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Posts in category: Australia lifestyle

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Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork; its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. Understanding Australia & New Zealand at a grass-roots level is paramount to your immigration survival, and to give you a realistic view of both countries, its people and how we see the world, as well as updates about any current or imminent policy changes, subscribe to our regular blog posts by entering your details below.

Auckland Versus SE Queensland

Posted by Iain on Sept. 3, 2021, 10:21 a.m. in Australia lifestyle

As many of you know my wife and I are sitting in south-east Queensland on the rather gorgeous Sunshine Coast. Our initial plan was to visit our eldest son, Jack, for a few weeks in late July. As those of you he is helping with your visas know, he and his partner, are at least temporarily, living in Brisbane.

When the New Zealand Prime Minister provided a seven day window for all New Zealanders in Australia to return home in early August as Covid started to take hold in New South Wales, we decided to throw caution to the wind given there was no Delta outbreak in Queensland. Reports in New Zealand that Delta was out of control in Australia were demonstrably false. Not withstanding that within 24 hours of deciding not to fly home, Queensland had  six community cases and we were into a 10 day lockdown. 

We joined the exiled. We didn’t however think it would be for as long as it looks like it is going to be. 

The silver lining is it has given me a great opportunity to do two things: 

1.       Have a good look at this part of Australia. I had never been to Queensland before and Australia to me has always been Melbourne and Sydney. How wrong I have found that to be.

2.       Put myself in the shoes of my clients – when your stay is no longer a short term one - trying to understand how things work, how to access amenities and services and better understanding the feeling of being a ‘stranger’ is something I have wanted for a long time given my day job. 

How do you open a bank account? How do you enrol with your local GP? How does the health system work? What are the ‘better’ areas to rent in? What sort of money does one need to lead a decent life? Are the natives friendly?

Over the past six weeks I’ve been living all that. 

I do appreciate we are all different and have different expectations, values and aspirations and incomes. I have a very good income by NZ and Australian standards. Like most of my clients moving to New Zealand or Australia we would be in the top 10% of income earners in either country given we both work so it is through that prism that I am viewing this part of Australia. 

There’s only around a 4% difference in the value of the two currencies.

First point of difference? This part of Queensland is incredibly ‘white’. I confess it came as a real shock. Coming from a city of close to two million people where 42% of the population was not born in New Zealand and having spent so much time in Melbourne with a similar population profile I was not ready for how monocultural this part of Australia seems to be. It has been suggested to me that might be because there is currently an absence of international students but our time in Brisbane seems to show the permanent population is overwhelmingly 'mono'.

South-east Queensland is incredibly prosperous. To be fair, it is a small part of a very big state and because of the climate it is a place many people seem to come to retire so I'm sure the age demographic is skewed towards those aged 50 plus. I have thought of it more than once as ‘God's waiting room’. 

Housing is more affordable - hold all tickets. 

A three bedroom house within 20 km of downtown Brisbane or in the central Gold or Sunshine Coast is going to cost around the same as one in Auckland. That is to say no change out of A$1.2 – $1.5 million. In Australia the listed price for a house does not include the stamp duty that the purchaser must pay. On a $1m property that amounts to roughly $38,500. It goes up from there. Within 30 minutes drive from where I am sitting right now you're not going to buy a decent house for under at A$1.2 million (plus stamp duty). There's no doubt if you want to live miles away from anywhere, you can pick up a housing/land "package" for A$650,000 (plus stamp duty). There is no stamp duty on a property up to $500,000 but good luck finding one of those you’d want to live in. Your commuting costs, unless you can work remotely, are going to increase proportionately to the decreasing cost of buying a house. For those that can work remotely then yes you’ll find the potential for cheaper housing.

Petrol is cheaper - true

In Auckland we are paying roughly $2.40 per litre of petrol. In Queensland it is more like $1.50 per litre. There is however a catch – in my first week in Brisbane I spent A$68 on tolls. They have an excellent road system and lots of tunnels which saves you a heap of time getting around town. I suspect overall however for the people living in Brisbane transport cost would be no lower than Auckland. Or if it is they’ll be sitting in peak hour traffic as bad as we have in Auckland. Great freeway system up the coast. Superior to what we get once you get 80km outside of Auckland 

Cars - new and used - cost the same

Furniture, clothing, whiteware, TVs - same brands, same stores, same prices. Yes if you want to go digging among the outlet stores you can pick up some cheap clothes and shoes but you can do that in Auckland. 

Food is cheaper in Queensland - maybe, but not by much, if at all

Unlike New Zealand which has two (Australian owned) supermarket chains with various sub brands, Australia has three. The arrival of the cut-price German supermarket chain Aldi a few years ago in Australia has clearly and meaningfully disrupted the market here, no doubt about it. Aldi for the basics is significantly cheaper than Auckland. If you are into a weekly shop – which we aren’t – you probably won't get everything you need at Aldi in a single shop and you'll spend time visiting more than one supermarket. If you have the time you might save a few dollars visiting more than one supermarket. Auckland needs another supermarket player. 

