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Doing Business in New Zealand – Auckland vs The Regions

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As an IT Recruitment Specialist, I have worked in both Auckland and Tauranga which has taught me a lot about how different parts of New Zealand do business. I love my job, as it allows me to be at the forefront of strategic conversations with a huge variety of companies of all sizes across various industries.

My clients discuss the latest developments in technology with me along with their strategic plans and obstacles to the ongoing growth of their business. This can include anything from talent shortages, losing candidates to slow recruitment processes, and competing for talent.

These conversations help me gain a deeper and more meaningful understanding of their business, as well as the challenges faced by businesses and industries right across the country.

Here are my observations on doing business in regional New Zealand.

The Big Smoke vs the Regions

Beyond Recruitment has our two main offices in Wellington and Auckland and we often compare these markets in terms of economic, cultural and recruitment trends. Our 2019/20 Beyond Recruitment Economic and Labour Report Plus Salary Guide even includes an in-depth side-by-side guide of permanent salaries and contract rates between the two cities.

We’ve found there is a vast cultural difference between employers in Auckland and the majority of employers in the regions. Many regional employers are more forward-thinking and flexible regarding things like work-life balance. Glide times and partial work from home options are also common in many small, medium and large enterprise organisations in the regions.

I’ve also found word-of-mouth, networking and community to be far more prominent, which in turn makes business relationships more meaningful. It’s not uncommon to bump into clients on the weekend in restaurants or even on the beach.

A Focus on Longevity

From a recruitment perspective, despite much smaller talent pools in the regions, particularly in technical IT roles, employers don’t compromise when it comes to team fit. The majority of employers have mature, robust recruitment processes with motivational and behavioural interviewing combined with aptitude/personality tests to assess the team fit.

In focussing so heavily on the candidate’s aptitude for high performance rather than putting experience or technical skills first, employers in the regions are able to open up their talent pools. This attracts individuals who will deliver excellent value to the business for years to come.

Longevity and even extreme-longevity within one particular organisation can be seen all across the regions. As many employees choose to move to the regions for the enviable lifestyle, most employers understand that a new hire is likely going to be ‘part of the family’ for the next 4-6 years on average. Most organisations I work with have multiple employees who have 10+ years’ tenure with the business.

A Hub for Innovation

From an IT perspective, there are constantly innovative and exciting technology products and services being developed with a wide variety of software development houses and enterprise commercial environments. They seem to have surprisingly large well-funded research and development teams at the forefront of this, which offers great job opportunities. I’ve also seen many businesses with cultures where everyone has a voice and can make an impact on the product or service being delivered.

Smart leaders are also increasingly seeing the potential of the regions, including start-ups and large enterprises who are relocating their headquarters. This is mainly because spots like Tauranga and Hamilton are primed for rapid growth over the next decade. Some of that rapid growth can be attributed to the high cost of housing in the bigger cities and narrowing of the liveability gap.

Employers in larger cities often have to pay larger salaries to attract candidates struggling to afford commuting costs, accommodation and childcare. Renting office space is one expense but it’s nothing compared to the high salaries needed to compete for talent in a crowded market. If you pay your employee $80,000 per annum in Hamilton, you would need to pay the same employee at least $20,000 more in order for them to enjoy the same standard of living in Auckland.

The Challenges of Regional Recruitment

As much as I’m delighted with my lifestyle change moving from Auckland to the regions, I am conscious there are challenges recruiting into rural or seaside towns and cities such as:

  • Greater talent shortages than the bigger cities.

There are an estimated 50,000 people employed in IT in Auckland versus an estimated 11,000 IT employees in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato combined.

  • Employers often need to attract candidates from Auckland and Wellington to secure individuals with skills that are critical to their business.

This can lead to a number of logistical challenges such as selling property and changing schools, as well as the emotional strain of moving away from family and networks of friends.

  • Long-term retention can depend on candidates’ partners adjusting to the move.

Some clients see their new employees settle in well to their new teams, but their spouse or partner struggles to find suitable employment. This can lead to couples drifting back to the city where there are more opportunities for them both to further their careers.

  • The initial willingness to commute is sometimes short-lived.

Candidates can be initially happy to commute back and forth to avoid uprooting their family in Auckland, but sometimes the travel wears thin and the candidate is lost to the first Auckland-based role that comes their way.

  • Some regional businesses are unable to constantly innovate.

With employees’ extreme longevity within the business, many companies in the regions are struggling to balance this with the ambition and ongoing growth of their team members.


If you’re interested in relocating out of Auckland and into the regions, contact our team at Beyond Recruitment. We can talk through the challenges and rewards of leaving the big cities, and find employment opportunities that progress your career while offering that lifestyle change you’re looking for.

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