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Guest nights hits record in January as visitors flock to hotels and holiday parks

12 March 2018

New Zealand guest nights hit a record in January, rising 1.4 percent on the year with hotels and holiday parks in high demand.

Total guest nights increased to 4.97 million in January from 4.9 million a year earlier, Statistics New Zealand said. Of that, international guest nights rose 3.1 percent to 2.2 million, outpacing a 0.2 percent gain in domestic accommodation stays to 2.9 million.

Stats NZ said January is typically the height of the peak season for many accommodation operators and usually the time when records are set.

"International guest nights also reached their highest-ever level in January, even as international visitor arrivals dipped slightly in the month," accommodation statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said. "This may be because some people who arrived in 2017 stayed on in January."

New Zealand has been enjoying a booming tourism sector in recent years as low airfares made it easier for visitors to travel to the remote South Pacific destination and the weakening kiwi dollar has added to the nation's allure.

The occupancy rate across accommodation types lifted to 58.7 percent in January versus 57.2 percent a year earlier.
The figures show hotel guest nights rose 6 percent to 1.39 million in January from a year earlier, with international stays up 4.9 percent to 736,000 and domestic stays up 7.2 percent to 652,000.

Hotel occupancy was 74.4 percent in the month, compared to 72.2 percent a year earlier.

Biggest knuckle boom crane in southern hemisphere arrives in Christchurch

9 March 2018

The only crane of its type in the southern hemisphere has arrived in Christchurch to become part of the New Zealand construction scene.

The $1 million machine is the largest knuckle boom crane produced by Palfinger with a 50-metre reach and able to work in confined spaces.

The owner of Hire Frankton, Ross McFaul the $1million crane is the largest knuckle boom crane in New Zealand
He said the crane was highly versatile and easy to set up for its size and reach.

"We can set up on the side of the road or in narrow spaces between buildings with no disruption to traffic, or elaborate traffic management plans.

"I could park this crane on the goal line of a rugby field and it could pick up a 500 kilgramme weight on the half way line with the boom parallel to the ground. That how much reach it has," McFaul said.

The crane's extension boom and fly-jib have a reverse linkage system that can reach through low door openings and work inside a building.

The boom can even pass right through a building to operate on the other side.

The machine is officially called a PK200002L SH, but McFaul calls it "Jock", and is operated with a remote control system.

All the safety features can be monitored from the remote control, he said.

The crane was built in Austria at Palfinger where it was fitted and tested.

McFaul said getting Jock onto the roads because of concerns about its size, and he thanked staff at the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Initially the crane will be based in Christchurch for rebuild construction, maintenance and repairs, installation of new plant, and possibly wind farm blade repair work.

Some of the first work has been carried out at the University of Canterbury.

New York Times shines a light on 'laid-back' Auckland's sophistication

9 March 2018

Auckland's laid-back feel and sophistication are outlined for readers of the New York Times, one of the world's most influential news titles.

In the publication's 36 hours slot - "What to do when you've got 36 hours to get to know a city" - travel writer Elaine Glusac samples slices of the city's life and its treats.

She liked what she found.

"The New Zealand city is laid-back and outdoorsy, but its sophistication shines in its expanding art scene, thriving fashion industry and a new generation of chefs embracing native ingredients."

But in an article devoted mainly to Auckland's natural treasures, cultural and commercial attractions, and good coffee, Glusac finds space to join the city's inhabitants in moaning about the traffic.

She declares: "Close to one-third of New Zealand's estimated 4.5 million population lives in Auckland, a geographically blessed - and traffic cursed - city spread over at least 50 volcanic cones on a North Island neck of land between two large harbours."

Glusac's 36 hours took her on a swing through the Auckland Art Gallery and the Auckland Museum, along Karangahape Rd, the city's "counter cultural side", an America's Cup sailing experience, part of the Coast to Coast walkway, Britomart, Wynyard Quarter and Waiheke Island.

Impressed by the museum, she wondered at its full name.

"Devoted to the story of New Zealand from geology to politics, the Auckland War Memorial Museum holds treasures obscured by its title, namely the vast collection of indigenous Maori art works and crafts."

For sustenance, Glusac delighted in an "edible landscape" at one restaurant, Pasture, whose offerings included smoked quince and butter aged "so it tastes like Camembert", and in the "unusual dishes" such as spicy peanut butter and carrot kimchi on toast at Orphans Kitchen.

"Coffee-crazed New Zealand is a country where you can find a barista at a rural gas station. Espresso bars seem stationed on every corner in Auckland."

The co-owner of Pasture, Laura Verner, said it was a nice surprise to be featured in the Times and she hoped it would be good for business.

"I had no idea Elaine was from the New York Times. We found out months afterwards when she wrote to us to clarify details."

Verner said Pasture, which opened in August 2016, had hosted many foreign visitors. It had a strong international following, having featured in overseas publications and through social media.

What lies beneath: Auckland City Rail Link plans unveiled

3 March 2018

Three new stations will be built for Auckland's underground rail line, the City Rail Link.

You cross the threshold. You arrive at the entrance to the station, step inside and find yourself in a great public entrance to a hall of sound and light; the station itself will be the third and deepest on Auckland's new underground rail line.

In another of the stations, there are multiple entrances. In this other station the ceiling also provides a sculptural form that defines the space, this time, with hundreds of rods, some wooden, hollowed, cut to different lengths so that you're walking beneath a shimmering, undulating blanket.

The station in the heart of the central city, has the access point for two universities, the midtown workplaces and the arts and entertainment precinct of Aotea.

The light will change, by day appearing as if seen through the raupo in the stream; by night, a constellation of stars - sculptural possibilities in a constant state of renewal.

The rods represent the upward growth of crops, and also a great population and an abundance of wealth. Many will be notched, the light on the notches creating a pattern that simulates the flow of water to the sea. There's a lot going on in that ceiling.

For all the wonder of those two large stations, it's the third, the smallest of the three that is the most surprising.
Mt Eden is currently an anonymous nothing space, a kitset suburban station, blandly conceived for functionality and security.

The new design rethinks all that.

