Update 2011: I have added some updates below.
I have probably left off heaps of information that could be useful. If you can think of any other areas that I should cover or have any other comments/suggestions please contact me.
We moved from Auckland to Melbourne in the early 2000s. There are many differences in our lifestyles between the two cities and this will likely to be different to anyone else. We lived 20kms from the city in Auckland and we now live 10kms from the city in Melbourne. We own our house in Auckland, but we are renting in Melbourne. We had 3 cars and a motorcycle in Auckland but have none of these in Melbourne.
A lot of the information here is time sensitive, that is, it is correct or gives the correct impression at the time of writing only. Some sectors, especially telecommunications and Internet related sectors can change quickly due to technology and competitive pressures.
When I say that something is the same price I am assuming that if you are earning $NZ and spending $NZ, then something that costs $1 will be also be $1 when you are earning $AUD and spending $AUD. For example, a can of soft drink might be $1.20 in NZ. In Australia it might also be $1.20. Since you are now earning $AUD I would call this the same price.
Generally, I have found that any imported goods will be cheaper than you pay for them in NZ. Whilst the base currency price for the imports may be the same you are now earning and spending a slightly more valuable currency.
Update 2011: The last few years it has actually got a lot more expensive for everyday stuff in NZ compared to Australia. Here’s an example. Two litres of milk $2-$2.40, 1kg of cheese $7, what does that cost in NZ? Having been back a few times lately, I reckon I can live more cheaply in Melbourne now. With the $USD now at something like 1.08, it’s now really cheap to buy stuff online and get it shipped here.
What’s the difference? Not much.
If you have an SCV you get all the same rights/benefits as a permanent resident. You can work here, get Medicare, support from Centrelink (social welfare), public hospital treatment, public schooling, universities etc.
About the only thing we have found that is different is when you want to become an Australian Citizen. Why do you want to do that? There are a few reasons, and you have to decide if they are valid for you.
So that was why you might want to become and Australian Citizen. So what’s the difference between having PR and SCV got to do with it?
It is way easier and cheaper to get Citizenship if you have PR (that’s why they took PR off all the Kiwis. Word is that if you wanted to become an Australian Citizen the easiest way was to become an NZ Citizen and then move to Australian, get PR and then Citizenship). Now, if you only have SCV then, it takes longer and costs more to get Australian Citizenship. We looked at it and it was something like a couple of hundred dollars to go from PR to Citizen in 6 months. A friend of mine said it was more like several thousand and years to go from SCV to Citizen. You’ll have to check it out for yourself to get the latest timeframes/costs. This is just an indication.
I once went to make a deposit into an ANZ account and when I told the Teller that I didn’t have the account number, I was told that I would have to go to “the front desk” where they could look up my account number from my name.
Transactions are not reflected against your account in real-time. For example, on the day that my pay goes into my account, the balance changes but the transaction does not appear until the next business day. I also made some withdrawals over the Easter weekend and whilst the balance was changing I did not see the transactions till the first of second business day after the weekend.
I am obviously so used to a bank where my transactions are reflected against my account as I operate it and where they have a central (or at least co-ordinated) database on my personal information.
Bank charges are similar to NZ banks but definitely higher than the bank I was using in NZ, Bankdirect. The main difference you notice with bank charges is not actually a bank charge, it is a state tax. There are 2 taxes. GDT (Government Debits Tax) and FID (Financial Institution Duty – which is being removed 1st July 2001). Basically, all deposits and withdrawals are taxed. I cover this more under the “Tax” section.
Update 2011: I think all these taxes must have gone now. I can’t recall seeing them for ages now.
If you are going to buy a house then you will benefit from the lower interest rates. They are somewhere around 2% lower than Auckland.
Update 2011: Now Interest rates are lower in NZ than Australia. Have been for a couple of years.
Tickets are cheapest if you buy them as 10 trip passes.
Fare evasion is rife on trams and trains. The transport companies are taking steps to cut this down, as they must be losing a large amount. Fare evasion officers do board trams and trains and check tickets occasionally. They more commonly check trams and trains in and close to the city. I have been asked to produce a ticket at least twice in the last 4 months.
