Not sure if this is the right place to post this, but here goes. I’m emigrating with my family to NZ sometime next year, and as a traditional tabletop rpg designer and someone who would also like to give LARPing a whirl (as would my wife), one of my considerations for choosing a location to move to is how much “geek culture” is present. Not the best descriptor, I know, but basically, where are the geek hotspots in NZ? Where are the places I’m most likely to find like-minded LARPers and tabletop RPGers? Any help people can give would be hugely appreciated, thanks.
Auckland has the largest population in New Zealand by a wide margin, and also has the most larp activity with a wide variety of styles & genres throughout the year. There is also an active larp community in Wellington, similar range of styles but somewhat fewer events and smaller (probably in part because the population is smaller). Both Auckland and Wellington also have yearly larp conventions that run for a weekend. A number of larpers from Auckland and Wellington fly to the other city for big events once or twice a year, as flights are often cheap. The larp communities between these two cities are highly connected.
There is an active White Wolf larp community in Dunedin playing games in the World of Darkness settings - vampires, werewolves, etc, and some other events occasionally. Some other centres like Hamilton and Christchurch also have occasional events. But Auckland and Wellington are definitely the hives of activity.
You can find tabletop RPGs played most places, and you don’t need as many people for that as for larp, so population isn’t such an issue. Auckland, Wellington, and I think Christchurch have annual RPG conventions (the Wellington one, Kapcon, is a mix of tabletop and larp) and active communities.
In terms of general pop culture stuff, Auckland and Wellington both host Armageddon, a really massive pop culture convention featuring comics, gaming, TV & movie stars, etc.
So Auckland and Wellington are probably the best bets for getting lots of gaming/pop culture, Auckland is bigger but either would work. Maybe other considerations could help to decide between them?
I’ll just give wee old Hamilton a plug. Since I live there.
While we’re not a larping hotbed so to speak there is plenty of RPG / Table top stuff here. With a population of 130k+ we also don’t suffer the same traffic issues as the main centres of Auckland and Wellington. I cross the South end of Hamilton, West to East and my commute is 10 minutes. You can go North to South in 30 minutes… and peak traffic might add 15 minutes to your journey. We have public transport… buses. Not advanced really. You can cycle the length of the city on off road bike trails. In about an hour.
Further to this, Hamilton is really quite a short commute from Auckland (an hour 30 minutes) and is readily accessible by air to both Auckland and Wellington.
Housing is cheaper (a little, not heaps) here too, the outlook is maybe a bit rural at times, and in reality my plug is about a kind of middle ground. I wouldn’t really recommend coming to Hamilton without work, one of the big sufferings is that with a smaller population comes lessened job potential. Small towns close by and to the north, like Ngaruawahia, Taupiri, and Huntly are potential northern options though they are that, small towns. But it is on the main trunk north / south…
But ultimate reality, if you want to be at the centre of such activity, Auckland is it, Wellington next… Hamilton somewhere much lesser. I only get to a few events in Auckland but that is a function of my own resources, more than accessibility.
Thanks for the replies, everyone. It’s funny, on the NZRaG forum they seem to have a much more Wellington-biased approach.
Here’s a bit more info. if it helps: I’m a Primary teacher, my wife is a Secondary teacher, and we’re moving from north Devon in England with our two kids (who’ll be 7 and 2 when we arrive). I’m not at all experienced LARPing (though I want to give it a go) but have been involved in a lot of tabletop rpg publications (including my own award-nominated rpg, Atomic Highway, contributions to The One Ring RPG, etc.).
One thing that concerns me is how possible it is to actually live in Auckland or Wellington on two teacher’s salaries (especially as we’ll be recovering from the cost of emigrating too). It seems that house prices in both cities are sky-high, or is this not really the case? Wellington would be cool, so if the costs aren’t as insane as we’ve been led to believe, it’d be good to know. Also, are there nice places to live, somewhat more affordable, that you could easily commute to either city from?
We’ve obviously been doing a good bit of digging around, and we’re definitely going for the north island over the south (seems the best bet job wise, and the weather seems better generally; having spent 6 years in Aberdeen at one point, with ice on the inside of the windows in winter, I’m not too keen on moving somewhere cold again). The following areas look promising in terms of being affordable and providing easy access to the outdoor lifestyle we’d also like, but we’re not sure about any geek culture elements in or around them, whether LARP or tabletop:
Northland - Whangarei
Taranaki - New Plymouth, Stratford, etc.
