Moving from Auckland to Melbourne

 

This document was originally written in April 2001.

Update 2011: I have added some updates below.

 

I have probably left off heaps of information that could be useful. If you can think of any other areas that I should cover or have any other comments/suggestions please contact me.

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

Citizenship and Permanent Residency

Banking

Public Transport

Weather

Shopping

Telecommunications

Housing

Tax

Cars and Driving

Insurance

Cycling

Medical

Schooling

Utilities (Power, Water, Gas)

Parks/Reserves

Packing, Moving and Landing here

 

Introduction

 

This document reflects my personal experiences in moving from Auckland to Melbourne. My circumstances, experiences and personal preferences may or may not match anyone elseís. If some of this information helps you and matches your experiences, then great, if not, well, I told you so.

We moved from Auckland to Melbourne in late October 2000. There are many differences in our lifestyles between the two cities and this will likely to be different to anyone else. We have setup our lifestyle with the intention of moving back to NZ in a couple of years. We lived 20kms from the city in Auckland and we now live 10kms from the city in Melbourne. We own our house in Auckland, but we are renting in Melbourne. We had 2 cars and a motorcycle in Auckland but have none of these in Melbourne.

 

A lot of the information here is time sensitive, that is, it is correct or gives the correct impression at the time of writing only. Some sectors, especially telecommunications and Internet related sectors can change quickly due to technology and competitive pressures.

 

When I say that something is the same price I am assuming that if you are earning $NZ and spending $NZ, then something that costs $1 will be also be $1 when you are earning $AUD and spending $AUD. For example, a can of soft drink might be $1.20 in NZ. In Australia it might also be $1.20. Since you are now earning $AUD I would call this the same price.

 

Generally, I have found that any imported goods will be cheaper than you pay for them in NZ. Whilst the base currency price for the imports may be the same you are now earning and spending a slightly more valuable currency.

 

Update 2011: The last few years it has actually got a lot more expensive for everyday stuff in NZ compared to Australia. Hereís an example. Two litres of milk $2-$2.40, 1kg of cheese $7, what does that cost in NZ? Having been back a few times lately, I reckon I can live more cheaply in Melbourne now. With the $USD now at something like 1.08, itís now really cheap to buy stuff online and get it shipped here.

 

Check it out from the air Ė www.nearmaps.com.au (aerial photography updated every few months with a history) and Google Street View is often useful (Iím sure you can find that URL).

Citizenship and Permanent Residency

Section added 2011:

New Zealand citizens who arrive after Feb 2001 automatically receive what is called a Special Category Visa (SCV). You donít need to apply for it. Arrivals before that automatically received Permanent Residency (like us Ė arenít we lucky?).

 

What the difference? Not much.

 

If you have an SCV you get all the same rights/benefits as a permanent resident. You can work here, get Medicare, support from Centrelink (social welfare), public hospital treatment, public schooling, universities etc.

 

About the only thing we have found that is different is when you want to become an Australian Citizen. Why do you want to do that? There are a few reasons, and you have to decide if they are valid for you.

1)      You get to vote

2)      You get to do jury service

3)      You get to apply for HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) Ė a loan for university. Similar scheme to NZ.

4)      You can get a 20% discount if you pay all your Uni fees upfront (instead of taking on a HECS).

 

So that was why you might want to become and Australian Citizen. So what the difference between having PR and SCV got to do with it?

 

It is way easier and cheaper to get Citizenship if you have PR (thatís why they took PR off all the Kiwis. Word is that if you wanted to become an Australian Citizen the easiest way was to become an NZ Citizen and then move to Australian, get PR and then Citizenship). Now, if you only have SCV then, it takes longer and costs more to get Australian Citizenship. We looked at it and it was something like a couple of hundred dollars to go from PR to Citizen in 6 months. A friend of mine said it was more like several thousand and years to go from SCV to Citizen. Youíll have to check it out for yourself to get the latest timeframes/costs. This is just an indication.

