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This guide has information to prepare you for working in the New Zealand hospitality sector.

Are you an employer?

An employer version of this guide can be downloaded:

Employer guide (pdf, 3mb)

The New Zealand hospitality industry values migrant workers. No matter how long you stay in New Zealand, it is important that you enjoy your time working here.

It can take time to get used to living and working in a new country. It is important that you and your family have the information and support you need, even if you are here on a temporary visa.

Working in hospitality in New Zealand may be different from your home country. How people communicate will be different too. This guide will help you understand what it is like to work in hospitality in New Zealand, how to keep yourself safe and where to get advice and support.

Working in cafe making coffee

Introduction to working in hospitality

Hospitality work can be energetic and exciting. You'll work with a variety of people and do different tasks.  

The hospitality industry

In 2015, there were 108,000 people working in hospitality in New Zealand. Over half of them (54.6%) worked in cafés and restaurants. Most of New Zealand’s hospitality work is in Auckland. In 2015, 38% of New Zealand’s hospitality sales happened in Auckland. The next biggest markets were Canterbury (13%) and Wellington (11.8%).

According to the website, there are good job opportunities for many hospitality workers in New Zealand due to a shortage of workers. 

There is a shortage of skilled chefs in New Zealand and the role is listed on Immigration New Zealand’s long-term skill shortage list. Some hospitality businesses also find it hard to recruit managers.

Hospitality industry |

About working in New Zealand hospitality

"If you want to work in New Zealand you have to change your mind-set. You might be balancing study and work - so get ready to work hard."

Liu Chang, migrant business owner of Kung Fu Noodle

New Zealand hospitality businesses are often made up of workers from a wide range of different countries and cultures. Hospitality work can be energetic and exciting. It offers some flexibility around working days and hours which might suit you. 

Hospitality jobs do not follow the usual Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm schedule common to many other types of jobs. You may work nights, weekends and public holidays in hospitality. 

There is also a lot of variety in the types of jobs you can do – from working with customers to experimenting with new foods and flavours. As a hospitality worker you will often need to learn to do many things as part of your job. It is important that you are flexible and willing to learn. 

Hospitality workers are creative and confident people who are ready for hard work and enjoy working with people. It can be an interesting and exciting industry to work in.


You do not need a particular qualification or New Zealand registration to work in hospitality here, but many businesses prefer if you have prior hospitality experience. If you have worked in hospitality in another country, your skills should transfer to the New Zealand hospitality industry.

Your employer may require you to gain a Manager’s Certificate if you are serving alcohol to customers. This involves you taking a course to gain your Licence Controller Qualification (LCQ).

Service IQ

Working conditions

Hours of work

Hospitality work provides a great deal of variety in the hours you work and the kinds of tasks you do at work. 

Although some cafés are only open during the day, many hospitality businesses are open during the evening and weekend. If you agree to it, your employer may ask you to work different shifts and hours each week, depending on the needs of the business. If this is the case then your employer will usually display your hours of work on a roster. 

Part-time work is common in hospitality, with many people working fewer than 30 hours a week.

Wage rates

The average pay in hospitality is different depending on the job. These rates can also vary depending on the region or location of the business and the skill level of the employee. 

Chefs, on average, earn between $16 to $25 an hour (Careers NZ, 2016).

Uniform and personal grooming

It is important for you to be clean and tidy when working in hospitality. Most hospitality businesses have minimum hygiene and personal grooming standards for their staff. This is usually because of food hygiene requirements, but also to ensure your safety around equipment and to give a good impression to customers. Before you start your job, check with your employer about the clothing and grooming requirements for the workplace.


Minimum employment rights

New Zealand has laws that protect all workers. Know your rights to ensure you are paid and treated fairly.

Available in 14 languages

Information on your minimum employment rights is available in 14 languages.

Minimum employment rights

Employment agreements

You must have a written employment agreement with your employer. It is important to read your employment agreement and understand what each part means. You can negotiate changes with your employer and you must be given time to get advice if you need it.

The employment agreement must be signed by you and your employer. Not all employers will give you a copy automatically, so it is important to ask for one. Keep a signed copy of your agreement in a safe place. A copy may help you if there is a disagreement later on. 

You also have the right to join a union. Your employer cannot influence your decision. If you join a union, you may come under a collective agreement. These are negotiated by the union and your employer.

