Moving to Wellington

In May 2020, just over a decade after first arriving in New Zealand, I moved from Auckland to Wellington. I’ve visited the capital more than fifteen times but it’s going to be an interesting experience being a local rather than a visitor. Things I’m expecting / hoping for from the move include…

More hills
Auckland is hardly flat, with many volcanic cones and numerous hills, but Wellington is almost all hills. The identical scale Google Map terrain shots below show the difference. When I was training for big hikes overseas I struggled in Auckland to find terrain challenging enough for a decent workout. That shouldn’t be an issue in Wellington, and all the hills mean more opportunities for stunning views. The downside is less sunlight, particularly in winter, when they get in the way…

More predictable weather
By far the most common comment I’ve had in response to my move to Wellington is how terrible the weather is there. It is definitely colder, with temperatures rarely exceeding 25C, and is known as one of the windiest cities in the world. The stats though are surprisingly similar, with Wellington actually getting slightly more sunshine each year on average (2,055 hours v 2,000 hours in Auckland), and fewer rainy days (125 days v 135 days in Auckland), and they both get about the same amount of rain.

The difference is though that rain in Auckland is usually heavier and much less predictable, with the weather annoyingly changeable and localised. It can be pouring down in one part of the city and dry a few kms away, meaning carrying an umbrella is advisable at most times of the year. To be tested but my understanding and experience of Wellington to date is that the weather is slightly more predictable, making it easier to plan what to do.

Less driving
Auckland is sprawling city, with improving but still often limited public transport options. After not driving for five months while travelling in 2019, on my return I found that almost every journey involved getting in my car. As with seemingly everywhere traffic has only gotten worse over time. I understand that the traffic in Wellington can be just as bad at times, but the city itself is far more compact, with better bus, cycling, and walking options.

More opportunities to work in the public sector
As the capital Wellington is home to nearly all government departments, whereas beyond Auckland Council and the health sector options are more limited in Auckland. After six years working in the private sector I’m looking forward to some different challenges, though getting a job has proved a challenge in itself, with some very conservative recruitment practices.

Less construction work
Auckland is seemingly one gigantic building site at the moment, with developments throughout the CBD, at the airport, and in many suburbs. The APEC conference in 2021, America’s Cup in 2021, and City Rail Link are some of the larger drivers of development, along with a fast growing population putting pressure on infrastructure and housing. Wellington is also growing, but at nowhere near the same pace or intensity. Auckland will be great in the future, but at the moment the city is pretty messy.

More hiking opportunities
Since the Waitakere Ranges were almost completely closed in 2018, there are relatively few decent places to hike in or near to Auckland. The best ones remaining, such as Te Henga and Mt William Walkway, I’ve walked many times. There were never many options for overnight hikes anyway, other than on Great Barrier Island or driving for hours north or south of Auckland. Wellington has some wonderful walks that literally start in the CBD and follow the town belt down to the South Coast or along the ridges. Less than two hours away the Tararuas are where tramping started in New Zealand, with the challenging ranges full of huts and tracks.

I will miss Auckland, particularly friends there, the volcanoes, Cornwall Park, the fantastic Basement Theatre, and the well connected Auckland Airport (from Wellington pre-Covid-19 you could only fly to Australia, Singapore, and Fiji direct).

Earthquakes are far more of a worry in Wellington than volcanoes in Auckland though, being more likely to occur, more widespread in terms of damage, and Wellington has basically two (three once Transmission Gully opens) roads out of the city. They’ve had enough scares over the years that buildings should be able to withstand most shocks, but it is still a concern…

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