Banking

 

Banking systems are backwards i.e. they are not online/real-time and departments often seem to work independently of each other. When I changed my postal address at the Commonwealth Bank, I filled in the form and handed it in. When I continued to receive mail at my old address, I had to do it again, and thatís when I found out that I had to also notify the Visa department of my change of address also. [Update October 2001] We recently tried to open another account and they still had a record in some system of our old address and had to change it!

I once went to make a deposit into an ANZ account and when I told the Teller that I didnít have the account number, I was told that I would have to go to ďthe front deskĒ where they could look up my account number from my name.

Transactions are not reflected against your account in real-time. For example, on the day that my pay goes into my account, the balance changes but the transaction does not appear until the next business day. I also made some withdrawals over the Easter weekend and whilst the balance was changing I did not see the transactions till the first of second business day after the weekend.

 

I am obviously so used to a bank where my transactions are reflected against my account as I operate it and where they have a central (or at least co-ordinated) database on my personal information.

 

Bank charges are similar to NZ banks but definitely higher than the bank I was using in NZ, Bankdirect. The main difference you notice with bank charges is not actually a bank charge, it is a state tax. There are 2 taxes. GDT (Government Debits Tax) and FID (Financial Institution Duty Ė which is being removed 1st July 2001). Basically, all deposits and withdrawals are taxed. I cover this more under the ďTaxĒ section.

Update 2011: I think all these taxes must have gone now. I canít recall seeing them for ages now. I have an HSBC bank account.

 

If you are going to buy a house then you will benefit from the lower interest rates. They are somewhere around 2% lower than Auckland.

Update 2011: Now Interest rates are lower in NZ than Australia. Have been for a couple of years.

References:

www.commbank.com.au

www.national.com.au

www.stgeorge.com.au

www.anz.com.au

Public Transport

 

The public transport is amazing. If you live within around10kms of the city you will have good access to trams, trains and buses. If you live further out, trains and buses become the main option. The train lines all head towards the city. The majority of tram lines also head into the city but there are some that do traverse across the suburbs.

Tickets are cheapest if you buy them as 10 trip passes.

Fare evasion is rife on trams and trains. The transport companies are taking steps to cut this down, as they must be losing a large amount. Fare evasion officers do board trams and trains and check tickets occasionally. They more commonly check trams and trains in and close to the city. I have been asked to produce a ticket at least twice in the last 4 months.

When travelling by train, I often take my bicycle to travel between the station and my destination. Bicycles are free on trains outside rush hour.

 

Update 2011: Bicycles are free on trains anytime (you still have to pay for the rider though!), although at rush hour you may not be able to get on.

References:

www.victrip.com.au

Weather

 

The weather is similar to Auckland but less changeable during a given day and with higher and lower temperature extremes during summer and winter. Melbournians generally think that their weather is quite changeable, but then they obviously havenít lived in Auckland. Over the summer period there would be something like 10 days where the temperature is nearly unbearable in the mid to high 30s. Note that there is next to no humidity, which makes it a lot more bearable than Auckland. Winter is only a couple of degrees lower than Auckland. The rainfall is approx 1/3 of that of Auckland which makes more outdoor living possible.

References:

www.bom.gov.au

http://www.edcint.co.nz/weather/

Shopping

 

Melbourne is a lot more ďvillage-likeĒ, in that each suburb seems to have a large amount of shops covering most of your needs. Most of the shopping is found along the sides of the main roads (which often also have a tram line running down them). There are a larger number of specialty shops in each suburb; for example, I have found shops that are specifically dedicated to tennis racquets, hovercrafts, flight simulator software, home security systems, and many others. Typically in Auckland these would be part of a larger store. I find that there is almost always a much larger selection than if you were shopping in Auckland.

There are a few large markets such as the Queen Victoria, South Melbourne and Prahran.

There are a large number of home delivery options in Melbourne. Most of the major supermarkets offer a home delivery service at the checkout for a few dollars. Many of the local grocers also offer a similar service.

There are a larger number of online options as well, especially in the grocery arena.

References:

www.coles.com.au(fixed delivery charge)

www.greengrocer.com.au(no delivery charge)

Telecommunications

 

Generally speaking, using the phone is going to cost you more in Melbourne.