Employment agreements | Employment

Working hours

If you and your employer agree to a set number of working hours, then the hours must be stated in your employment agreement. This includes details about the number of hours, the start and finish times or the days of the week you will work. 

Your employer cannot force you to be available for work above the hours you have agreed to in your employment agreement, without having a genuine reason and without giving you reasonable
compensation. It is your choice whether you work any hours that are above what you have already agreed to. 

Your employer also cannot cancel your shift without reasonable notice or compensation. You need to negotiate the notice period and compensation rates with your employer and make sure that they are included in your employment agreement. 

90-day trial period 

When you start working, your employer might offer you a trial period of up to 90 days. Your employer must pay you during the trial period. It is your choice whether you want to accept a trial period. You and your employer must agree to it in writing, and it must be a part of your written employment agreement. 

If your employer dismisses you from your job before the end of the 90-day trial period, you cannot make a legal complaint against your employer about being fired for no good reason (an unjustified dismissal). You can make a legal complaint if your employer discriminates against you or harasses you, even if you are on a 90-day trial period. 

All of the other minimum employment rights still apply to you while you are on a trial period.

Trial periods | Employment New Zealand

Minimum pay and deductions

You are entitled to the adult minimum wage if you are 16 years old or over and not a starting-out worker or trainee. The government reviews the rate every year. 

Your employer must pay you in money, either into your bank account or with cash. They cannot charge you fees or levies or take any money from your wages without your written permission, except for pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) income tax, student loan repayments, child support or to comply with a court order. All deductions that your employer makes must be reasonable.

Minimum wage | Employment New Zealand

Pay deductions | Employment New Zealand

Rest & meal breaks

You are entitled to rest and meal breaks.

Usually, rest breaks are 10–15 minutes long and meal breaks are at least 30 minutes long. This can differ depending on your workplace.


Working in hospitality can involve long hours and possibly shift work. It is important to have regular breaks so you stay fresh and alert. This can help you to avoid workplace accidents and make you happier and more productive at work. 

You are entitled to have rest and meal breaks. These should give you enough time to rest, refresh and take care of any personal matters. You should not be expected to do any work during your break. Your employer should pay you for rest breaks, but they do not have to pay you for meal breaks. 

There are no specific rules about how long or how often breaks should be. You can negotiate the timing and length of your breaks with your employer. Usually, rest breaks are 10–15 minutes long and meal breaks are at least 30 minutes long. This can differ depending on your workplace.

In hospitality, your employer may restrict your breaks when it is reasonable. For example, if you work in a restaurant you may not be able to take breaks during busy times such as lunch or dinner service. If this is the case, you may be able to have a break at a quieter time. 

It is important to discuss the length and timing of your breaks with your employer.

Breaks | Employment New Zealand

Annual holidays

You are allowed at least four weeks of paid holiday every year, after you have worked at your job full-time for one year. You can take at least two weeks of leave together if you want to. 

If you work part-time, you get annual holidays ‘pro rata’. This means that you will get four weeks of holidays based on what a working week is for you. For example, if you work three days each week then you will be entitled to 12 days of annual leave. 

In hospitality, it may be difficult for you to take annual leave during the busy summer period because this is when your employer will most likely need you to work.

Different kinds of employment in New Zealand

table caption
Full-time Usually between 30 and 40 hours a week
Part-time Usually between 10 and 15 hours a week, sometimes up to 30 hours a week
Casual You work when you are required to - you are 'on call' - and do not work regular, predictable hours

Types of employee | Employment

You can also choose to have up to one week of leave paid to you instead of taking a paid holiday, if your employer has a ‘holiday cash-up’ policy in place. 

If you work full- or part-time, and your employment is for less than a year, then you are entitled to be paid out your holiday pay at the end of your employment. This is calculated at 8% of your pay before tax and adjustments (gross earnings), minus any annual holidays you have already taken.

If you are employed as a genuine casual worker with no regular hours at work, then your employer must pay you 8% holiday pay on top of your normal pay. This is called ‘pay-as-you-go’ and you and your employer must  agree to it in your employment agreement. The 8% holiday pay must be shown on your payslip as a separate payment. When you leave your job you will not receive an additional annual holiday payment. 