"The threshold begins," says the official blurb, "with an open civic space that radiates out from the station." It's a community space, a performance space, a forecourt that holds the people in it as if in the palm of a hand. As you enter the building itself you discover a space defined not by its ceiling but by a wall of carved basalt, curved in form, layered with taniwha, shimmering with water running down its face.

If the city is in transit itself, changing the way it works, railway stations can help. That's what Auckland is doing, or going to be doing: unclogging the roads, confronting climate change, embracing the multitude of meanings of community. Stepping over those CRL thresholds will be a part of it.

In the 19th century they built great railway stations all through Europe and America: glass and wrought-iron masterpieces that celebrated the marriage of technology, art and personal aspiration for all. It wasn't done by accident.

The creators of the undergrounds of London, Moscow, Paris and elsewhere art to create lovely public spaces specific to their location. The Paris Metro is lovely in the same way the London Tube is lovely, but they do not look like each other. What they share is a commitment to what designers call a sense of place. That's what the designers of the CRL stations have done.

Simon Bridges emerges as next National Party leader, Paula Bennett his deputy

27 February 2018

Simon Bridges has emerged victorious from a caucus vote to decide the next leader of the National Party.

Paula Bennett was elected deputy leader in a process that saw two rounds of voting for both. Bridges cited "caucus confidentiality" in refusing to reveal who ran against Bennett for deputy, but sources have confirmed it was Judith Collins.

Speaking at a press conference after the vote, Bridges said of his leadership "Yes, we'll hold the Government to account and in that regard we'll be firm but fair," he said.

National would support the policies it saw as taking the country forward, while opposing those it thought were regressive or "treading water".

"We'll also be an alternative Government in waiting", but he would not be laying out a full suite of new policies immediately, he said. "New Zealand deserves better than a Government that is just muddling along."

Bridges signalled a greater emphasis on the environment, and has previously pointed towards the potential for working with the Greens as a coalition partner after the 2020 election.

"Over time, we will continue to develop positive policies for our economy, as well as education, health and law and order."

National's newly elected leader says his party will be an alternative government in waiting.

Tractors cut a path to record trade

27 February 2018

For the year ended January 2018, the value of tractor imports was up 51 per cent compared with the previous year.

In a sign of growing confidence within the agricultural sector a big jump in tractor imports and other farming supplies has helped boost total trade activity to record levels in January.

Goods exports were a record $4.31 billion for a January month, up 9.5 per cent on last year, while imports surged 17 per cent to a new high of $4.88b for that month.

Imports of mechanical machinery and equipment jumped 23 per cent to $700m, elevating it to the largest import commodity group for the month.

Stats NZ noted a strong lift in agricultural imports with the value of imported tractors rising $27m - or 191 per cent - in January from the same month last year.

For the year ended January 2018, the value of tractor imports was up 51 per cent compared with the previous year.

The lift in imports of agricultural machinery did fit with a picture of improving confidence in the sector, said ASB rural economist Nathan Penny.

"The stars are aligning across the agriculture sector in general," he said. "We are seeing pretty good prices for most of the sectors within agriculture."

The rise in exports was led by milk powder, butter, and cheese, the country's largest commodity export, which increased 8 per cent to $1.37b.

The value of meat and edible offal exports jumped 17 per cent to $689m, while exports of logs, wood and wood articles surged 26 per cent to $292m. Fruit exports fell 12 per cent to $85m.

NZ ranked least corrupt country, again

22 February 2018

This is the third year in a row New Zealand has been named the least corrupt country by the index.

New Zealand has once again been rated the least corrupt country but Open Government Minister Clare Curran warns there's still more work to be done.

On Thursday, Transparency International released its latest Corruption Perceptions Index. New Zealand took out the top spot, ahead of 179 countries.

This is the third year in a row New Zealand has been named the least corrupt country by the index.

New Zealand was ranked in the top spot. Previous years was in 2016, and 9.

In 2016, Denmark tied with New Zealand for the top spot, it has now dropped slightly behind to the second least corrupt country in the world, with a rating of 88.

Australia ranked 13, with a score of 77 out of 100. Canada and the UK ranked eighth equal.

Auckland welcomes the Volvo Ocean race

21 February 2018

The Volvo Ocean Race sails into Auckland this week bringing with it all the glamour and frivolities one would expect of a competition of such prestige.

Right now, the six yachts – carrying nine Kiwi sailors, including America’s Cup heroes Blair Tuke and Peter Burling - are duelling down through the Pacific, from Hong Kong in a race for home town honours and the bragging rights of leading the fleet into Auckland for the 23 day stopover.

Burling and Tuke, who took New Zealand to America’s Cup victory in Bermuda in 2017, are pitted against one another on separate boats and due to arrive in Auckland around 27th February.

Peter Burling who is sailing with Team Brunel has watched previous Volvo Ocean Race fleets come into Auckland says the arrival into Auckland will be one of the highlights of the epic nine-month race.

“It’s going be pretty cool to be part of Team Brunel this time. I’m looking forward to seeing all the people on the docks when we sail in to Auckland and I hope they will cheer for us,” says Burling.

Tuke who is sailing with Mapfre says the Auckland leg is one he has been looking forward to.

“I have not been home since late September. To sail into New Zealand will be pretty special for myself and all the Kiwis on the different boats.”

Won by Sir Peter Blake in 1990, Grant Dalton in 1994, and Mike Sanderson in 2006, the Volvo Ocean Race (formerly known as the Whitbread Around the World Race) is inextricably linked to New Zealand sailing, with Kiwi sailors on every one of the six internationally sponsored boats.

In this edition, Burling and Tuke face off against the first Kiwi woman competitor in almost two decades, Bianca Cook, sailing on Turn the Tide on Plastic.

Tank farm to go for America's Cup bases at Auckland waterfront

A deal has been struck to free up land on Wynyard Point and pursue the possibility of a new option for the America's Cup bases.

The Government and Auckland Council are pursuing an option that provides for at least seven syndicate bases around two basins in the Wynyard area with provision for restaurants and bars, public viewing, and hospitality areas.

Dutch company Stolthaven Terminals has agreed to vacate its southern tank farm site on Wynyard Point early.

The deal also clears the way for more land-based locations for America's Cup bases and reduced the proposed extension to Halsey Wharf from 75m to 35m.