Update 2011: Now it is going to cost you less than NZ. VOIP is so prevalent now and there are some really good deals with good call quality. Most of the telecos have also dropped their old rates as competition has increased.

 

There are a lot of choices for local, national, international, mobile and Internet access. Some of the companies include

www.telstra.com.au

www.optus.com.au

www.iprimus.com.au

www.justmobile.com.au

www.tpg.com.au

www.pennytel.com.au

 

All local calls still go over the Telstra network, no matter whom you choose. Optus does have some cable.

Local Calling

Local call charges are one of the first things you will notice. At somewhere around 20 cents per call this can soon add up. It is offset by a typical monthly rental of somewhere around $20.

Update 2011: Get a VOIP plan. I have one where I pay $19 per month for unlimited local and national calls and 500 minutes of mobile calls.

Toll Calls

The phone companies are only just starting to introduce capped toll calls, but these are nowhere near as cheap or flexible as in NZ. One of the large phone expenses we now have is calling back into NZ. Without a capped rate we are paying somewhere around $10 per hour versus our family back in NZ calling us for a maximum of $3 per call.

In general, per minute charges for toll calls are reasonable, but the lack of capped rates makes long calls expensive.

Update 2011: Get a VOIP plan.

Mobile Phones

Mobile phones are also generally more expensive. You donít have a chance at getting 200 free off-peak national minutes for $30. For $30, youíll get something like 30 free off-peak minutes where the definition off peak is probably 8pm to 6am everyday and all of Sunday versus 7pm to 7am everyday and all weekend. Having said this, the peak charges are a lot lower on these types of plans. I did see Vodafone offering a 200-minute plan at one point, but this was either calling to mobile phones or calling to landlines Ė you had to choose where selecting the plan. Typically calls are charged on a per 30 second block which initially makes the call rates look cheaper than the per minute ones you find in NZ. A good option that I have found, that suits us, is Dingo Blue. This company is a subsidiary of Optus and is a phone/internet only company (much like Bankdirect is to ASB). We bought a cell phone up front and now have no monthly rental and a call charge, which is around the lowest of anything we have found. The call plan is flat rate at any time of the day, which makes peak time calling possible.

Update 2011: www.justmobile.com.au is cheap as for short calls. No stupid rip-off flag fall. www.tpg.com.au has some good plans as well. There is lots of choice.

Internet Access

I really only ever investigated ADSL (Telstra, iPrimus and others) and cable (Telstra and Optus). I think some unlimited access dial up plans do exist now, but when I was looking a high usage plan was going to cost me $40 per month plus local call charges, which at 5 dials a day would have been another $30 per month.

I find cable is a good option. At around $70 per month, it is always on and heaps quicker than dialup (most of the time). Access to cable depends on where you live and you may find that you only have access to one provider. For example, most of the houses we looked at could not get cable. We moved into a place that can only get Telstra cable and not Optus. You will also find that if there is cable in your street, due to what appears to be marketing decisions (i.e. there is no technical reason for it) you canít get cable in flats, apartments and units.

I looked at ADSL as well. It was going to be slightly more expensive than cable and also had limited areas at the time. I would use ADSL if I could not get cable.

Update 2011: I have a www.tpg.com.au ADSL2+ plan (about 19Mbit down and 1Mbit up is what I get) where they give you unlimited (for real) download and upload. They donít even meter it. $60/month with a free phone line and number. Cheap as bro.

Housing

Rentals

You donít actually rent houses. You lease them. Most leases are 12 months, although sometimes 3 month (very rare) and 6 month ones do appear. The penalties for breaking the lease vary but typically included paying rent until the property was let again and/or paying advertising costs for a new tenant and a penalty fee, which in our case is 5% of the 12 month lease value. Rent is normally paid one month in advance and the bond is normally one month.

 

Contrast this to Auckland, in which tenants come and go as they please on 3 weeks notice, pay fortnightly and have a fortnights worth of bond.

 

We didnít find any real estate agents who were helpful when renting. They are good at putting ads in papers, giving out property addresses and charging you $50 bond for borrowing the key so you can show yourself around the place.