Some workers in hospitality are described as casual when they are actually part-time workers who have regular or predictable hours (ie they work every weekend, or they are on a weekly roster). 

This means that they are paid for their  annual holidays as ‘pay-as-you-go’, instead of getting their actual entitlement to four weeks’ paid annual holidays. Before you start work, it is important to clarify your working hours and employment status with your employer and agree to it in writing in your employment agreement.

Public holidays

You are entitled to public holidays (also known as statutory holidays) in addition to your annual holidays. 

If the public holiday is on a day you would normally work, then you are usually entitled to have the day off and be paid for it. In the hospitality industry, public holidays are often the busiest times for businesses. Your employer may want you to work. If this happens, you must be paid ‘time and a half’, or 1.5 times your daily pay, for the hours you worked on that day. 

If the public holiday you work is on a day that you would normally work, then you are entitled to another day off on full pay, which is known as an ‘alternative day’ or a ‘day in lieu’.

Leave summary

You are entitled to:

- at least 4 weeks paid holiday each year

- public (statutory) holidays

- at least 5 days paid sick leave each year

- bereavement leave, if death in family

- parental leave, if you have a new child

- domestic violence leave, if you are affected.

If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, and you do not normally work on those days, you may be able to have a paid holiday on the following Monday or Tuesday. This is called ‘Mondayisation’.

You have the right to ask to transfer a New Zealand public holiday to another working day. Your employer must consider the request in good faith (openly, honestly and fairly). This could be, for example, to celebrate a religious or cultural holiday. Your employer can also ask you to transfer a public holiday. In either case, you and your employer should make a record of the agreement in writing.

Public holidays | Employment NZ 

Mondayisation of public holidays | Employment NZ

Sick leave

You are entitled to five days of paid sick leave each year after you have worked at your job for six months continuously. You can take sick leave when you, your partner or a dependent (like your child or elderly parent) is sick or injured. 

If you get sick before you have worked for six months, you can ask your employer if you can take your sick leave in advance. If not, you can ask to use some of your annual leave. If you have no annual leave,
you can ask to take unpaid leave.

Sick leave | Employment NZ

Bereavement leave

You are entitled to three days’ paid leave because of the death of an immediate family member (known as bereavement leave) after you have worked at your job for six months continuously. This includes the death of your spouse or partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild or your spouse or partner’s parent. If there is more than one death at a time, you can take three days’ leave for each person who has died. You can also take up to one day’s bereavement leave for a death outside your immediate family, depending on your relationship with them. 

Most employees are entitled to sick and bereavement leave, including those whose work is not continuous.

Bereavement leave | Employment NZ

Parental leave

If you have a new baby or child to care for you may be eligible for paid parental leave. The parental leave payment is a weekly payment for one continuous period of up to 22 weeks.

Parental leave | Employment NZ

Domestic violence leave

From 1 April 2019, employees affected by domestic violence (physical, sexual or psychological abuse) have the right to:

  • at least 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year
  • ask for short-term flexible working arrangements for up to 2 months.

In addition, employers must not treat employees badly or unfairly because they think the employee is affected by domestic violence.

To qualify for domestic violence leave you must have worked for your employer for at least 6 months and meet some other criteria around the hours you have worked. Your employer may ask you for some form of written proof, like a letter from a support person or organisation, a report from your doctor or court documents.

Domestic violence leave | Employment New Zealand

Payslips and record keeping

Your employer must keep an accurate record of the hours and days you work and the payments you receive for those hours. The employer must also record your holiday and leave entitlements along with any time you take annual leave, sick leave or bereavement leave. Your employer must provide you with this information if you ask for it.

Keeping accurate records | Employment NZ

IRD Numbers

You will need to get an Inland Revenue (IRD) number before you start work or your income will be taxed at the highest no-notification rate.

How to get an IRD number

Health and safety

Keeping safe is the responsibility of both you and your employer. 

It is important for you and your family that you do not get sick or injured at work. 

The business you work for must look after your health and safety. You must be given proper training, supervision and the right equipment to do your job safely. You must be told how to raise concerns or suggestions about staying safe and healthy at work. 

In return, you must take responsibility for ensuring your own safety and the safety of others around you. You must also comply with any reasonable instructions, policies or procedures on how to work in a safe and healthy way.

