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Australia – Cheaper To Live Than New Zealand?

May 19, 2023
Iain MacLeod

New Zealanders have an obsession they cannot shake. It isn’t rugby, although rugby and the national team still have devotees that believe it to be the national religion and the players, living Gods. No, I am not speaking of sport, I am speaking of Australia.

Hardly a day goes by when the mainstream media in New Zealand doesn’t offer what is, in my view, a distorted and often inaccurate view providing ’facts’ on why everyone should and apparently is, thinking about moving to Australia because everything is bigger, better, brighter and cheaper. It is a form of national self-flagellation.

I am openly and unashamedly an Australiaphobe having discovered how much I love the country and its people when my family was exiled for eight months by the politicians of New Zealand during Covid. We are now lucky enough to own a house in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland as well as one in Northland, New Zealand. My family and I divide our time between the two countries.

I divide my time not just because we have a business to run in New Zealand but because I genuinely don’t know if I want to spend all my time in either one. Neither is perfect. Both are great.

Our media like to bang on about higher salaries in Australia and lower cost of living but I have seen scant evidence of either over the past two years.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics median weekly earnings in August 2022 for:

  • Males (public and private sector) was $1,425
  • Females was $1,094

In New Zealand according to the Department of Statistics:

  • Men earned $1,320
  • Women earned $1,055

Interesting men seem to earn of average roughly 10% more, women about the same.

When you consider how high salaries are in the mining sector it would be interesting to strip those out of the Australian figures and compare. I’d wager the differences, if any, would narrow.

Within those statistics there are still wide variations in the earnings of Doctors, Teachers and Nurses who demonstrably earn more in Australia especially in the big cities.

It is also true some things are cheaper there than here but they too are complaining about a cost of living crisis.

One thing not cheaper is housing as my eldest son found out when he and his partner went to find a house to buy in Brisbane two years ago. An average three bedroom house in an average suburb in Brisbane cost at least $1 million. They were 30% higher in Sydney or Melbourne. And the same as Auckland. They are now back giving in Auckland and with the help of the bank of mum and dad are in their own three bedroom place for the same it would have cost them in Brisbane. Interest rates are lower there by 2% and that certainly impacts the take home pay for those with mortgages.

Australia adds stamp duty to the cost of buying a home. On a $1m purchase you’ll pay around $50,000 as the purchaser in tax. In NZ you pay nothing.

House prices both sides of the Tasman continue to tumble. Auckland is down 16% in the past 12 months, Brisbane 19%.

Australia has a Goods and Services tax (on consumption) of 10% whereas in New Zealand it is 15%. The Aussies don’t charge GST on basic food and fruit. NZ charges it on everything.

If you are happy to shop for your groceries at three different supermarkets in the one afternoon as I sometimes do in Australia to fill up the fridge and pantry in my experience your weekly food and grocery shop will likely come out cheaper than New Zealand by perhaps as much as 20% but on a typical shop for us closer to 10 -15%.

Petrol in Queensland is two thirds the cost of New Zealand yet Diesel is cheaper in New Zealand than Queensland (although diesel drivers in NZ pay annual road user charges which cost several hundred dollars a year, overall diesel is still cheaper here than Australia).  I have no idea why. Petrol is cheaper in Queensland because in New Zealand we pay 70 cents a lite in fuel tax to fund the transport network. In Queensland it is 8 cents a litre! Economies of scale I guess.

A visit to my GP in Queensland costs me $80. In New Zealand it is $55.

I had my eyes tested with the latest technology in Noosa last year and a 60 minute consultation cost me $138. I thought the eye test was considerably cheaper and more thorough with the latest whizz bang technology than I might have got in New Zealand. The $750 reading glasses not so much but the same brand in New Zealand would have cost the same.

Prescription medicines are heavily subsidised in both countries and seem to me to be much of a muchness in end user cost. In New Zealand the Government announced this week the $5 per prescription charge on pharmaceuticals is being scrapped.

I haven’t tried Dentistry in Australia but I do need a tooth implant. In Australia my quotes ranged between $3500 and $7000. I was quoted $5,000 here in New Zealand (and I am enjoying the gap in my back teeth as a result).

Clothes are much of a muchness in both countries (likely because most of the well known chains are found in the shopping malls of both). I think the cost is the same.

People often site taxes being lower in Australia because the first $18,000 is tax free. Once you hit $180,000 a year your tax rate in Australia is 47%. In NZ when you hit $180,000 it is 39%.

