Letters from Southern Man

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Letters from the Southern Man

Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. 

Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.

The Good News Keeps Rolling in for New Zealand

Posted by Iain on Oct. 5, 2011, 2:13 p.m. in Living

The Good News Keeps Rolling in for New Zealand

Despite Dan Carter being ruled out of the rest of the Rugby World Cup with a groin tendon tear the sun still came up this morning. Never has so much attention been paid to one man’s groin in the history of humanity (as far as I can tell).   

Two other bits of good news (startling perhaps, depending on your perspective): 

New Zealand’s murder rate was the lowest for 25 years over the last 12 months with a grand total of 34 people being murdered and a drop in crime by 6%; and

The New Zealand dollar has fallen to six month lows over the last few days with a downward re-rating of our credit rating by two of the major international rating agencies. 

On the matter of the exchange rate, one might normally not applaud a downgrade in the nation’s credit worthiness but in the last two weeks since returning from South Africa, I have gone to change foreign currency locally and been rendered speechless by the exchange rates. The South African Rand was being bought at R6.99 to the NZ dollar and the Singapore Dollar was being bought at S1.06 to the NZ dollar. Needless to say I politely declined on both occasions as I simply could not see the New Zealand dollar being this high for too much longer.

And I was right.

With a readjustment of risk, the ongoing volatility around Europe, and Greece in particular, and also what is happening in the US (probably in another recession already), the New Zealand dollar has been sold off as ‘the markets’ have returned to the United States currency. I am happy to pay a little more for my petrol if like all New Zealand exporters my business becomes more competitive. A lower New Zealand dollar of course does two things for my clients – they get more New Zealand dollars when they move here and my fees cost less in their local currency. 

Given that we are seeing the world’s middle classes getting poorer since the onset of the GFC and in particular in South Africa this is welcome relief I can tell you. I have been predicting for the last ten years that South Africans are in danger of becoming currency prisoners in their own country and emigration when it all finally falls apart simply won’t be viable. We saw it in Zimbabwe and I expect to see it repeat in South Africa. 

With regard to crime statistics it is really heartening to see that ongoing improvement in these statistics. As if New Zealand wasn’t already safe, it has become a whole lot safer. 

On “average” New Zealanders murder approximately one person per week although in 2010 we murdered 65 (a particularly nasty and brutal year) and the year before 35. 

If we were to murder people on the same per capita rate as they do in a country like South Africa, we would still be murdering close to 1000 people per year.

The difference in the probability of becoming a victim of crime was brought home to me in South Africa two and a half weeks ago following the release of that country’s latest crime statistics. The Government was “celebrating” a fall in the national murder rate from 20,000 a year to “only” 16,000. To put that into some perspective, since the US invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003, there has been approximately 9,500 US casualties and I believe they call that a “war”. They kill as many in South Africa in six months as US forces have lost personnel in 8 years. 

Overall in New Zealand recorded crime fell by a little under 6% over the last 12 months. 

Interestingly the largest decreases in overall crime were in the South Island and particularly Canterbury, Southland, Tasman – nothing like a good natural disaster to bring people together and be good to one another it appears!

Family violence also fell by 3.1% and there was a reduction in “family violence assaults” which also reverses trends of previous years. These statistics were of course taken before Mr Dan Carter ripped his groin tendon and while the All Blacks are still in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. There is (seriously) a spike in domestic violence in this country if the All Blacks lose a game of rugby! How pathetic and sad.

The Government here is taking credit for tougher sentences (we have one of the highest per capita prison populations in the world), three strikes and you are out (or ‘in’ – jail that is), better police resourcing (more front line police). I heard a different possible explanation for it this morning however – change in demographics – an aging population results in less crime (older, wiser, less drinking and fighting basically). The drop in our crime has parallels with other similar first world low birth rate economies. 

Regardless of the reasons it is nice to know that if it is possible for our safe streets and cities to get safer, they just have...

Speaking of excess drinking and giving a lie to the older you get the more sensible you become for those of you who are not rugby fans forgive me but I have now managed to sneak off to Eden Park to enjoy the All Blacks dismember France, Manu Samoa to arm wrestle Fiji into submission and on Saturday night enjoyed England vs. Scotland. Quite amazing really – close to 60,000 people at Eden Park (which looks truly amazing) for this northern hemisphere encounter, of which probably 10,000 where supporting England.

This doesn’t have quite so much to do with the fact that England doesn’t appear to know how to play rugby (how much kicking can you do without calling yourselves Manchester United?), but more perhaps to do with the fact Scotland were the underdogs and many New Zealanders have Scottish ancestry. A great time was had by all except we suspect the Scottish rugby team who fell at the final hurdle with 3 minutes to go and were knocked out of the World Cup.

What is truly amazing is how organised this World Cup has been. There are volunteers for Africa inside Eden Park, security has been tight but not obtrusive, burly policemen stand beside each beer stand with tightly crossed arms and bulging biceps just to remind you what you are up against if you get too silly; there are not generally queues of more than 4 or 5 minutes to get food or drink and having been in the two main stands for 2 of the 3 games, the stadium is emptied inside of about 20 minutes when it is all over. 

All of the bars and restaurants around Eden Park are pumping to all hours of the night and there is no doubt about it, this event has brought a real energy to New Zealand. We all remain nervous as we are every 4 years that the All Blacks might not go all the way but I am certainly hoping that the tens of thousands of visitors that are here sharing the festivities are having a good time. Certainly all the feedback we are getting from our many South African and English visitors to New Zealand is that they are having a whale of a time and enjoying visiting a country they might not otherwise have seen. 

We also of course, have many clients here who are enjoying the rugby while looking for work, with a view to moving here. All have reported strong interest in their skills and they are all falling in love with the little country that could. 

Onwards now to the quarter finals of the RWC which will see Wales beat Ireland by scoring a try, Australia beat South Africa (sorry loyal South African readers), New Zealand beat Argentina and England beat France (how did either even make the quarters? England will win without scoring a try). 

And we will stroll down the Eden Park for Sunday’s knockout gamers knowing the streets are safer than ever. 

Until next week...

Iain MacLeod


Southern Man.

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