Keeping safe

Your business must look after your health and safety.

You must also take responsibility for yourself and those around you.

Know the dangers

Some hazards in hospitality workplaces can include:

  • hot liquids, elements and flames
  • smoke and vapour
  • heavy objects such as pots and pans
  • equipment with sharp edges, such as knives, meat slicers and mandolins
  • slippery floors and spills
  • electrical cords and clutter
  • food safety and hygiene
  • long working hours
  • physical fatigue
  • mental stress
  • customers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • violent or aggressive customers
  • loud music
  • dark or small spaces
  • chemicals and cleaning fluids
  • manual lifting
  • broken glass or crockery

Your rights

Under New Zealand law, you are entitled to:

  • work in places where the risks to health and safety are properly controlled
  • adequate facilities, such as toilets, washing facilities and first aid
  • sufficient training, information and support on how to do your job safely
  • contribute to health and safety decisions at your workplace
  • be provided with personal protective equipment
  • ask to have a health and safety representative or a health and safety committee.

You must be shown how to use the equipment in your workplace safely. You also need to know how to use the personal protective equipment, such as gloves or an eye wash station. The business cannot make you pay for the personal protective equipment. Ask your supervisor about what to do in an emergency and where they keep the first aid kits.

Reporting hazards

You should report all hazards, accidents and incidents that did not cause an injury but could have done so (near misses). That way you can help keep others healthy and safe and help the business meet its legal obligations too. 

The business must also have a way for workers to raise any health or safety concerns or good ideas about how to make work less risky. By raising issues, you can help the business to look after all its workers. If you have a suggestion or concern, but you are not comfortable raising it at work, you can:

  • talk to your Health and Safety representative, if your workplace has one
  • ask a workmate to raise an issue for you
  • contact a union – union delegates can act as advocates for workplace health and safety.

It is against the law for anyone to discriminate or take other negative steps against you because of your involvement with work health and safety.

Health and safety resources

You can find more information about health and safety at work on WorkSafe's website, or contact them on 0800 030 040 (24 hours). Ask for Language Line if you need an interpreter. You can also call this number if you are worried about an unsafe or unhealthy work situation. Your concerns will be treated confidentially.

Health and safety | Worksafe

Protecting yourself from exploitation

Learn how to keep yourself safe. 

What is exploitation?

Most employers in New Zealand do not exploit their workers. But a small number of employers can take advantage of your unfamiliarity with New Zealand by not respecting your minimum employment rights. This is called exploitation at work and it is a serious crime in New Zealand.

Migrant exploitation | Immigration New Zealand

Examples of exploitation

Here are some more signs of exploitation at work:

  • Your employer makes you feel scared, bullied, threatened or intimidated.
  • Someone keeps your passport and money without your consent.
  • There are locks on your doors or windows to stop you from leaving.
  • You have no time off for medical appointments, to go shopping or to meet friends.
  • You are paid too little money or none at all.
  • You are forced to work to pay off a debt to your employer.
  • You or your family have been threatened (with violence, jail or deportation) if you do not cooperate.
  • You are forced to pay your employer to help you get a visa.
  • You have to pay your own taxes by reimbursing your employer.
  • You have to sign another employment agreement which is worse than the agreement you have previously signed or agreed to.

If any of these situations apply to you then it is important for you to get help. You may feel afraid to contact government agencies, but they are here to help you.

How to get help

The New Zealand authorities are here to help you. 

If you are worried about your immigration status you may be too afraid to report your complaint. Immigration New Zealand and the Labour Inspectorate will treat you fairly if your complaint is genuine.

Migrant exploitation | Immigration New Zealand

For confidential help and advice on employment issues, pay and holidays you can call the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Contact Centre on 0800 20 90 20.   MBIE also has a free mediation service if you have a dispute with your employer.

Mediation | Employment New Zealand

For free advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), visit this site for a list of CAB office locations.

CAB locations

If you need free legal advice, Community Law may be able to help.

Community Law


Unions can advocate on your behalf. There are a number of unions involved in different industries within hospitality.

E tu

Union Network of Migrants

Unite Union

The roles of employment authorities in New Zealand

There are a number of organisations in New Zealand whose role is to oversee employment standards in New Zealand.