When travelling by train, I often take my bicycle to travel between the station and my destination. Bicycles are free on trains outside rush hour.
Update 2011: Bicycles are free on trains anytime (you still have to pay for the rider though!), although at rush hour you may not be able to get on.
There are a few large markets such as the Queen Victoria, South Melbourne and Prahran.
There are a large number of home delivery options in Melbourne. Most of the major supermarkets offer a home delivery service at the checkout for a few dollars. Many of the local grocers also offer a similar service.
There are a larger number of online options as well, especially in the grocery arena.
Update 2011: Now it is going to cost you less than NZ. VOIP is so prevalent now and there are some really good deals with good call quality. Most of the telecos have also dropped their old rates as competition has increased.
There are a lot of choices for local, national, international, mobile and Internet access. Some of the companies include
All local calls still go over the Telstra network, no matter whom you choose. Optus does have some cable.
Update 2011: Get a VOIP plan. I have one where I pay $19 per month for unlimited local and national calls and 500 minutes of mobile calls.
Update 2011: Get a VOIP plan.
Update 2011: www.justmobile.com.au is cheap as for short calls. No stupid rip-off flag fall. www.tpg.com.au has some good plans as well. There is lots of choice.
I looked at ADSL as well. It was going to be slightly more expensive than cable and also had limited areas at the time. I would use ADSL if I could not get cable.
Update 2011: I have a www.tpg.com.au ADSL2+ plan (about 19Mbit down and 1Mbit up is what I get) where they give you unlimited (for real) download and upload. They don’t even meter it. $60/month with a free phone line and number. Cheap as bro.
Contrast this to Auckland, in which tenants come and go as they please on 3 weeks notice, pay fortnightly and have a fortnights worth of bond.
We didn’t find any real estate agents who were helpful when renting. They are good at putting ads in papers, giving out property addresses and charging you $50 bond for borrowing the key so you can show yourself around the place.
When you decide that you want a particular place, you must apply in writing on the agent’s form. This form asks you a lot of details about employment and other rental history. You need references! Coming directly from Auckland we used our Property Manager in Auckland, my employer and relatives. After you apply, you won’t hear anything unless you are selected. You have to chase the agents to get anything. We ended up applying for perhaps 20 properties and only ever got offered 3 of them. I get the impression that most of our applications were rejected because we had no Australian rental history.
If you come across a property where the landlord is managing the property, you may go through a different process. It seemed to us that real estate agents managed the bulk of properties.
We didn’t look at the same type of properties as we were used to in Auckland, but I think renting in Melbourne is the same or cheaper than Auckland. This is probably related to the fact that interest rates for mortgages are lower as well.
We used the property section in The Age, called the Domain for most of our rental property searching.
Update 2011: This home buyers grant thing comes and goes. Stamp duty is like $20-30k on some places. Houses are expensive to buy here. A new two bedroom apartment in an inner-city suburb on the 5th floor would be about $600,000 – stamp duty on that might be $30,000. The SRO has calculators for working it out exactly (see Tax section).
The ATO (Australian Tax Office) is effectively the same as the IRD (Inland Revenue Department). You apply to them to get a TFN (Tax File Number) which is equivalent to the IRD Number.
For the state of Victoria, the SRO (State Revenue Office) collect Stamp Duty. They do this by automatically applying the tax when you do certain transactions eg buy a car.
Here are some of the taxes I know about. I’m sure there are plenty of other ones.
Update 2011: There has been a lot of tax cuts over the last few years. The top tax rate now cuts in over $180,000. Try this link: http://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/content.aspx?doc=/content/12333.htm
Update 2011: This must have been scrapped I think. I don’t have a cheque account anymore anyway.
Update 2011: Not noted earlier, but you pay this when you buy a car too.
Update 2011: We ended up living here for 3.5 years without a car, kids and all. If you have not lived here then you may think this is crazy and you may not understand how it is possible. Well, heaps of people do it. Now, we have a car but still use other means of transport predominantly.