 

When you decide that you want a particular place, you must apply in writing on the agentís form. This form asks you a lot of details about employment and other rental history. You need references! Coming directly from Auckland we used our Property Manager in Auckland, my employer and relatives. After you apply, you wonít hear anything unless you are selected. You have to chase the agents to get anything. We ended up applying for perhaps 20 properties and only ever got offered 3 of them. I get the impression that most of our applications were rejected because we had no Australian rental history.

 

If you come across a property where the landlord is managing the property, you may go through a different process. It seemed to us that real estate agents managed the bulk of properties.

 

We didnít look at the same type of properties as we were used to in Auckland, but I think renting in Melbourne is the same or cheaper than Auckland. This is probably related to the fact that interest rates for mortgages are lower as well.

We used the property section in The Age, called the Domain for most of our rental property searching.

Buying

I donít know a lot about buying a house here except that there is stamp duty (see the section on Tax) on every transaction and it may well cost you $10,000 on top of your house cost. To help offset this there is a first homebuyers grant of $7000 or $14000 (introduced in 2001) if you buy/build a new home.

Update 2011: This home buyers grant thing comes and goes. Stamp duty is like $20-30k on some places. Houses are expensive to buy here. A new two bedroom apartment in an inner-city suburb on the 5th floor would be about $600,000 Ė stamp duty on that might be $30,000. The SRO has calculators for working it out exactly (see Tax section).

References:

www.theage.com.au

Tax

 

In general, Australia is a very highly taxed and user pays society. It almost seems that there are taxes for everything you do, from being paid to depositing that pay, for buying a house, for making withdrawals, for buying shares etc. There are so many taxes and deductions etc that you really should get an accountant who knows the system.

 

The ATO (Australian Tax Office) is effectively the same as the IRD (Inland Revenue Department). You apply to them to get a TFN (Tax File Number) which is equivalent to the IRD Number.

 

For the state of Victoria, the SRO (State Revenue Office) collect Stamp Duty. They do this by automatically applying the tax when you do certain transactions eg buy a car.

 

Here are some of the taxes I know about. Iím sure there are plenty of other ones.

PAYG

PAYG is the equivalent to NZís PAYE. The rates are high. I donít have the tax scale on me as the main ones I am aware of are zero tax for earnings less than $6000 and 47.5% tax on earnings over $60,000. If that werenít enough you have to pay a 1.5% Medicare (see Medicare section) levy, which effectively makes the top rate 48.5%.

If you earn $50,000 or less, youíll pay somewhere around the same amount of tax you would in NZ. If you are over that, it costs you a lot more. For example, if you earn $100,000, you will pay something like another $5000 in tax.

Update 2011: There has been a lot of tax cuts over the last few years. The top tax rate now cuts in over $180,000. Try this link: http://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/content.aspx?doc=/content/12333.htm

GDT

This is a debits tax for every debit to your bank account, where the bank account has a cheque facility. GDT is reverse to most taxes in that the more you take out the less you are taxed, or the lower the rate (versus the more you earn the higher the rate). If you are used to using EFTPOS in NZ for everything you will be hit by a massive GDT charge at the end of the month. What we do to minimise this tax is use cash and credit cards a lot more. There seems to be no GDT on credit cards Ė good for the debt levels! Typically when we do an EFTPOS (or whatever they call it here) we get $100 cash out at the same time. This means we do fewer transactions and puts us into the lower GDT rate.

Update 2011: This must have been scrapped I think. I donít have a cheque account anymore anyway.

Stamp Duty

I first noticed this one when buying Australian shares through ETrade whilst still in NZ. I personally donít pay a lot of this one, but then I havenít bought a house! If you buy a house for $250k then youíll pay nearly $11,000 in stamp duty.

Update 2011: Not noted earlier, but you pay this when you buy a car too.

Payroll Tax

Your employer pays this on top of your salary/wages to the SRO.

Capital Gains

If you have only ever lived in New Zealand, then this will be new to you. Youíll have to talk to a tax specialist or the ATO for more info on this.