Economic Development Minister David Parker says the proposal is a win-win for all parties involved. "Our main aim alongside creating a top-class venue for Team New Zealand and the Cup defence in 2021 and, hopefully, beyond," Parker said.

Reducing costs and environmental impact while offering an excellent venue for the Cup defence is the main focus of talks.

Parker said that he was very pleased to have proven that there was an option that has less intrusion into the harbour, gets rid of the tank farm early and is cheaper.

The Government and Auckland Council will continue discussions with Emirates Team New Zealand.

City Rail Link above-ground opportunities identified

19 February 2018

Development opportunities for up to 20ha of new Auckland CBD and fringe city floor space have been identified around the $3.4 billion City Rail Link, as the time to award the tunnelling and station contracts draws near to be approved next month.

A City Rail Link spokesman said between 190,000sq m and 200,000sq m of gross floor area was possible, including offices and housing.

17,600sq m could be built, at the new Aotea station near Auckland Council 41,000sqm, at Karangahape 320sq m and at Mt Eden 5000sq m.

Big Street Bikers planning electric charging stations across Auckland

16 February 2018

Matt Weavers and his company Big Street Bikers are on a mission to convert Auckland commuters from four wheels to two.

The electric bike company has partnered with energy company Mercury to develop a public, solar-powered electric bike recharging station in the Viaduct, with plans to roll out smaller versions across the city this year.

The pilot scheme will run until the end of summer when Weavers hopes to set up the next recharging stations, which will support Auckland Transport's connected bike network plans.

Weavers says planning a point-to-point recharging system across the city may seem ambitious, but the company is already in talks with a number of major property owners and companies, looking to have re -charger in their apartment buildings or for their workers.

"We are seeing a lot more people using electric bikes and it's a great solution to Auckland's traffic problems," Weavers said.

"Our plan is to have these all around the city and there are a whole lot of investors who are keen to put up some cash which will help us roll it out."

Cycling has been growing in popularity with more than 1,000 new cyclists on the roads every month according to Auckland Transport.

Statistics from the government agency also showed 177,574 cycle trips were recorded in November 2017, up 19.4 per cent on the previous year.

The main issue with electric bikes however was their cost, Weavers said.

"You could easily spend $8,000 on an electric bike so part of what we're doing to alleviate that is selling them on subscription.

"You can put down $250 and then pay off the bike at $30 a week so it's a ride-to-own model and it works out cheaper than the bus," he said.

The company's electric bikes are $2,500 to buy outright but Weavers said electric bikes in general would become cheaper as they became more popular.

Mercury chief marketing officer Julia Jack said the company was excited to partner with Big Street Bikers to encourage Kiwis to use electric bikes.

Plans to transform Cordis, Auckland into NZ's biggest hotel in time for America's Cup, Apec

The Langham Hospitality Group plans to expand its Auckland Cordis hotel to be the biggest in New Zealand by room count.

A new 16-floor tower is scheduled to be opened late in 2020, in time for the America's Cup and Asia Pacific Economic Forum (Apec), two major events scheduled to be held in Auckland the following year.

The hotel is 10 levels at the moment and the expanded building would include a private VIP entrance for a lift to the upper floors.

The new tower will be connected to the existing hotel will house an additional 250 premium rooms and suites, taking the total to 650. The size of the new rooms will start from 32 square metres and the brand new Club Lounge will have panoramic views of the harbour and the central city.

Auckland is suffering a shortage of hotel accommodation, especially at the luxury end, and the Cordis expansion will be welcomed by the tourism sector.

Event space at Cordis, Auckland will also be expanded.

The hotel currently has more than 2000sq m of event space and there are plans to add about 400sq m that will offer natural light and multiple configurations, allowing for more flexibility in hosting events.

Franz Mascarenhas, managing director of Cordis, Auckland said the expansion would meet the increasing demand for business and leisure travellers visiting Auckland as a result of the successful tourism campaigns.

''We also see more families and couples doing stay over long weekends and special occasions.''

Work could begin as early as late this year. He would not disclose the cost of the new development.

Auckland Airport's second runway to be louder and longer

15 February 2018

Auckland Airport wants to extend the consent for its second runway to make it almost 1km longer. The second runway will be built north of the international terminal.

The airport expects the second runway to be operational by 2028, when the current runway will reach capacity.

The project has been on the horizon for years. Consent for a second runway was first approved in 2002, but the airport now intends to build the runway further north and 833 metres longer than what was consented.

Airport spokeswoman Lisa Mulitalo said the extension would further "future-proof" the runway and make it possible for wide-bodied aircraft like the Boeing 787s and Airbus A380.

Passenger numbers are forecast to reach 40 million a year by 2044, up from 19 million last year.

Auckland Airport has set aside $202m for the first five years of the project and wants to raise landing fees to fund it.
While the cost of the new runway has not been finalised, $202 million has been set aside for the first five years.

Aviation consultant Irene King said the new runway provided both economic and employment benefits to the region and would sustain the airport for the next 30 to 50 years after it was built.

Bill English resigns as leader of New Zealand's national opposition party

13 February 2018

English made the announcement at a press conference at Parliament with many MPs standing behind him. His wife Mary and sons were also there.

On September 23 last year, English had also claimed the result gave him a "moral authority" to have first go at forming a government.

That result of 46 per cent (58 seats) later shrank to 44 per cent (56 seats) but National was still ahead of Labour and the Greens' combined tally - albeit by just two seats.

The result followed a gruelling campaign as English, 55, tried to counter what he described as the "stardust" of Labour leader Jacinda Ardern by pushing his own record of strength and stability and hammering at the uncertainty around Labour's tax policy.

English rebuilt his famous financial reputation internationally as well as being New Zealand's Finance Minister and deputy to Key in the National Governments from 2008 to 2017.

English was handed the prime minister's job when PM John Key resigned telling National's caucus English had the greatest chance of returning National for a fourth term.

English's fame was enhanced by his skill and leadership through the global financial crash and three major national disasters handled with a quite calmness and assurance that became his inimitably trademark style.

While Key had lent National his brand of pragmatism and "compassionate conservatism" from 1999 to 2008, much of that was work engineered by English especially in the "social investment" model.