In the central city, there is a special way to do a right hand turn in some locations. It is called the hook turn. Each hook turn location is signposted. It is used when you are turning right across tramlines and is designed to stop you blocking tram traffic. Basically, when you want to turn right, you pull out into the intersection and keep as far left as you can. When the lights go red, you turn right. If you are unsure, just follow someone else who is doing it.
It can take a long time to get from suburb to suburb, as there are plenty of traffic lights and cars. Make sure you always stop behind trams when they stop as pedestrians get out of them and walk in front of you.
There are almost always parking meters anywhere you can find to park (unless you are a motorcycle, in which case, you can park on the footpath).
In residential areas, there are normally lots of cars parked on the road. This can make some roads quite narrow.
There are no motorways in Melbourne, only freeways and tollways. Of course, freeways are free and you have to pay for tollways. The tollway system is called City Link and covers the “motorways” for a few kilometres either side of the city. So, if you want to get to the airport and have to go through the city (or past the city) the City Link offers the fastest route for a couple of dollars a go. If you use the City Link you either need a day pass or an ETAG for frequent customers (there are signs with the phone number to call).
Update 2011: There is a nice new tollway running North to South way out East (they called it Eastlink). It uses the same ETAG. They are quite organised like that, even if it is expensive. To do a full return trip to the airport (north-west) from south east of the city, using Citylink, it costs something like $13 (not including Eastlink).
Car prices are a lot higher than Auckland. On average you would pay at least 50% more for the same car. Motorcycles also suffer the same fate.
Petrol on the other hand is actually cheaper than it was in Auckland.
Update 2011: Petrol is around $1.30-$1.50 per litre (someone told me it got up to $2.40 in NZ!). There is this crazy pricing thing going on over here. Every service station is different and there is some weekly pricing cycle where it is low at one point and then high at the other point. Good luck finding the “cheap day”. Funnily enough the peak always seems to hit at the start and end of long weekends ……
It is possible to go to Vic Roads (look for Vicroads in the Whitepages) and, after paying a $40 fee and showing your NZ drivers license, to obtain an Australian Drivers license.
And lastly, don’t forget to use your horn a lot. Melbourne drivers seem to toot at any other vehicle that gets in their way or holds them up.
Update 2011: They are pretty strict with regards to parking, speeding and red lights here – most likely because it makes the government a lot of money from parking fines
By the way, Melbourne have bicycle Police, that is, Police that ride bicycles. I know this because, I was issued a ticket by them for riding through a red light.
If you go to a doctor that offers “bulk billing” you will often pay nothing for the visit. Otherwise you pay for the doctor and then claim back something like 80% of the fee from Medicare.
Medicare does not cover chemists and prescriptions.
You still need health insurance for private hospital cover and other medial cover such as dentists. In most cases, private health cover does not pay for doctors or prescriptions.
You are encouraged to take up private health cover and penalised in certain circumstances if you don’t. The penalty is something like an additional 1% levy on your wages/salary if you don’t have cover and you earn more than $50,000 or $100,000 as a family.
Update 2011: You need to apply for your Medicare card.
There are plenty of private schools. All the ones we looked at seemed to be around $10,000 per student per year.
Update 2011: The top private schools exceed $20,000 per student per year
Another option is to enrol in correspondence from NZ. To be eligible for this you need to be away from NZ for more than 2 terms and less than 3 years. This could be a good option if you intend returning to NZ as it means they will be at the same level as everyone else when they return. Correspondence will probably cost you several hundred dollars in postage and course costs per student per year, depending on age and subjects taken.
Before the packing crew come in make sure that you have removed all dirt/mud from any items, especially garden and outdoor equipment. I thoroughly cleaned my motorised scooter but Australian customs insisted that it was steam cleaned before it was released. This added $150 to my bill.
Make sure you list out all items of value that need to be insured. Our insurance application included a list of categories against which we listed values. When we made a claim, the insurance company tried to tell us that we did not have a category under which our filing cabinet was listed.
Our total claim was between $1000-$2000 and it was mostly damage that seemed due to rough handling eg a broken table leg and a fridge door out of alignment.
I suspect that it would be cheaper to insure directly through the insurance company.
Update 2011: Cheap GPS units have changed this to a large degree, from free on phones to something like $150 for a low-end brand name car-mountable one.