Life in Dunedin - 2 Years on
Originally posted to LinkedIn in 2018
I can't believe it's been 2 years since we made the move to Dunedin. With this milestone, I started reflecting on the realities of leaving Auckland and moving to the regions. These are some of my observations.
There are some great roles available, but not always immediately
One thing that surprised me about moving to Dunedin was how much demand there was for commercial roles. I had expected to be waiting 2-3 months for a role to come up, and budgeted to live off no income for a while. I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a role before we were actually in Dunedin with my current employers at Port Otago.
It was quite a different story for my partner. For her, there were promises of finding an accounts payable role in Dunedin easily, but her search took much longer than planned, and took up short contracts for a few months before securing a full time role. This is quite common when moving to the regions, so be prepared for this.
And career movement in Dunedin can be slow. Often it is a matter of waiting for an opportunity, which I find painfully frustrating. Anecdotally, people are in roles for around 5-10 years before moving, compared to around 2-3 years in larger centres. I think this comes from a smaller pool of roles, and recruiters being careful to not poach staff from existing clients.
Tip 1: Be patient, and open on role expectations, as getting some short-term local experience will be the foot in the door to a permanent role. Also consider a wider net of industries and roles to get some useful sideways experience.
Housing is cheaper (but not as much as you may think)
Prior to moving down, we looked at the stats about Dunedin. Having a median house price of around $330k seemed really appealing.
However, what we learned was that the market was skewed lower by lots of cheap rentals with issues such as lack of sunlight, lack of insulation and being flood-prone. This was also coupled with the market heating up from others making the move down south. In the end, we ended up paying more than we expected, but ended up with a property we really enjoy with a very manageable mortgage.
Tip 2: Expect to pay above the median and average price for a comfortable house in Dunedin, and be sure to research areas before buying. I have heard of an Aucklander who bought a house thinking he had a good commute of 60 minutes to work (shorter than his commute in Auckland), but was actually 20km up a gravel road and about 40 minutes drive from the nearest supermarket.
There is so much to explore
One thing I thought I'd miss out from Auckland was that there is nothing going on compared to the amount of events going on in Auckland. And while there are some things up there that Dunedin doesn't have (movies in parks, regular concerts at Spark Arena, the Balmoral Chinese restaurants), we have not been bored at all.
Within Dunedin there are over 40 official bush walks (with more unofficial walks), some great mountain biking trails, the street art trail, some excellent museums, and plenty of events and festivals to attend. We have made an effort every month to try a new restaurant and activity in Dunedin, and our jar grows faster than we can keep up.
And Dunedin is very accessible to so many great spots around the South Island. Within a 4 hour drive, you can be in Christchurch, Tekapo, Central Otago, Queenstown, the Catlins and Fiordland. Long weekends and holidays can easily be spent without leaving the South Island. Other regional cities share similar stories with skifields being 90 minutes away, national parks down the road, and other gems to make life in the regions attractive
There are some downsides, such as costlier international travel, which costs a little more to fly to Auckland first.
The traffic is better
Commuting is generally a matter of 10-15 minutes for most. There are peak travel times where things slow down a little bit, but that only adds 5-10 minutes, instead of the 30-60 minutes extra in Auckland. Compared to life in Auckland, I'm getting at least an extra hour at home every day, which has been spent practising guitar, going for walks or watching an extra episode on Netflix. But the drivers are worse down here. Sorry southerners, but your driving is terrible!
It is hard to network and make friends
Making friends in Dunedin has not been easy. It has made our transition to the southern life really tough at times, especially when trying to crack into already established social circles and being naturally introverted people. While we didn't join any clubs, which in hindsight would have helped, I did throw myself into networking events, any CPD events to meet local accountants and getting colleagues around my age together for some socialising. This did help pave the way and make connections, but a few of these attempts out of my comfort zone were failures and we really felt some low points.
Little by little, I started making connections and getting the support network. I did BS a few times down here about knowing someone I don't to keep the conversation flowing. But the last 6-12 months is when we have started getting more movement as we change from being the new people from Auckland to being locals.
Tip 3: Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone to meet new people.
Things can appear old-fashioned, but this is changing
While there are some amazing innovators and start-ups, there is still a conservative attitude across some organisations, which can be a cultural adjustment. An example of this is the number of businesses that work "bank hours" and are unavailable outside of Monday to Friday. What I have seen, however, is a change in this attitude across organisations, and this change is being fueled by new people and ideas coming into the regions and succession from business leaders retiring. Technology is being embraced more and more in Dunedin with the "Gig-city" network.
Tip 4: Take ownership of change in your organisation and push for new ideas. These won't change on their own and is a fast way to make your mark in Dunedin.
Would we do it again knowing what we know now?
In a nutshell, yes. I would do some things differently, and other things I wouldn't change. This move has been positive for us with stable work, the lifestyle we wanted with having the security we wanted from owning our house.
Would we ever move back to Auckland? Possibly, but it would need to be a compelling reason to move and housing would need to become more affordable. But who knows where we'll be in a few years time.