Labour administration has inherited a booming economy

13 February 2018

New Zealand snared $600m more tax than expected in the second half of 2017, according to statements released by Treasury today.

This includes a slightly larger than expected operating surplus of $1.1 billion for the last six months of 2017.

This was more than three times the $311 million surplus predicted and up from a wafer-thin $9 million surplus a year earlier, the latest government accounts show.

When combined with higher than expected Crown entity results, the surplus was $800 million more than forecast, Treasury said on Tuesday.

Core Crown tax revenue was $37.2 billion for the six-month period and was $597 million ahead of forecast, due largely to source deductions tracking $300 million ahead of expectations and GST $200 million ahead. Treasury officials said they expect some of those gains to remain through to the end of the financial year on June 30.

Overall core Crown tax was $600m higher than what was expected in the Government's half-year economic and fiscal update, released in mid-December.

Tax sent straight to IRD was $300m more than expected and the GST take was and $200m more than expected.
Core Crown expenses were $39.6b - slightly higher than the $39.5b forecast.

New Zealand's jobless rate falls to nine-year low

7 February 2018

The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 per cent in the three months ended December 31.

New Zealand's jobless rate fell to a fresh nine-year low in the December quarter.

The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 per cent in the three months ended December 31 down from 4.6 per cent in September, Statistics New Zealand said in its household labour force survey.

That's the lowest level since the December 2008 quarter and below the 4.7 per cent forecast in a Bloomberg poll of 12 economists.

Employment rose 0.5 per cent in the quarter to 2.61 million and was 3.7 per cent higher than a year earlier. Economists had expected a 0.4 per cent quarterly gain.

Regarding wage inflation, Stats NZ's said private sector wage inflation rose 0.4 per cent in the quarter for a 1.9 per cent annual increase.

Public sector wage inflation was up 0.5 per cent in the quarter for a 1.5 per cent annual gain, and across both sectors, wage inflation rose a quarterly 0.4 per cent and an annual 1.8 per cent. In September it lifted an annual 1.9 per cent.

Dairy prices jump 5.9% at Global Dairy Trade auction

7 February 2018

New Zealand economists gauge as a barometer the Global Trade Auction price index as a major indicator of the country's well being.

So a jump of 5.9% and its economically trickle down affect for the nation is greeted by economists from relief to back slapping enthusiasm.

Dry weather during much of summer was expected to make its presence felt at the auction, due to diminished milk supply.

Fonterra has said that it expects production to fall by 3 per cent over this season, compared with last, due to drought in parts of the country.

Lingering doubts about New Zealand supply conditions helped drive dairy prices sharply higher at this morning's GlobalDairyTrade auction, with the GDT price index gaining 5.9 per cent since the last sale in mid-January.

Fonterra has said that it expects production to fall by 3 per cent over this season, compared with last, due to drought in parts of the country.

ANZ rural economist Con Williams said the gains so far this year in GDT prices would bring year-to-date milk price indicators back in line with Fonterra's $6.40/kg milksolids forecast.

"The improvement was driven by lingering New Zealand supply concerns and more price sensitive buyers filling the Chinese post New Year void," he said in a commentary.

"Price sensitive buyers have also been aided by a lower US dollar at recent auctions," he said. Williams said supply developments in New Zealand would remain important.

ASB Bank rural economist Nathan Penny said today's strength reinforced the banks' more optimistic 2017/18 milk price forecast of $6.50/kg.

"On the production side, we expect the improved weather will lead to production growth of 1 per cent compared to last season," he said.

First shipment ever of NZ avocados arrives in China

7 February 2018

Horticulture has been on a steep growth trajectory in recent years, driven mostly by a strong performance from the kiwifruit and apple export sectors.

Now the first air freighted consignment of fresh New Zealand avocados has landed in China, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said.

The shipment follows agreement and signing of a protocol on phyto sanitary requirements between New Zealand and China last November, and a technical audit of New Zealand's regulatory system for exporting avocados by Chinese officials in January.

MPI director-general Martyn Dunne said securing export access for avocados into China had been a top priority for the horticulture industry.

"Granting of avocado access is the culmination of substantial work and negotiation over a number of years between New Zealand and China, and we're excited to reach this milestone," he said.

New Zealand's avocado exports have boomed in recent years.

In 2016/17, New Zealand exported $155.5 million of avocados into markets including Australia, Japan, Singapore, Korea and Thailand - an increase of about $64m from the previous season.

New Zealand will compete for shelf space in China with fruit from Mexico, Peru and Chile - the only other countries currently benefiting from market access.

Net migration to New Zealand to the end of 2017 still above 70,000

Annual net migration to New Zealand from all countries was at 70,600 in the 12 months to December, from 71,200 in 2016.

The figures, released by Statistics New Zealand yesterday, show a net 71,100 non-citizens arrived in the year, while a net 1000 New Zealanders left.

Stats NZ's figures, as the FT points out, show that 3614 people migrated from the United Kingdom in 2015 - the year before the country voted to leave the European Union.

In the 2016 calendar year migration from Britain jumped to 5588 and in 2017 it reached 6371.

USA migration to New Zealand is up from 1286 in 2016.

Newmarket mall shuts this week for $655m rebuild

Westfield Newmarket, in the area where shoppers spend nearly $9 billion annually, closes this week ready for a $655 million redevelopment.

Scentre Group said its last day of trading would be this Thursday, the mall would be shut from Friday and it promoted sales in stores.

Scentre acknowledged its presence in the suburb, saying it got 5 million annual customers visits to the 31,592sq m Westfield Newmarket which made $148.3m total annual retail sales.

"The centre is the largest retail complex in Newmarket and caters to a trade area population of almost 534,000 residents," Scentre says.

Its owns 309 Broadway - across Mortimer Pass from the mall - as well as the mall at 277 Broadway. That takes up an entire city block.

"Spread across two sites, a major redevelopment of the buildings and land holding at 309 property s commenced '' the centre says.

The total retail spend by the Westfield Newmarket total trade area was estimated at $8.9 billion.

Retailers in Newmarket outside the mall fear 277's loss, with its 1,244 car parks, Countdown supermarket and 112 specialist stores.

Residential building consents rise to 13-year high

2 February 2018

New Zealand residential building consents advanced 3.4 per cent last year to their highest level in 13 years as a jump in apartment and townhouse consents offset a decline in stand-alone houses.