Alcohol is more expensive in Australia - sometimes

As a general proposition and speaking as a lover of Barossa Valley Shiraz, I'm paying the same here for wine as I do in Auckland. The range of beer is incredibly limited compared to Auckland. Even at the mega-liquor market Dan Murphys in Queensland (you have to see it to believe it), I struggle to find craft beer and that which I do find is pretty much undrinkable (all in the name of scientific research of course).

Eating out is cheaper - false

Whether we are talking about McDonald's, kebabs, cafes, coffee, restaurants… Queensland in my experience is certainly not cheaper. Eating out is the same price at all levels as Auckland. That means relatively expensive when compared to many other major overseas cities.

Healthcare - jury is out

As a New Zealander I am supposed to enjoy reciprocal health rights in Australia and my health needs covered by the public system. I am in the process now of trying to enrol in Medicare. If we need to be here for a few more months I will need to visit a GP. My expectation of what the cost will be is similar to Auckland given the importance of publicly funded healthcare to Australians is as important as it is for New Zealanders. I’ll let you know!

The climate is nicer - tis true, I cannot deny it. 

Of course we are here in "winter" and in summer it is hotter than the hinges of hell. At this time of year however, describing the climate as perfect would not be an understatement. Daytime temperatures of 22–23° with occasional rain is my definition of a perfect winter. Sunny and warm. For those of you from South Africa the climate here is virtually identical to Durban - where "winter" is the best time of year but you pay for it with those sultry, steamy summers. I have long said, and my time here has confirmed, an Auckland summer and Durban/Brisbane winter is ideal. Especially if you play golf… I would not want to be here December through March. Much nicer in Auckland and Northland.

Overall? I like it. A lot. Could I live here? Yes. Would I be better off financially here than New Zealand? I have seen little evidence of that based on the cost of living. If you earned a lot more here to do the same job as in Auckland, then yes, your income would go further but for the ‘average’ Joe, much of a muchness. 

Until next week 

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

When is the right time to apply?

Posted by Myer on Feb. 26, 2017, 4:30 p.m. in Australia lifestyle

I had a recent consultation with someone in Singapore who wanted to immigrate to Australia for the purposes of educating his children at University but didn’t necessarily want to immigrate during the initial five-year period that an independent visa would allow (the children were quite young).

It’s not always not up to you to choose the time when you can apply for permanent residence because of the amount of change that occurs in the immigration process. It’s more likely that the time chooses you.

I’m never able to “time-the-market” when I buy a house or buy or sell equities but I can tell you that the perfect time to apply for permanent residence is the time at which you meet the eligibility requirements and if that time is now then as inconvenient is the time may be, you need to act. Often the only difference between eligibility and and missing the opportunity completely is timing.

Most applicants aren’t aware of the amount of change that occurs in the course of a relatively short period of time. Not only do applicants get older (and one’s chances of securing a visa never improves with age) but there is also a significant amount of change occurring within immigration policy.

Perhaps one of the most significant changes - certainly in terms of general skilled migration visas - is the publication of the Skilled Occupations List which occurs on 1 July of each year. This list determines which occupations will be eligible for obtaining independent permanent residence without requiring state sponsorship and represent those skills that are in medium to long-term demand in Australia.

Certain occupations have been “flagged” for possible removal in the future. Generally, occupations are flagged when there is emerging evidence of excess supply in the labour market.

The list of flagged occupations for the list to be published on one July 2017 is as follows:

  • Production Manager (Mining)
  • Accountant (General)
  • Management Accountant
  • Taxation Accountant
  • Actuary
  • Land Economist
  • Valuer
  • Ship’s Engineer
  • Ship’s Master
  • Ship’s Officer
  • Surveyor
  • Cartographer
  • Other Spatial Scientist
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Geotechnical Engineer
  • Quantity Surveyor
  • Structural Engineer
  • Transport Engineer
  • Electronics Engineer
  • Industrial Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Production or Plant Engineer
  • Aeronautical Engineer
  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Engineering Technologist
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Naval Architect
  • Medical Laboratory Scientist
  • Veterinarian
  • Medical Diagnostic Radiographer
  • Medical Radiation Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Speech Pathologist
  • General Practitioner
  • Anaesthetist
  • Cardiologist
  • Endocrinologist
  • Gastroenterologist
  • Intensive Care Specialist
  • Paediatrician
  • Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
  • Medical Practitioners nec
  • Barrister
  • Solicitor
  • Psychotherapist
  • Psychologists nec
  • Chef*
  • Boat Builder and Repairer
  • Shipwright

Not only does the Skilled Occupations List change, but so do the quotas of each particular occupation sought by the Australian Government under its skilled migration visas.

These quotas are also announced on 1 July and determine the pass marks of independent visas. Several years ago it was possible to obtain permanent residence for an Accountant scoring 60 points with no previous work experience as an accountant, however a cut in the quota of accountants have meant that these days accountants need to score 70 points. 

