I WILL never consider myself an expert on New Zealand, no matter how much time I’ve spent here. However, I HAVE stayed here the better part of a decade, and I’ve seen and heard things enough to qualify me to tell you what is and what isn’t true about this remarkable country, called, variously, Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, sometimes Middle Earth, and sometimes Godzone (God’s Own).
The following are a hodgepodge of personal experience (is there any other kind?), info collected in the course of work and moving around, a little travel, et cetera. In other words, reader beware.
You see more sheep than people in new Zealand. The actual urban legend is “there are more sheep than people in New Zealand” (and this is true) but the belief I think one is being led to foster is (intentionally or not), for every person you see here, there are a dozen chewing grass around him/her.
In fact, unless you go out of the major urban centers like Auckland Wellington or Christchurch (among others), you will hardly see any bovine activity, although of course, anywhere else in New Zealand it is a common sight. Most remarkable on my few trips seeing sheep lamb and cows grazing on meadows, leas and hillsides were the “coats” or cold-resistant clothing worn by the more sensitive (and probably more valuable) cows in wintertime.
For the record, there are 4.6 million New Zealanders and 60 million sheep, which means my hosts the New Zealanders will probably never run out of wool.
Everyone is rich, there’s plenty of work for everyone, and being poor is unheard of in First World New Zealand. Going by the traditional GNP, per capita income, quality of life and life expectancy metrics, New Zealand is indeed, way up there on the global list of desirable nation-states. But below the surface, there are inconsistencies. Income inequality is alarming. Both unemployment and underemployment figures are high for a First World country. And poverty is more common than anyone can imagine. (Sorry to say this about my hosts, NZ is still a great place to live in nevertheless.)
Like many other nations, New Zealand has its share of problems. But unlike many, New Zealand is doing something about it, recognizing among other things that migration is a key factor in national development. Which is my way of thanking this country for letting migrant workers like me take part in its nation-building. 🙂
New Zealand is very liberal in its migration policy, practically welcoming guest workers, seasonal workers and refugees with open arms. While this was true maybe 20 years ago, ever since the recession of the 1990s, the mini-downturns of the naughties, culminating in the global economic crisis of 2008, New Zealand is no longer the migrant paradise that many would-be migrants thought it would be.
In the first place, New Zealand always needs skilled workers, professionals and service providers like any other advanced, industrialized nation, to take care of its young, sick and aged population. The problem is, the supply of workers from all over the world (including the Philippines) is nearly limitless, and therefore New Zealand is either forced to raise its standards for migrant workers seeking entry, postpone or reduce its migrant entry quotas, or stop allowing migrants entry into New Zealand altogether.
Suppose you had a farm, and needed maybe 200 workers to harvest your products and load them into transport. You sent out the word, and almost instantly, 20,000 workers rush to your farm, seeking work, any kind of work, and demanding that you process them immediately. What to do?
This is the problem New Zealand is facing, from applicants all over the world, but mainly from China, India, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The toothpaste is out of the tube, and can’t be returned. This is why drastic measures are now being put in place to make sure people are now being made aware that sure, New Zealand still welcomes skilled migrants, but only in very specific situations, skills and numbers.
Hope this clears up a few misconceptions we’ve nurtured about New Zealand, certainly still a great destination for many of us, and still the land of great promise.
Thanks for reading!