A total of 31,087 new homes were consented in 2017, up from 30,066 consents in 2016 and marking the highest level since 2004 when 31,423 new residential buildings were consented, according to Statistics New Zealand.

In the latest year, consents for apartment units surged 35 per cent to a 13-year high of 3,239, while consents for townhouses, flats, units and other dwellings rose 11 per cent to a 23-year high of 4,875. In contrast, stand-alone house consents fell 1.4 per cent to 21,022 while retirement village units slipped 0.1 per cent to 1,951.

"While stand-alone house consents fell in 2017, they still account for the lion's share of all new homes consented," construction statistics manager Melissa McKenzie said.

"The fall in stand-alone houses consented was more than offset by a large rise in new apartment units consented during the year."

McKenzie said there was strong residential building consent growth in 2017, led by major gains in Auckland the post-2011.

In Auckland, where building supply has failed to keep up with population growth in the nation's largest city, residential consents lifted 8.4 per cent to a 13-year high of 10,867.

"Over a third of all new homes in New Zealand were consented in the Auckland region last year, which is in line with Auckland's share of the New Zealand population," McKenzie said.

"This is the first time since 2004 that the proportion of new homes consented in Auckland exceeded their share of the population."

Record numbers of retirement village units, townhouses, flats, and other units were consented in Auckland last year.

Auckland Harbour Bridge shines a light on city's cultures

27 January 2018

From this Anniversary Weekend, Vector, in conjunction with Auckland Council light up the Auckland Harbour Bridge with about 90,000 LED lights, using solar-generated energy.

And the iconic landmark turned into a brilliant "artwork" illuminating the vibrancy and power of the city's richly diverse cultures.

During this Auckland Anniversary weekend - the bridge was lit up in dazzling style by 90,000 LED lights and 200 floodlights.

As the solar-powered Vector Light unleashed its majestic beauty over the Auckland Harbour Bridge thousands of people who crammed viewing points around the city embraced the stunning spectacular.

Scores of boaties took to the harbour to get an even more special view of the show. People described the display as "pretty damn cool", "fantastic", 'brilliant".

The display was also a hit online, with thousands watching via Vector's live stream on Facebook.

"Redressing" of the 58-year-old coathanger-style structure began with the launch of Vector Lights - a six-minute specially-composed opening show sequence featuring original music and spectacular lighting effects.

It is believed to be the first major bridge in the world to have all its lighting coming entirely from solar power, from 630 panels installed on top of North Wharf in Wynyard Quarter.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff has seen a preview of Vector Lights. "I thought it was really great."

"The harbour bridge is an iconic part of Auckland anyway but to have it lit up in a special way - is going to make the whole city more vibrant and more interesting, both to those of us that live in the city and to visitors to the city.

"I think Auckland will like it. They'll like it because of the vibrancy and the excitement of it. They'll like it because the equivalent energy that's being used by the lights is being generated by solar energy, so it's a bit of a statement to the world that we're committed to sustainability."

Goff says it is great that the show acknowledges the diversity of culture in the city.

"Forty per cent of us that live in Auckland were born in a country other than New Zealand.

"I think we've got a hell of a lot to celebrate in Auckland. We've got diverse communities. with over 180 different ethnicities.

"That richness of diversity and what diverse cultures can bring and the talent and the interest that they bring, is part of being an Aucklander. So let's celebrate it, and [lighting up] the harbour bridge is one way of doing that."

Having a permanent lighting display on the bridge will also be a first for the NZ Transport Agency, which manages the bridge infrastructure.

The eight-lane, 58-year-old motorway bridge would be turned into "a public art piece" by Vector Lights, says Kofoed, a partner in Auckland production-animation company Assembly.

"The bridge is such a functional thing… it's just designed to keep cars out of the water. [But] when you give it a new form, with colour, movement, and you basically can almost redefine what the bridge looks like - as a designer, it's pretty exciting."

New Zealand's role in finalising the TPP (now called CPTPP) trade deal

25 January 2018

Eleven countries have agreed to the revised Trans Pacific Partnership (now a new agreement called the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership, CPTPP to be ceremonial approved in Chile in March.

Other nations acknowledged the NZ initiative that successive New Zealand Governments and officials had brought to the table in fashioning the ambitious goal.

This resulted in this country being installed as the "depository" for the TPP.

The onus has since been on New Zealand to keep negotiations moving.

That's why former National Party Trade Minister Todd McClay criss-crossed the Pacific for months in 2017 to work with Japan to reinvigorate TPP after Donald Trump pulled the pin on US participation.

The original TPP would have covered 40 per cent of the global economy.

Having greater access to the US would have assisted NZ exporters. But it is significant that Japan's protections against NZ agricultural exports will diminish once the new deal goes into effect.

A revamped version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact (the CPTPP) is now set to be signed in March. Here are some of the reactions from around New Zealand:

  • "The CPTPP progress reported today is brilliant news and opens up further opportunities for New Zealand exporters." - Agriculture and associate Trade Minister Damien O'Connor
  • "The agreement had been hard won, and was immensely worthwhile ... The CPTPP will reduce the tariff burden on our producers, allowing New Zealand and New Zealanders to earn more overseas, while growing jobs and businesses here at home." - BusinessNZ chief Kirk Hope
  • "The bipartisan approach by both governments to this important agreement has been a remarkable achievement." - ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard

Unxpected operating surplus tax

25 January 2018

The New Zealand government posted an unexpected operating surplus in the first five months of the financial year as rising consumer spending bolstered GST and a robust labour market boosted income tax.

The operating balance before gains and losses (obegal) was a surplus of $125 million in the five months ended November 30, compared to a forecast deficit of $457m and turning around a shortfall of $768m a year earlier.

That was largely due to a 5.5 per cent increase in the tax take to $30.41 billion surprising on the upside with GST about $200m ahead of expectations and source deductions also tracking $200m more than forecast.

A delay in treaty settlements also saw expenses tracking $161m below expectations at $33.28b.

"Underlying GST is expected to remain above forecast as the GDP data released by Statistics New Zealand on 21 December showed that growth in the September quarter in both private consumption and residential investment was above forecast," the Treasury said in comments accompanying the accounts.

