 'on it' again! So far I am just sorting out my professional registration as once sorted this lasts indefinitely anyway. As we are just thinking of coming for a year initially- more like a working holiday- I am considering looking at house swapping- wondered if anyone had done this?

Fantail Sat 08-Feb-14 05:54:08

You are going to live very close to me to begin with. We live in Wilton. Feel free to ask any question. Our DD is almost 3. DH works in the public service in a senior managerial role and I work in a more political role.

You may want to check out for things to do with little kids in Wellington.

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