Some applicants might need State sponsorship if their occupation appears on the Consolidated Skilled Occupations List and whilst these state sponsorship lists are reflective of the skills needed by the 8 states or Territory’s in Australia, they too change depending upon the quota of a particular occupation required in a State or Territory.

Australia is, however, quite generous as to when applicants have to commence residing in Australia.

After the visa is granted, as long as you visit within 12 months specified by the Department, you have 5 years in which to immigrate. If you cannot immigrate within the first 5 years, as long as you visit Australia once every 5 year period you can always apply for a Resident Return Visa.

So whilst one has less choice about when to apply for permanent residence one has a greater degree of choice about the date that you ultimately choose to settle in Australia.

A week in Melbourne

Posted by Iain on May 22, 2015, 4:55 p.m. in Australia lifestyle

I’m in Melbourne this week and working out of our office here.

Let me bust a few myths for you about this place.

Before I do let me say if I was to move to any city in Australia this would be it – it is like a really big Auckland (about three times as many people) with the vibe, cultural mix and attitude to life that is at once quite familiar if not the same. These people seem to enjoy things and are a pretty laid back bunch. Melbourne offers a glimpse into what Auckland might be like if we trebled our population.

Myth 1 – Australia is all sun, sand, surf, BBQs and prawns. Yeah right. Melbourne, most people perhaps don’t realise, lies about 500km further south (as in toward Antarctica) on the globe than Auckland. It is late autumn but feels like the depths of an Auckland winter. Like Durban, it apparently only ever rains when I am in town – as it has done on three of my five days here…..I haven’t seen a lot of sun.

Winter here is a biting cold, seep through to your bones cold. Where I come from we have a lot of humidity all year round meaning it never feels as cold as Melbourne even though the temperature might be similar. Equally in summer Auckland never gets really hot because the same warm ocean that keeps us warmer in winter, keeps us cooler in summer.

Now I know that in summer it can get sizzling hot here but it doesn’t last for long. This place fries in summer because when the wind comes from the north it is coming straight out of the desert interior.

I have been to Melbourne many times and I can tell you I have never been hot here. I am sure it happens, just not when I check in – that is to say any time from about April to November. Today I have on four layers of clothes. We are not talking snow but we are talking Wellington in late May. A high yesterday of 14 degrees and today 15 degrees. Certainly not BBQ weather.

Myth 2 – the Aussies are all arrogant S.O.B.s.  I too was part of this camp, perhaps because I watch too much sport on the Telly and listen to their commentators. I can say however, with hand on heart that a week in, multiple drinking establishments and restaurants under my belt, that all I have experienced is professional and friendly service. As yet not a single dismissive snort, raised eyebrows (as in, not another one of you Kiwi people, you are like a plague) or harumph at my strange (they can talk!) accent.

Myth 3 – Things costs less in Australia than New Zealand. Wish someone would tell me where ‘cos it ain’t Melbourne. With the Aussie dollar and the NZ dollar virtually at parity it is still not cheap. Perhaps in Alice Springs or some far flung corner of this rather large island but not in Melbourne. Here I have found the food, the coffee, the liquor (consumed in reasonable abundance) and transport (taxis etc) all to be on par with Auckland – that is to say, not cheap. Real estate prices boggle the mind here and the cost of red tape in terms of doing business here far outstrips New Zealand (in our business anyway).

BUT it is still a very cool city. We are staying ‘downtown’ and seemingly not appreciating the pretentiousness of the claim, Victorians like to call where we are staying the ‘Paris’ end. I take it not too many of them have ever been to Paris. I have and the only thing it has in common is pools of dried vomit and alleyways smelling of human wees. A few boutiques down narrow alleys doesn’t make you into a City of Light! And having a bit of refinement would go a long way.

You are spoiled for choice in terms of restaurants and night life here and no doubt has far more to offer than Auckland. With close to 5 million people in the greater Melbourne area the population supports more cafes, bars and restaurants than you could visit in a life time.

Whilst, like in most cities many are of dubious quality, most of the better places don’t take bookings and people start queuing at 5.30pm to get tables for 7.30pm (thankfully and/or cunningly most restaurants come with sumptuous bars attached…..). You Singaporeans and Hong Kongese would love it for its queuing. You could queue all weekend here for a bite to eat!

We Kiwis (well this one at least) would prefer to move on. My wife however keeps me firmly in the queue and as has been the case all my married life, she is always right. No, really, she is……

A friend of mine works for Cricket Victoria so I enjoyed a full on tour of the MCG today – from bowels to roof top. Quite incredible. No wonder those Aussies are so good at cricket with those facilities and I don’t just mean the field, I mean the support infrastructure underneath the stadium. Sport here isn’t a business, it is an industry.

Been a fun week with my colleagues in Melbourne and continuing my learnings on Australian immigration policy.

Heading home to a smaller and more manageable city on Sunday but this time I leave looking forward to my return.


Until next week


Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

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