Manawatu living: Why Palmerston North Should be on your radar for beginning your career
Written by: Jack Buckley, Wellington
You’re about to graduate from university and you’re wondering where to go next. All too often, we see this choice of where to take a grad job as boiling down to a couple of main options: the private sector in Auckland, or the public sector in Wellington.
Not so fast. New Zealand has plenty of other places to live, and one great option is the Manawatu region. If you’ve ever had issues with the cost of living in urban centres, the traffic, the overhead costs, or felt burned out by the lifestyle, you should give strong consideration to taking a grad job in Palmerston North. Here’s why.
To live in the major metropolitan areas, you pay a premium. That goes without saying, but you’ll be amazed at what you can save when you move to Palmerston North or another regional city.
Commodities like food, fuel, and household basics are all cheaper in the regions. It’s hard to find exact data, but we can look at Expatistan, which takes a constant feed of data from users to create average price indexes. Compared to Auckland, Palmerston North is 5-10% cheaper on everything from food, to beer, to laundry detergent.
Then, there’s petrol. A quick look on the Gaspy app at the time of writing showed an average price per litre of $2.08 for 91 in Palmerston North. The cheapest station in Auckland was showing $2.22 a litre. Wellington was just as bad, with the average station charging $2.35 for a litre of fuel. On top of that, you’ll avoid the extortionate parking and transport costs that you get in big urban areas.
...and cheap to live.
Then, there’s accommodation. According to the latest QV data, the average house price in Auckland was over $1 million, with Wellington a little over $700,000 and Christchurch about $530,000. Meanwhile, Manawatu houses averaged a shade over $400,000.
There are two implications of this: firstly, lower house prices mean lower rents. You’ll instantly save a far greater proportion of your pay cheque each week, even before you spend less on everything else.
The other implication is that buying a house is still a feasible goal in the region (Palmerston North, Feilding, or other places surrounding these spots). While younger graduates are mostly locked out of big city markets by soaring prices, owning your own home in a regional city is a goal that most graduates could look at as soon as they leave university and start saving.
A relaxed lifestyle
Graduates in Manawatu can kiss the frustrations of big city life goodbye. Apart from finding everything a lot more affordable, you can also forget about traffic, packed buses, long commutes, hour-long waits for food, expensive prking, and all-night noise.
Herein lies one of the greatest appeals of regional cities like Palmerston North. You’ve still got access to all the amenities of the city, even down to art galleries, gigs, great brews and food, and concerts, but you don’t have to put up with long commutes. You can get home in 10 minutes from work with plenty of time to get out and socialise!
Be close to nature
In Palmerston North, you’re only a hop, step, and a jump away from the vast outdoors. Manawatu offers a strong range of activities, including tramping, camping, a massive mountain biking scene including Arapuke Mountain Bike Park on the tops of the mountain ranges, water sports, and more.
Manawatu features two large mountain ranges, the Tararua’s, and the Ruahine’s, which lie side by side, divided by the stunning Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge. Walking enthusiasts can take the famous Te Apiti-Manawatu Gorge track, but there are plenty of other stunning hikes in the region too including the iconic Sledge Track complete with swimming holes and caves to explore.
The ranges also offer great mountain biking opportunities, with world-class trails just a short drive from the city centre. The Manawatu Mountain Biking Club is always happy for new members. For those who prefer a more relaxed cycling experience, riding a bike is the perfect way to get around Palmerston North itself. Cycle lanes and trails criss-cross the city, and the iconic Manawatu River Pathway andHe Ara Kotahi Bridge are a must-do.
If you’re into snow sports, Ohakune and the Central Volcanic Plateau are only few hour’s drive from Palmerston North, so you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding at the North Island’s premier ski resorts.
Water lovers can also rejoice. The rivers of the region offer everything from scenic kayaking to white water rafting, and the ocean is also accessible - within 30 minutes' drive of Palmerston North city are the beach settlements of Himatangi, Tangimoana and Foxton Beach, where you can sunbathe, swim, and surf.
Strong creative, science, technology, and professional scenes
Artists, designers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and chefs make Palmerston North their home, and the artistic scene punches above its weight, something which may surprise Aucklanders and Wellingtonians. Musicians can record and gig at The Stomach, a multi-use space that encourages the music scene to grow, while artists can find the same kind of deal at Snails and Square Edge Gallery.
For those wanting a more corporate role, Manawatu offers graduate jobs in a variety of sectors. It’s a logistics and freight hub, and brings all the associated professional opportunities, but it’s also a leading agritech, food and science centre with one of the highest concentrations of scientists in Australasia. Budding entrepreneurs will be attracted to co-working spaces like The Factory, hoping to add to a number of technology startups in the city. The hospital and many specialist centres also come highly recommended by junior doctors, so you can see that graduates in Manawatu have great prospects.
There are several organisations that promote professional development and networking. You can start with the Manawatu Young Professionals Network, a good catch-all that will help you make connections around various industries, but you might also want to check out Three Keys, which run speaking engagements where leading figures in New Zealand give talks based around three key points. These events are backed up by networking sessions over drinks and nibbles.
What are you waiting for?
When you’re thinking of your graduate life after you finish your degree, Manawatu is a strong option to consider. You’ve got strong creative and professional scenes nestled in the middle of the great outdoors, away from big city problems but with big city energy. What’s more, you won’t pay much for all of it. The dream of home ownership is still alive there. Even if that’s not your dream, you’ll be able to put away savings at a strong rate, for travel, toys, or whatever it is that you fancy. Come check out Manawatu - you won’t regret it.