Kapiti Coast (only an hour from Welly, so could it be a good location?)
Thanks for letting me pick your brains, everyone; hugely appreciated.
NZRaG is very Wellington focused. Diatribe has solid coverage of larpers in Auckland and Wellington with also some from Hamilton, Dunedin, Tauranga, Christchurch, and other spots.
trademe.co.nz is a decent place to look at prices for buying or renting.
Auckland is geographically big and sprawling, and pricing varies a lot. In some suburbs the house prices and rentals are astronomical, but more affordable housing is available in some suburbs further from the central city.
It also depends whether you’re looking for what kiwis think of as a house (what you might call “fully detached” in the UK? ) or a unit/apartment as the latter can be cheaper. Houses generally have yards/gardens, units less so.
We have some teachers here who might be able to advise on work availability.
I would have to agree with the Kapiti coast. You are still close enough to Wellington city but get the beach lifestyle and houses are very affordable. But big advantage is there is a good geek community there with a lot of ex pat English as well. The Schools out there have a good reputation as well, and there are a number of teachers in the community.
Whangarei seems a bit far from any geek hub. I live outside Warkworth, which is north of Auckland, but a lot closer than Whangarei. From Warkworth it takes about 45min to drive to Auckland central, which means it’s an effort, but also very doable as long as you avoid rush hour. There is a $2.20 toll on the tunnel.
Auckland will definitely have more employment opportunities, but if you can find a job elsewhere you’ll have a lot more income left over once you’ve paid the rent/mortgage! The market there really has gone completely bananas. Housing is a whole lot cheaper anywhere other than Auckland. There’s an 1100 student high school up here and a number of primaries, and even more primary schools in the surrounding country areas.
There’s also Goat Island marine reserve (amazing diving/snorkelling), Leigh, Matakana, Omaha, Orewa Beach. All kinds of outdoorsy places and things to do. (and no snow! just the occasional light frost)
I feel like I’ve gotta jump in and defend Dunedin here It’s not that cold here, certainly not “ice on the inside of your windows” cold unless your house has AWFUL insulation
Having said that, jobs for teachers here are in very short supply (I have a teaching friend who’s trying to find a job) and the larp scene is… developing (that’s my focus. Watch this space )
There is a fair amount of tabletop going on around here, but it’s reasonably disorganised.
As far as the Auckland vs Wellington debate goes, the answers here are more pro-Auckland because Ryan and Derek live there, as does amphigori although she shifted from Wellington reasonably recently What they say is right though; Auckland is simply bigger, and with that comes more people, more genres of games, bigger games, and more games. I’ve had the pleasure of larping - although not tabletop-ing - in both cities and can tell you the people are friendly, welcoming, and know how to run, and play in, a really good game. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d tend to go for Wellington over Auckland, for a bunch of reasons but travel times, property values, and the “feel” of the city are better - for me - in Wellington than Auckland.
I’d second this suggestion that if you’re looking north of Auckland, consider something like the Walkworth area rather than further up in Whangarei. Gives you a more rural, affordable lifestyle with good weather and lots of nice swimming beaches nearby while still being close to Auckland so you’re not as isolated. It’s really lovely up there near Omaha and Tawharanui beaches, and Orewa beach is nice too on the way south to Auckland. Nearby Matakana village is really cute too. Those are places I like to head for beach/holiday trips.
Whangarei is larger and may have more work opportunities, but it’s 2 hours drive from Auckland so somewhat isolated from gaming communities. Same for the rest of Northland, lovely country but a long way from anything and outside Whangarei the towns are tiny.
It depends where in those places you want to live. I can’t speak for Auckland, but in Wellington you can get cheaper housing in Kapiti or the Hutt, and both are easy to commute from (Wellington has an OK commuter rail system with good coverage to the exurbs). You can definitely get by on two teacher’s salaries, because we have geek teachers with kids who are doing just that.