"Some of this variance is expected to be timing differences, which are expected to reverse out at the next GST filing due date in January."

The November Crown accounts are the first to capture the new administration, which took office in late October.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the numbers behind the government's 100-day plan at the December half-year fiscal and economic update, projecting smaller surpluses than his predecessor over the next two years before generating bigger ones at the end of the forecast horizon.

"While it's too early to fully establish whether all of this positive variance will remain through the year, some of it is expected to remain," Robertson said in a statement.

"The numbers are an initial sign of how businesses have been performing and how consumers have been spending in recent months."

The operating balance, which includes unrealised movements in the value of the Crown's investment portfolio, was a surplus of $2.39b, beating a forecast surplus of $1.65b, bolstered by $3.9b of investment gains recovered in the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Accident Compensation Corp portfolios.

That was offset by a $1.4b actuarial loss registered on ACC's long-term liability, which was valued at $40.91b as at November 30.

The Crown's net worth was $113.02b as at November 30, up from $94.1b a year earlier.

Finding and applying for jobs

If you're thinking of coming to New Zealand to work for a few years, or maybe even to settle, you'll need a work or resident visa. To get that - you're likely to need a job. It's perfectly acceptable and legal to apply for jobs before you get a visa. Employers generally understand the situation, and when you get a job, will help you with your visa application. Just remember however you won't be able to start working, and earning, until your visa is approved.

This section has practical information to help you find a job in New Zealand. As you'll see, even if you're not yet in the country, there's lots you can do to get started.

Other skills and avenues

If your skills aren't on the shortage lists or you'd really like to go for residency, it may still be possible to get a visa.

For instance, you may be able to apply for residency as a Skilled Migrant. You may also be able to apply for a work visa if you're offered a job by an employer who can't find a local worker for the vacancy.

Job market overview

The unemployment rate now 5.5%.

The economic influences that have underpinned recent strong growth still apply - migration generating more demand. The government expects employment to remain strong over the next three years but to grow but at a slowing rate.

The job sectors driving employment growth are changing. Recent employment growth has been in manufacturing, particularly in Auckland, mostly in food production, machinery and equipment manufacturing, and textile manufacturing.

Nearly half (44%) of annual employment growth to June 2015 was in Auckland.

Skilled job vacancies advertised on three major internet job boards - SEEK, TradeMe jobs, and the Education Gazette increased by nearly 4% over the year to June 2015.

For the latest overview, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Market Update.

Job market & key industries

While employment conditions are expected remain strong, the Government forecasts target the growth rate for 2018 in identifying the shortage of skill occupations

More detail is in the Job Market Overview below.

There are many job openings for specialists in industries such as medicine, engineering and IT. But there are also opportunities to contribute more generalist skills.

Skills in demand

Some skills are in chronically short supply, and Immigration New Zealand has lists of skill shortages.

If you are offered a job in New Zealand which appears on a skill shortage list and you have the qualifications and experience to match, getting a work and residence visa will be easier.

This is because the Government has identified that employers need to recruit people from overseas to help meet demand for your skills.

A full list of current skill shortages in New Zealand can be found through site below:-


Other skills and avenues

If your skills aren't on the shortage lists or you'd really like to go for residency, it may still be possible to get a visa.

For instance, you may be able to apply for residency as a Skilled Migrant. You may also be able to apply for a work visa if you're offered a job by an employer who can't find a local worker for the vacancy.

Job sites to explore

Specialist sites - sites designed to connect offshore workers with NZ employers:

Other job sites - lots of jobs, but employers will not always be open to hiring from overseas:

'Today is a huge win': The world responds to Rocket Lab launch

22 January 2018

Rocket Lab have successfully launched their 'Still Testing' rocket into orbit.

Space company Rocket Lab has been inundated with messages from around the world after successfully launching its Electron rocket into orbit.

At approximately 2.45pm yesterday its second rocket 'Still Testing' was launched from Mahia peninsula, successfully reaching orbit before deploying eight and a half minutes later.

Chief executive Peter Beck said the day marked a new era in commercial access to space.

"We're thrilled to reach this milestone so quickly after our first test launch," Beck said.

"Our incredibly dedicated and talented team have worked tirelessly to develop, build and launch Electron. I'm immensely proud of what they have achieved today."

Beck said reaching orbit on a second test flight was significant on its own but successfully deploying customer payloads so early in a new rocket programme was almost unprecedented.

"Rocket Lab was founded on the principle of opening access to space to better understand our planet and improve life on it. Today we took a significant step towards that," he said yesterday.

Auckland University astrophysicist and senior lecturer Nick Rattenbury said the company's ability to get something into space on the second attempt spoke volumes about its capability and capacity.

"I did not expect to see this in my lifetime. I honestly did not expect to see New Zealand launching a spaceship," he said.

"This is a fantastic time to be alive, working in science and engineering in New Zealand and I'm looking forward to the next three years because it's going to be very, very exciting."

International scientists and organisations were quick to congratulate the company on its success.

George Sowers, former chief scientist and vice-president of United Launch Alliance - a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing - welcomed New Zealand to what he said was a short list of countries with a successful launch system.

"Very nice launch. My heartiest congratulations to the Rocket Lab team."

"After 30 years in the launch industry with hundreds of launches, each one is still a thrill.

"And I must say, the geographic setting of the launchpad is the most scenic in the world. The obvious excitement of the team is evidence of the huge amount of work and perseverance required to get into space."

San Francisco-based satellite company Spire Global, which partners with Rocket Lab said, "Speechless. Just like that, Rocket Lab reaches orbit and sets a new bar for launch by reaching orbit on just their second test. Today is a huge win."

Kris Walsh, former project manager at United Launch Alliance and former director of all NASA launch programmes for Boeing said it was wonderful to see a smooth launch.

"This success should instil confidence in Rocket Lab's customers, starting a busy 2018 launch schedule.

In the coming weeks, Rocket Lab engineers would analyse data from the launch.

Rocket Lab currently has five Electron vehicles in production, with the next launch expected to take place in early 2018.