In New Zealand over 40% of households not only get every cent in income tax they pay back, they in fact on average receive $135 a week on top by way of income and accommodation supplements.

Vehicles in Queensland tend to be a little more expensive than New Zealand.

Energy (electricity) is significantly higher at least in Queensland than in New Zealand and is expected to jump 20% this year. Installing solar there (one third of all Australian homes now have solar) is, last time I got quotes, 50% cheaper in Australia than New Zealand. Again, I’d suggest economies of scale.

And don’t start me on the weather. (It has a mental health cost on me). I love the weather in Queensland, it is never cold. Often wet mind you, but never cold. If you can live with the midges and mozzies that come with the humidity and warmth, it’s cracker.

On Wednesday this week sitting in Auckland it was a rather mild 20 degrees celcius. It was 15 in Sydney and, wait for it, 11 in Melbourne. Yes, Brisbane was a pleasant 22.

We keep being told by the media here that everything is better in Australia – the weather is better (certainly is in the top half), the food is cheaper and everyone earns more. If that is true I have seen little evidence of it.

Until next week

Southern Man

Iain MacLeod



Iain MacLeod

Iain has been working as an Immigration Adviser since 1988 and has been running his own practice since 1990. In 1998 he merged his practice with Myer Lipschitz leading to the creation of Protea Pacific Limited which was rebranded in 2008 to IMMagine New Zealand Limited...

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  1. Standard of public transport is better in the main cities in Australia.
    Standard of living is higher in Australia, more modern, no damp, mould, leaky homes
    Standard of roading and infrastructure is better in Australia.

    Maybe compare other things?

    1. Post

      Hi Andrew

      My own experience (and I was writing about my own situation and circumstances) suggests otherwise but that is not to say others will not find something different. I think sweeping statements however can be misleading.

      I generally agree with you on public transport but as a regular visitor to Melbourne their roads are clogged and try getting on a tram or train at peak hour.

      Interested in what why you feel the standard of living might be higher. ant to offer some examples?


      1. Doesn’t normally take long for the next tram. Trains sure peak hours might be crowded, but it gets me there. Guess itsd just having 3 options of train, bus and tram.
        Standard of living, for same amount of money I get a much better quality of rental for example, and 2 bedroom instead of 1.
        I didn’t need to drive all that much there, but there are no roadchip roads until outside of city limits.

        1. Post

          I was staying on Collins Street in Melbourne a few weeks ago. Ten stories up. Sounded like the trams were running through the hallway all night. Not sure that was great for my standard of living – it certainly wasn’t for my standard of sleep.
          I am not saying that the standard of living is the same for everyone in either country and our individual circumstances play into that standard. I am likely older than you, likely richer and don’t have a mortgage or children to feed anymore. So for me and my wife we have a very high standard of living in New Zealand. Also in Australia. It might be that for some it is better in Australia but it isn’t noticeably ‘btter’ for us in one or the other.

          My youngest son has returned to Brisbane for a few months. A tiny two bedroom apartment (maybe 60 sqm) costs him and his partner A$700 per week. Taken as a percentage of their (quite good) incomes as people in their mid to late 20s that represents about a third of their take home pay. I can assure you it isn’t any different to what they’d get in an apartment in Auckland.

          All I am saying is the media in NZ try and make out that everything is cheaper and better in Australia when quite demonstrably it probably is for some and it isn’t for others.

          And I wonder if you might be confusing standard of living with quality of life.


  2. Very interesting insight. Would love to see how Melbourne compares to Wellington, in terms of buying a house, overall cost of living

    1. Post
  3. I am a Credit Specialist (internationally recognized) but am already 61 years old. I also have a level 5 Drivers License with good experience in forklift, Auger and crane work. I am also willing to take a position as truck or bus driver if possible. Will I still be able to get a job in Australia? What is cutting off age for employment in Australia?
    Regards, Louis

    1. Hi Louis

      The answer to your question is it depends on the type of offer of employment you have in Australia. There is no age limit to work visas (subclass 482 visa) but the occupation would have to appear on a list of occupations suitable for 482 visas and of all of those positions perhaps credit specialist (it would be called something else) would be on the list. Work visa is just a temporary visa that allows you to satisfy a temporary skill shortage in Australia.

      Certain states in Australia do have DAMA agreements that recognise occupations that wouldn’t ordinarily be regarded as skilled for 482 visas but I have to discuss this with you in more detail. If you want to have a consultation please email me directly on I charge AU$350 for a detailed zoom consultation.


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