Auckland or Wellington doesn’t matter that much gaming-wise; there are gamers in each, and they’re well-connected, so we see a fair amount of traffic between the two for major events. But I’d avoid anywhere outside the main centres (and maybe Hamilton?) - its tumbleweed territory. No cons, no larps, just grass and sheep.
The big downside to the move is that the application process and move itself will have wiped us out financially. That could mean having to rent for a while first, to gather enough funds for a mortgage deposit again. Anyone able to give any insight into what renting is like over there, and typical costs?
Renting is a lot cheaper than buying in the NZ market, and has the advantage that you can look around a bit and get a feel for the different areas before you commit to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Costs would depend on the area, but you could browse through the rental listings on TradeMe to get an idea of what you’d get for different prices.
Dude, you’re playing us off against each other! (And there are people who post in both forums, by the way.) Having lived in both cities, I like Wellington a lot better: the weather is a lot more variable - good days are really nice, bad days are really horrid, but at least you’re not bored, compared to Auckland is warmer but more average (and a lot more humid); I also think that Wellington City has got much better urban design than Auckland - it’s got a much more integrated feel, and has an actual ‘centre’ rather than a collection of ‘almost’ town centres that you have to drive for ages to get to and they all seem to specialise so you can’t just go to one place and get all your stuff done, you’ll have to get in a car and move on to the next one for whatever’s next on your shopping list. Also, public transport for the win! (People in the Hutt and Kapiti can sing the praises of their own areas, like.)
I can comment on Auckland, 'cos that’s where I live.
Prior to about 1990ish, insulation standards were pretty lax here, and many older houses can be relatively cold. Double-glazing is still seen as relatively novel here in Auckland, although more common in newer houses. Auckland’s public transport has suffered from decades of neglect (although the rail network has been improved significantly in the last 10 years), because of a pathological addiction to motorway development. Our motorways are excellent and non-rush hour travel is a breeze if you want to into the CBD, north, south or west (east has good arterials, though).
I can’t think of a single Auckland teacher I know who takes public transport to work, so you will need to factor in owning two cars, unless you work at the same/nearby school(s). This means you may need to consider whether your accommodation has offstreet parking (only really a problem on major arterials and inner city/city fringe suburbs). Cars aren’t very expensive here, we import most of cars second-hand from Asia, particularly Japan. The motorways tend to clog at the extremities and the major feeders during rush hour, and I would not recommend living in, say West Auckland and commuting to work in South Auckland, the motorways can eat up your time.
Homes here are not typically furnished, although more modern ones tend to come with whiteware. In general, the newer the home, the better the overall flow, however, new homes tend to be on relatively small sections (although typically fully detached) with only a small outside patio, and no lawn. Older homes can have a decent sized lawn, but many have been in-filled with new houses in recent years.
IMO, house prices (both rent and purchase) are high because of two main reasons. 1) net immigration (both international and domestic) is high, which means Auckland’s population is always growing, and at rates that outstrip newly-built houses. 2) we have no capital gains tax, which makes housing investment desirable. I don’t see either of these things changing until we get a government that includes Green ministers (earliest opportunity is late 2014). I rent a 60s era 2-bedroom upstairs unit in a nice suburb (Morningside) (<10 mins to CBD in car, good bus, rail connections) for $370/wk. If you pay $400+/wk, you get a more modern 2-bedroom unit with better overall flow. Apartments closer to the CBD are cheaper, at the cost of no back yard and one carpark or even no off-street parking. 3-bedroom flats/houses are $550+/wk for anything decent.
As Stephanie has said, TradeMe is a good source of rental info, and renting is a good option so you can see what the area is like etc. Personally, I love Auckland. Two coasts, rainforests, two harbours, vineyards, great surf beaches, lots of options for day trips either north or south. Its a mecca for kitesurfing, plenty of international acts tour here.
Anyway, hope your move goes well, and I look forward to meeting you sometime soon.
JUst thought I’d add my two cents too, I live about 30 mins north of Auckland on the outskirt of Albany. It’s semi-rural, nice and quiet, I rent a 3 bedroom detached 2 storey house for $350 a week, we have room out the back for a water tank, big clothesline and a vege and herb garden. Out the front is a good sized front lawn, parking for 2-3 cars on the driveway and a fully enclosed lockup garage which we use for storage.