The Labour Inspectorate

The Labour Inspectorate has a team of inspectors who go into New Zealand businesses to make sure that owners are respecting the minimum employment rights of their employees

Labour Inspectorate | Employment

Employment Relations Authority (ERA)

The ERA investigates cases relating to employment. These can include unpaid wages, employers failing to meet the terms of an employment agreement or unjustified dismissal (being fired for no good reason).

Employment Relations Authority

Employment Court

The most serious cases go to the Employment Court. This can happen if someone does not agree with what the ERA determines.

Employment Court | Justice


How Kiwis work, communicate and interact is unique. 

Hospitality jargon

Common words you might hear in the restaurant

Back of house (kitchen brigade) structure

Executive Chef
Head Chef
Sous Chef
Chef de Partie
  • Commis Chef
  • Kitchenhand

Front of house structure

Restaurant Manager
Maitre d' (Head waiter)
  • Waiter
  • Bartender
  • Sommelier

Communicating in the hospitality workplace

Talking to customers

It is important to be polite and welcoming to customers in New Zealand. They choose to spend their money at the business where you work and it is your job to make them feel comfortable. A simple ‘Hi, how are you?’ when they walk in the door or ‘Have a nice day’ when they leave are easy ways to do this. Your supervisor or manager may arrange training to help you with this. 

There is a well-known phrase, ‘The customer is always right.’ This means that you should do your best to meet their needs, even if it is difficult. 

Kiwis are not always direct when they ask people to do things. This is important to know for your communication with customers, particularly if you are a waiter, café staff or bar staff. 

Sometimes, a customer may ask you for something in an indirect way.

table caption
We're after a glass of water I want a glass of water
The chicken looks good I want to order the chicken meal
I could do with some salt I want some salt

A customer’s Kiwi accent can make it harder for you to understand them. If you do not understand at first, be sure to check with the customer rather than guessing what they might want. This will help you to avoid mistakes, like giving them the wrong meal or drink. 

Sometimes a customer can make a complaint about the food or service they have received. New Zealanders are usually very indirect and polite when they complain and it might not be obvious that they are not happy. Again, check with the customer if you do not understand. Do not react negatively or strongly to their complaint. Apologise to them and do your best to fix the problem. If you are having trouble, ask a colleague to help you. Your supervisor or manager may arrange training for you about how to deal with customer complaints.

Talking to your colleagues

The kitchen brigade diagram above shows that some kitchens have strict authority levels. This means that workers are arranged in terms of ranks, from junior to senior. This makes hospitality workplaces different from many other industries in New Zealand. In hospitality, it is common to hear senior workers communicating very directly with their junior colleagues. 

Some hospitality businesses have a rule that staff cannot speak to another worker in a language other than English while working. This is often to improve the safety and wellbeing of workers; for example, it ensures that everyone can understand messages in an emergency.

However, you should have the right to speak your language during breaks and before and after work.

English only workplaces | Human Rights Commission

If you do not understand something that your colleague says, ask them to speak slowly and repeat what they are saying. You can repeat instructions back to the person who is asking you to check that you understand correctly.

  • "You want me to peel this bag of onions, chop them and put them in a bowl?"

Official languages

English is the most widely spoken language in New Zealand. There are two other official languages: Māori and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). 

You may hear Māori words being used in conversation and also in the hospitality workplace. Some of them are:

Maori culture

New Zealand Sign Language | NZSL

Colloquial language

Kiwi slang or colloquial language can be difficult to understand. Working in the hospitality industry means that you have to learn many special technical terms for your job, as well as becoming familiar with Kiwi words. Ask a colleague if you are not sure what a word or phrase means.


Swearing can be very common in New Zealand workplaces. It is important to remember that this is often a normal part of working life, especially in the kitchen. 

People from some cultures can associate swearing with being angry or being told off. In New Zealand, we often take a more relaxed approach to swearing. Some Kiwis swear when they are in a good mood and when they are joking with others. Try not to be offended if you hear some swearing during normal workplace conversation. But remember that it is not appropriate for staff members to swear when they are talking with customers. 

Even in casual workplaces, swearing with colleagues can become unacceptable, especially when it is directed at you or anyone else, or when it is sexually or racially discriminatory. If this kind of swearing continues then it could be harassment which is against the law.