GST

The rate is only 10% here (versus 12.5%), but it is implemented differently. In NZ it is simple; you pay GST on everything (well nearly). In Australia, it can get confusing, because it is on some items and not others. Food is a especially bad area. It goes something like this Ė if the food item is a base item that can be used to make other foods, and then it is GST free. Personally, I donít worry about it as I am going to pay it anyway.

References:

Australian Tax Office www.ato.gov.au

State Revenue Office (for Victoria only) www.sro.vic.gov.au (They have calculators for working out taxes)

Cars and Driving

I only drove a car on Melbourne for the first 3 weeks after we arrived. Getting around is quite simple as most of the city and suburbs are one large grid. We found if we missed a road we could always take the next one and loop back.

Update 2011: We ended up living here for 3.5 years without a car, kids and all. If you have not lived here then you may think this is crazy and you may not understand how it is possible. Well, heaps of people do it. Now, we have a car but still use other means of transport predominantly.

 

In the central city, there is a special way to do a right hand turn in some locations. It is called the hook turn. Each hook turn location is signposted. It is used when you are turning right across tramlines and is designed to stop you blocking tram traffic. Basically, when you want to turn right, you pull out into the intersection and keep as far left as you can. When the lights go red, you turn right. If you are unsure, just follow someone else who is doing it.

It can take a long time to get from suburb to suburb, as there are plenty of traffic lights and cars. Make sure you always stop behind trams when they stop as pedestrians get out of them and walk in front of you.

There are almost always parking meters anywhere you can find to park (unless you are a motorcycle, in which case, you can park on the footpath).

In residential areas, there are normally lots of cars parked on the road. This can make some roads quite narrow.

There are no motorways in Melbourne, only freeways and tollways. Of course, freeways are free and you have to pay for tollways. The tollway system is called City Link and covers the ďmotorwaysĒ for a few kilometres either side of the city. So, if you want to get to the airport and have to go through the city (or past the city) the City Link offers the fastest route for a couple of dollars a go. If you use the City Link you either need a day pass or an ETAG for frequent customers (there are signs with the phone number to call).

Update 2011: There is a nice new tollway running North to South way out East (they called it Eastlink). It uses the same ETAG. They are quite organised like that, even if it is expensive. To do a full return trip to the airport (north-west) from south east of the city, using Citylink, it costs something like $13 (not including Eastlink).

 

Car prices are a lot higher than Auckland. On average you would pay at least 50% more for the same car. Motorcycles also suffer the same fate.

Petrol on the other hand is actually cheaper than it was in Auckland.

Update 2011: Petrol is around $1.30-$1.50 per litre (someone told me it got up to $2.40 in NZ!). There is this crazy pricing thing going on over here. Every service station is different and there is some weekly pricing cycle where it is low at one point and then high at the other point. Good luck finding the ďcheap dayĒ. Funnily enough the peak always seems to hit at the start and end of long weekends ÖÖ

 

It is possible to go to Vic Roads (look for Vicroads in the Whitepages) and, after paying a $40 fee and showing your NZ drivers license, to obtain an Australian Drivers license.

And lastly, donít forget to use your horn a lot. Melbourne drivers seem to toot at any other vehicle that gets in their way or holds them up.

Update 2011: They are pretty strict with regards to parking, speeding and red lights here Ė most likely because it makes the government a lot of money from parking fines

References:

www.carsales.com.au

Insurance

I ended up using an insurance broker, as I was unfamiliar with most of the insurance companies. I found that most offerings were more expensive than what I had been paying in NZ. There are heaps of choices use the www.yellowpages.com.au and ring around.

Cycling

I ride my bicycle to and from work each day. I also use it a fair amount in my recreation time as well. I have found that Melbourne is a very cycling friendly city. Many roads have cycling lanes and the area is mostly flat with inclines rather than hills. I find most drivers very aware and courteous towards cyclists making it safer and easier to use a bicycle than in Auckland. As well as all that, it doesnít rain very much meaning I hardly ever need to worry about wet weather gear. I am just about to enter my first winter in Melbourne so I am not yet aware on how cold I will find riding in the cooler months.