At full production, Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year and is regulated to launch up to 120 times a year, more than any other commercial or government launch provider in history.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: Pregnancy 'unexpected but exciting'

19 January 2018

Like everything the new Prime Minister does, she's taken the surprising news she's going to be a mother in her stride.

Jacinda Ardern found out she and her partner Clarke Gayford were expecting a baby on October 13, in the middle of coalition negotiations.

She shared the news with the country on Friday morning, saying she and Gayford were really happy.

"We wanted a family but weren't sure it would happen for us, which has made this news unexpected but exciting," she said in a statement.

The prime minister would take six weeks off following the birth, when Winston Peters would take on the role of acting prime minister, then Gayford would stay at home and be the baby's primary caregiver. He and the baby would travel with Ardern as much as possible.

Ardern is one of two female prime ministers to have a baby while in office - the other was former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

"We are privileged and lucky that Clarke will be able to do that job full-time," Ardern said.

There had been no shortage of offers of help from friends and family, and she had told her cabinet they would be drawing up a roster for baby duties. "New Zealand is going to help us raise our first child."

Ardern and Gayford said they already knew the baby's gender but planned to keep it a secret.

"There is very little about our life we get to keep secret," she said.

However, the pair had a wager on who would let the news slip first.

Ardern said the news the pair was expecting at all was a big surprise. "We had been told that we'd need some help ... we had seen some people about this issue but as soon as I became leader it all went on the backburner."

Ardern said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters had been "wonderful" and supportive since hearing the news, and agreed to take on the role of acting prime minister during her absence.

"He's played that role before. When I go overseas he plays that role. It's not unusual."

They were yet to settle on a name for the baby. But Ardern said she expected, like most couples, they would argue over that for the next six months.

Sky Tower architect drawing up America's Cup bases in Auckland

19 January 2018

The architect of Auckland's Sky Tower is behind plans for a permanent building and base for Team New Zealand's defence of the 36th America's Cup in 2021.

The first details for the America's Cup bases in Auckland, which are contained in a resource consent application lodged with Auckland Council on Monday and publicly notified on January 30.

The consent, a huge document with more than 50 supporting reports, will be fast-tracked directly to the Environment Court under a tight timetable for construction to start in September this year and completed for the first teams arrival at the back end of 2019.

The consent is for Auckland Council's favoured Wynyard Basin option for a cluster of bases on a 75m extension to Halsey Wharf, a 75m extension to Hobson wharf, and on the existing Wynyard Wharf.

The application has been prepared while Economic Development Minister David Parker continues to investigate an alternative land-based option on Wynyard Point, the old Tank Farm site to the west of Wynyard Basin.

The Wynyard Basin decision carries a price tag of $124 million plus $18m to relocate tenants and landowners. The Wynyard Point option has been priced at $112m plus relocation costs of about $118m - a figure Parker disputes.

The consent application is for eight syndicate bases, five of which will be double bases and three single bases. The single bases will be located on the lower eastern side of Wynyard Point.

The consent application is for eight syndicate bases, five of which will be double bases for two boats and three single bases for one boat. The single bases will be located on the lower eastern side of Wynyard Point.

Government helps seed 20 Electric Vehicle related projects with $3.7 million

17 January 2018

The government and its commercial and not-for-profit partners are stumping up $8 million across 20 projects aimed at getting 64,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2021.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods unveiled the projects today and said the government will contribute $3.7 million towards the initiatives, with the balance coming from its partners, who have to match or beat the grants.

The money comes from the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, which was introduced by the previous administration in 2016 as a wider plan to lift the uptake of electric vehicles. As of December, there were 6,162 EVs on local roads.

"The projects we are funding show there's an EV for almost every job or use in New Zealand, be it delivering fruit and veg or taking a holiday", Woods said in a statement.

The current funding is the third round for the fund, administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and $1.7 million will be used to fill gaps in the country's charging infrastructure, Woods said.

The New Zealand Transport Agency this month issued a pre-tender notice to gather market intelligence for nationwide EV charging infrastructure as it seeks to add more of the vehicles to its own fleet.

Other projects announced today include $500,000 for freight logistics company Coda Zero to design and manufacture an electric truck to shuttle dairy products.

Woods said the electric truck will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 71 tonnes per year and has significant demonstration potential for the heavy logistics and transport industry.

"Projects like this are vital to show others in the heavy logistics and transport industry that electric trucks are not only viable but have very low running costs," she said.

Tourism Holdings will receive $402,000 to convert an electric van into a campervan, invest in charging equipment working with holiday parks, and develop dedicated travel itineraries with charging stations at 100km intervals. Beyond this project, they aim to have 20 electric campervans on the road within one year.

Among others, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare will receive $72,500 of the funding to install 74 EV slow chargers and two medium speed DC chargers to encourage staff to purchase EVs.

The Motor Industry Training Organisation will receive $95,000 to develop a qualifications framework for technicians working on electric vehicles. Currently, there is no NZQA-registered qualification or national standard for this work.

NZ annual net migration was unchanged in November

NZ annual net migration was unchanged in November from a year earlier as fewer New Zealanders left while net foreign migration decreased.

Annual net migration was at 70,400 in the year to November, the same as November 2016, Statistics NZ said.

The figures show a net 1300 New Zealanders left, from 1900 a years earlier.

New migration peaked at 72,000in July year, and the latest figures continue the recent trend of reducing annual net migration levels, Stats NZ said.

There were 27,800 in then Novembher2017 year, compared with 22,900in the Nnovemnber2016 year".

More non-citizen migrants arrived in the latest year, at 99,500 from 95,100 a year earlier.

US net migration jumped 50 per cent to 2000 in the year, while UK net migration rose 20 per cent to 6500.

Short -term visitor arrivals, which included tourists, people visiting family and friends and people travelling for work, reached 3.7 million in the November year.

That was up 8 per cent from ma year earlier and a new annual record on an annual basis to 1.9 million.

NZ residents took 2.8 million trips in the year, up 10 per cent from the previous year, up- m10 per cent from the previous years, up 10 per cent from the previous year, with the biggest increases from people going to French Polynesia, Japan and Spain.

Getting Auckland back on track with light rail

15 December 2017

The new Government couldn't be clearer in showing how determined it is to do what it takes to get on top of Auckland's deep-seated transport problems - it will use enabling legislation to fast-track the mass public transit projects it has flagged it wants built with speed and urgency.