Teasing and banter

In some kitchens, colleagues can ‘banter’ with each other. This means to lightly tease one another. This could be making fun of someone in a playful and friendly way, for example, when someone gets a new haircut. Banter is always between people who know each other well. Research shows that banter can actually help teams to feel closer together and it can be positive for teamwork. 

Like swearing, banter and teasing can ‘go too far’. This means that it can become offensive if it is too strong, goes on for too long or is directed at someone who is uncomfortable with it. If you are not happy with banter directed at you in the workplace, make sure you
say something to the person who is doing it to you, or say something about it to your boss. If the teasing is of a sexual or racial nature, then it could be harassment.

Workplace harassment

Any harassment of a sexual or racial nature is taken very seriously in New Zealand. Harassment can involve being subject to offensive sexual or racial comments or behaviour at work. Your rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1993.

Human Rights Commission

What to do if you are harassed at work

  • Keep a record of the offensive incidents
  • Talk about it with someone you trust
  • Confront the person who is harassing you. You can do this in person, through a letter or through a representative
  • Speak to your manager
  • Try mediation, which is offered by MBIE and is free of charge. A mediator will help you and your employer resolve the problem.
  • Make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission if you experience discrimination

Complaints | Human Rights Commission

Getting language support

For most Kiwi day-to-day interactions you will need an understanding of English. Improving your English can help you with your settlement into New Zealand life and work.

Learning English

Workplace communication

Visa options and rules

Explore immigration options for you and your family. 

Which visa do you need?

There may be a number of visas you are eligible to apply for – each with its own criteria and application process.

NZ Ready

NZ Ready is a free online planning tool for people moving to New Zealand. It creates a task list for you where you can add notes and check things off as you prepare for your move.

NZ Ready

Visa options for working in New Zealand include:

Resident visas - These allow you to work and live indefinitely in New Zealand.
Temporary work visas - These allow you to live and work in New Zealand for a set period of time. 

If you are an international student studying in New Zealand on a Student Visa you may be eligible to work for up to 20 hours per week. There are specific conditions you must meet before you can work on a Student Visa.

Explore visa options | Immigration New Zealand

Working on a student visa | Immigration New Zealand

Getting immigration advice

There are three main ways to apply for a New Zealand visa: 

1. Complete the application form yourself

2. Engage a licensed immigration adviser

3. Engage someone who is exempt from the license requirements

Getting immigration advice

Advice for temporary workers

The conditions of your temporary visa specify your position, employer and location of employment. You can work only within the conditions of your visa. 

If your situation or plans change, you may need to apply for a Variation of Conditions or a new visa. Changes to your visa, or applying for a new visa can take time. Avoid problems by applying two to three months ahead. 

If you want to stay in New Zealand after the expiry date on your visa, you will need to apply for a further visa well before the expiry date. It is important to remember that Immigration New Zealand’s visa requirements may change to ensure that New Zealanders seeking employment are not disadvantaged, so you may not get another visa. 

You must leave New Zealand or apply for a new visa before your visa expires.

My situation has changed | Immigration New Zealand

Bringing family to New Zealand

You can bring family members to New Zealand if your family meets the immigration requirements. Family members usually means your partner and your dependent children. Dependent children can be up to 24 years old and must be single with no children of their own. There are also other conditions that must be met.

Visas for partners and children

Your family will need to be prepared to live in a different culture. It is helpful to tell your employer if you intend to bring your family to New Zealand. If your family joins you, think about the following questions:

  • Can they speak English?
  • Will your wages be enough for all of your family and the things you want to do?
  • Is there a place for them to live?
  • What schools will your children go to?
  • Can your partner/spouse drive?
  • If your partner/spouse wants to work, do they have a valid visa?
  • Can your partner/spouse find a job?
  • What social life or support networks will your family have?
  • What public services, like healthcare, are your family eligible for?
  • Can your family adjust to a new country?

Bring family | Immigration New Zealand

Living in New Zealand

Life in New Zealand may be quite different to what you are used to. 

Finding accommodation

When you arrive in New Zealand you will need to find a place to live.
You have a few options, such as:

  • boarding with a New Zealand family
  • staying in a ‘bed and breakfast’ or hostel
  • flatting (sharing a house or apartment with others)
  • renting a house
  • buying a house
  • worker accommodation (possibly organised by your employer).