By the way, Melbourne have bicycle Police, that is, Police that ride bicycles. I know this because, I was issued a ticket by them for riding through a red light.

Medical

Medicare pays for doctors etc for Australian residents. It is funded by a 1.5% levy on wages, effectively increasing the tax rate.

If you go to a doctor that offers ďbulk billingĒ you will often pay nothing for the visit. Otherwise you pay for the doctor and then claim back something like 80% of the fee from Medicare.

Medicare does not cover chemists and prescriptions.

You still need health insurance for private hospital cover and other medial cover such as dentists. In most cases, private health cover does not pay for doctors or prescriptions.

You are encouraged to take up private health cover and penalised in certain circumstances if you donít. The penalty is something like an additional 1% levy on your wages/salary if you donít have cover and you earn more than $50,000 or $100,000 as a family.

Update 2011: You need to apply for your Medicare card.

References:

www.medicare.gov.au

Schooling

 

In the public schooling system, in order for our kids to be placed with other kids of their age, they have ended being effectively put back one year. This has resulted in them repeating a large amount of work. Youíll have to decide for yourself whether this is good or bad.

There are plenty of private schools. All the ones we looked at seemed to be around $10,000 per student per year.

Update 2011: The top private schools exceed $20,000 per student per year

 

Another option is to enrol in correspondence from NZ. To be eligible for this you need to be away from NZ for more than 2 terms and less than 3 years. This could be a good option if you intend returning to NZ as it means they will be at the same level as everyone else when they return. Correspondence will probably cost you several hundred dollars in postage and course costs per student per year, depending on age and subjects taken.

Utilities (Power, Water, Gas)

Gas is used extensively throughout Melbourne, unlike the limited areas in Auckland. It is typically used for heating, cooking and hot water. I find that the electricity bill plus the gas bill comes out to roughly the same as the electricity bill alone compared to Auckland.

Parks/Reserves

 

Melbourne has a lot of parks and reserves. Every house we looked at had one within walking distance. Some of the parks were just a few kids climbing frames and a set of swings. The one we ended living by includes tennis courts, soccer fields, play areas, a bowling club and duck pond and masses grassy fields.

Packing, Moving and Landing here

 

Whilst still in Auckland, we used the yellow pages to find a moving company. We asked several of them to come over and give us a quote for moving. We selected a company that would move us door to door and offered a good (not the lowest price). Most companies prices include all the packing materials, labour for packing and paper work. Additionally, we did have to pay a couple of hundred dollars directly to the Australian customs agent in clearance fees.

Before the packing crew come in make sure that you have removed all dirt/mud from any items, especially garden and outdoor equipment. I thoroughly cleaned my motorised scooter but Australian customs insisted that it was steam cleaned before it was released. This added $150 to my bill.

Insurance

We purchased insurance based on 3% of the sum insured. The insurance we took out, underwritten by Lumleys, had many standard exclusions. One item that is not covered, and that we had problems with, is where electronic failures are only covered if there is the appearance of physical damage. Our television ended up with a cracked circuit board but had no other signs of damage and was not covered. You can buy extra cover that will protect you in these circumstances.

Make sure you list out all items of value that need to be insured. Our insurance application included a list of categories against which we listed values. When we made a claim, the insurance company tried to tell us that we did not have a category under which our filing cabinet was listed.

Our total claim was between $1000-$2000 and it was mostly damage that seemed due to rough handling eg a broken table leg and a fridge door out of alignment.

I suspect that it would be cheaper to insure directly through the insurance company.

Finding Your Way Around

When you land, make sure one of the first things you do is buy a Melways. Melways is the most popular local map book. It will cost you some where around $30. We found (and still do) this invaluable as it provides information not only on street locations, but also suburb locations, sports clubs, parks and reserves, public transport, City Link etc

Update 2011: Cheap GPS units have changed this to a large degree, from free on phones to something like $150 for a low-end brand name car-mountable one.

References:

www.ausways.com.au

www.whereis.com.au

www.yellowpages.co.nz

www.yellowpages.com.au

www.whitepages.com.au

www.vic.gov.au