A revised Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) package is close to being signed off between the key sponsors, Transport Minister Phil Twyford, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Mayor Phil Goff and deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore.

Light rail, or what some cities call a fast tram and others rapid rail, will be at the heart of the transport transformation facing Auckland over the next decade.

Auckland Transport has been assessing routes and undertaking design work, including patronage modelling and traffic-congestion impacts over the past two-three years, which means the project can "hit the ground running".

The network as broadly envisaged is now well known:

  • A light rail line from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill completed by 2021 and the America's Cup and APEC events, then, long-term an extension to Auckland Airport.
  • Light rail to airport and Mangere
  • A line to the North Shore taking advantage of the long-proposed third Harbour crossing that transport planners agree will be needed from the mid-2020s.

Other ramped up improvements to support an Auckland-wide mass transit network include upscaled feeder bus services to the main trunk rail and bus services, and much improved park and ride facilities.

A key outcome that Auckland Council in particular is wanting is to ensure the new rapid transit network hooks up with the three urban intensification areas set out in the Unitary Plan - Drury, West Auckland and Silverdale and long term Warkworth - where housing developments are already under way to provide 110,000 new homes and 50,000 new jobs over the next 30 years.

The existing transport infrastructure serving these areas is already heavily congested.

Light rail or its mass transit equivalent into these areas will be Auckland's 21st Century transformational circuit breaker!

$2billion-plus town centre, 2500 residences planned for Drury

17 December 2017

A new $2 billion-plus 2500-residence community with an entirely new town centre is being planned near Drury.

Charles Ma is heading the development of Auranga to be created on a 160ha site in South Auckland, 36km south of Auckland City.

"This will be $2b-plus project and 2500 residences will be built, from apartments to stand-alone homes, ranging in price from $585,000 to $1.5m," the Shortland St-based Ma said.

Initially 1350 residences were planned but other land purchases had been made and the scheme had grown to a proposed 2500 residences, Ma said.

Some of the land is already zoned for the project but other parts are not and a planning application is with Auckland Council, Ma said.

The site lies on the inner reaches of Manukau Harbour's Pahurehure Inlet, west of Drury village and Ma said 29.3ha of earthworks are now underway. Part of the land - an 84.6ha slice - has been zoned a Special Housing Area.

Resource consents have also been approved for about 400 residences and the civil construction contract has been awarded for the first stage, he said. The first titles are due to be issued later next year or in 2019, Ma said.

The civil engineer in his 20s has a degree from Auckland University and is chief executive of Made - Ma Development Enterprises - and chief executive of Auranga.

A major upgrade, with over $2 billion of infrastructure and developments planned. The more than $2b of public and private investment will be committed over the next 10 years.

Ma said that there would be wide footpaths and design features to minimise cars in residential locations.

Residential, commercial and retail uses were envisaged including a new village centre, school, retirement village and many hectares of public land, he said.

Although the site is far from the city's CBD, many new residents of Auranga will work in the area, he predicted. The scheme would take about a decade to complete.

New Sylvia Park restaurants opening in expanded dining lane

14 December 2017

Auckland foodies get an expanded multimillion-dollar dining precinct from today when four out of six new restaurants open in a suburban shopping mall.

And the two that aren't quite ready are expected to be open by Christmas.

NZX-listed landlord Kiwi Property will this morning officially open The Grove, its new $8.9 million dining lane at Sylvia Park, Mt Wellington, Auckland.

The new food offerings, a new town square, landscaping, dining pavilion and automatic canopy are part of that project on the ground floor of an $80 million, 10-level office block Kiwi is developing at the mall, where it has $200m expansion plans, including a new Farmers department store.

The new restaurants join the existing line-up of eateries, which have been operating for some years.

Grove diners will be sheltered by a 50m-long Teflon-coated canopy that automatically unfolds at the first spots of rain.

Auckland plans for Holocaust tribute

Auckland is getting its first ever Holocaust tribute in the form of a garden made using cobblestones from a Jewish ghetto.

The Auckland Holocaust Memorial Trust (AHMT) will begin designing a living landscape called the Garden of Humanity in the Auckland Domain after gaining the Auckland Domain's Committee's approval last week.

An overgrown pond outside the Winter Garden has been indicated as the likely spot and will have about 200 cobblestones built around the water.

The cobblestones were originally part of a street in a ghetto in Warsaw, Poland and were donated to the Auckland War Memorial Museum by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum five years ago.

The Ghetto was an important symbol of human triumph in the face of adversity, after its Jewish residents refused to be deported to the death camps and fought against German soldiers for nearly five weeks in 1943.

AHMT founder and Auckland resident Bob Narev spent two years in Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic before being sent to Switzerland and the immigrating to New Zealand in 1947.

Narev said there was a growing interest in the lessons that could be taken from the Holocaust.

His wife and he were among the youngest Holocaust survivors, so other avenues to teach younger generations had to be explored Narev said.

"There's not many of us left to tell the story. We are excited about it happening here."

The garden would have the potential to show people what discrimination and racism and persecution could lead to, he said.

AHMT spokeswoman Nadine Rubin Nathan said it was surprising Auckland didn't have a public memorial for the Holocaust.

'We realise the Holocaust took place outside of New Zealand, but of course there was a massive impact on the home front," she said.

More than 11,000 Maori and Pakeha soldiers were killed in World War 11 and 26 New Zealanders were in concentration camps, she said.

It would be a reminder of the consequences of silence, apathy and bullying, she said.

The site has been approved, pending on the design presented.

NZ forecast for warmer than usual summer

Opposite to that of the northern hemisphere, New Zealand's balmy summer season runs from December to February.

Summer's on the way and this year, the heat is ramping up.

A preliminary forecast shows above-average temperatures for most of the country over summer.

The reason we have high confidence it's going to be warmer than average temperatures, is the ocean temperatures are higher than average around New Zealand, and north-easterly winds.

Rainfall is a bit more mixed. The northern and eastern part of the North Island we think that rainfall will likely be near normal or above normal.

For the west of the South Island we think that rain will be near normal or below normal.

For the North Island, this summer could bring more humid days than usual.

More news »

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