Renting a house

Rental properties in New Zealand are usually unfurnished. This means that they come with an oven, but you must supply the furniture, whiteware (ie fridge, washing machine and dryer), cutlery, pots and pans and other items. 

Some houses in New Zealand can be very cold because they are not insulated and do not have heating in every room. You should be prepared for this, particularly in winter and if you live in southern regions of the country.

The Law

Is your rental home insulated?

From 1 July 2019, landlords must provide insulation in all rental homes.

Is your rental home insulated? | Tenancy services

The cost of renting differs depending on the area. Generally, larger cities are more expensive than smaller cities. You will also pay more if you rent closer to the city centre.

Renting a house 

Driving in New Zealand

You need a current driver licence from your home country to drive in New Zealand. You may need an international driving permit or a translation of your licence if it is not written in English. You can drive in New Zealand on your foreign driver licence for 12 months. After that, you will need to apply for a New Zealand driver licence.

Converting a driver's licence | NZTA

Driving conditions in New Zealand are very different from other countries. It is important for you to plan ahead and be safe on the road.

There are some things for you to keep in mind about driving in New Zealand, such as: 

  • we drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • the law says that you must wear your seat belt
  • driving journeys take longer than you expect because of many hilly, windy and narrow roads
  • there are many gravel (known as ‘metal’) roads in more remote places
  • sheep and cows can be on the road in rural areas
  • you must have your licence with you at all times while driving
  • police and speed cameras are a frequent sight on New Zealand roads
  • drinking alcohol and driving can result in severe penalties:
    • The alcohol limit for drivers aged 20 and over is 250 micrograms per litre of breath.
    • The limit is zero for drivers under 20 years old.
  • taking drugs and driving is also not allowed:
    • This applies to certain ‘qualifying drugs’ which affect your ability to drive, and can be illegal, legal or prescription.
  • it is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, including for calls and texts:
    • If you need to use your mobile phone, either use a hands-free kit or find a safe place to pull over and stop your car before using it.

Driving on New Zealand roads | NZTA

Driving rules | NZ Police

Drive Safe | Tourism Industry Association

New Zealand Law

Newcomers to New Zealand have the same rights and responsibilities as any person living here. You must obey New Zealand law. Breaking the law can put your visa status, and your family’s visa status, at risk. Immigration New Zealand can require people who do not have New Zealand citizenship to leave New Zealand if the offence calls into question the migrant’s good character. This can include any criminal offending (such as driving  under the influence of alcohol or drugs). It can also apply to migrants with permanent residence visas as well as temporary workers.

New Zealand's climate

New Zealand’s climate might be very different from what you are used to.

Summer is between December and February and winter is between June and August.

Northern regions are generally warmer than southern regions. 

New Zealand weather can change very quickly. We like to say that we have ‘four seasons in one day’. Be prepared for a change in the weather when you leave the house. This can mean bringing a jacket or umbrella with you, even if it looks sunny. 

Protection from the sun is very important. New Zealand has high levels of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation and you can get a sun
burn faster than in other countries. You can burn your skin even on cloudy days. Sunburn can cause skin cancer and New Zealand has one of the highest rates of melanoma (a type of skin cancer) in the world. Wear a hat and sunglasses, cover up with a loose shirt and trousers and be sure to use sunscreen with a protection factor of at least SPF 30.


Cost of living

Migrants can be surprised by the high costs of goods and services in New Zealand. We have a small population and our isolated physical location means it can be costly to import goods to New Zealand. 

However, the cost of living in New Zealand is comparable to other OECD countries.

Cost of living

Getting involved in the community

New Zealanders have a reputation for being very friendly and sociable. There are many ways you can meet new people in your community. You can: 

  • visit your local library – most have community noticeboards with information about community groups, such as sports, arts or cultural groups
  • talk to other migrants about their experiences
  • visit your local supermarket – they usually have community noticeboards
  • if you have religious needs, connect with new people through church or a religious community group
  • talk to your employer and colleagues about your interests and hobbies – they may be able to suggest ways that you can get involved in them in New Zealand.

Support for settlement in New Zealand

Immigration New Zealand provides settlement information, resources, programmes and services nationally.

Access help and support

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This guide was collaboratively developed by the following organisations:

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