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Thread: Dunedin vs Hamilton

  1. #1
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    Default Dunedin vs Hamilton

    Hi all,

    Was wondering if anyone had any input. In 2017 I'll be studying in NZ, provided nothing goes wrong, with my wife and pre-school daughter in tow. Due to economics (I've analysed the useful rent info on enz for eg, and it's helpful) I think we'll avoid Auckland and Wellington and, let's face it, there are few university destinations left elsewhere. The programmes on offer at Otago and Waikato look good, but I'm also thinking of living conditions too and wonder what people's impressions are of Dunedin and Hamilton.

    Before people repeat things, these are my impressions so far:

    -Both are small towns compared to what we're used to, but not insignificant in NZ
    -Dunedin is seen as isolated compared to Hamilton, which has access to Auckland for eg
    -Hamilton is sort of the butt end of jokes about being 'boring' but Dunedin isn't regarded as 'exciting' either
    -Hamilton's going to have somewhat better weather
    -Dunedin looks somewhat cheaper, rent-wise at least
    -Dunedin looks more compact and appears to have more character and would probably be better for walking, but is also hillier
    -It appears Otago/Dunedin is associated with undergrad party shenanigans which I'm too old for and which could be annoying, and generally the university seems to be the main business in town
    -Hamilton looks more spread out; when I check on google earth, it appears to be one big suburb with no city centre

    At the moment, my instinct favours Dunedin as I always like a place where there's a bit to see when walking in the town/city, and Otago has the Octagon and somewhat historic buildings and its older history where it was once #1 in NZ. I also like how it appears more compact; checking rent prices, there isn't a huge variation and all neighbourhoods look only a few kms from the university as the crow flies. What I don't know is what my transport method would be if there. There's also some kind of farmer's market on Saturdays, and a contact who lives there likes to talk about how he can pick up seafood for next to nothing (a big wild salmon for $5 was one example). Maybe I could find good use for some of my Japanese fish knives, yes.

    But that's me. My wife's Indonesian and would definitely prefer a warmer place, but we've also lived in colder Korea for more than 4 years, colder than Dunedin I'm sure. I know cheaper accomodation in NZ is poorly insulated, but not if there would be a difference between D and H in this sense. I also don't know about how she'd feel in either place culturally. I know a signficant # of NZ residents, if not white, Maori or South Asian, will be SE Asian or E Asian in origin these days, but I don't know how far this extends to areas outside of Auckland, such as D and H, nor do I know how well people mix together. My feeling is she would be okay, but it might not be as smooth as it would be in more cosmopolitan Auckland or, even more, in parts of Canada where I'm from. Safety is also a concern, and now she's used to Korea where it seems she can go most anywhere normally and not have to worry about this, apart from getting hit by bad drivers when crossing streets. She should be eligible for a work visa under the Family Stream, and so we also hope she could work part-time somehow, if our daughter is able to attend some kind of pre-school which wouldn't bankrupt us. It'd be great if there were also community activities available, too - say, community centres/local libraries with events for families and kids, even local festivals. We're not church-goers, so I wouldn't include that.

    A NZ colleague recommended Hamilton, it seems, because he thinks of Dunedin as 'remote' and H better located, with warmer weather too, although he also grew up there. But when asked if he would move back, the answer was 'no'.

    Another question would be are buses (do trams exist?) useful in either place? If not to what extent can you bicycle to the local grocer, for eg, or just get around?

    Would be interested to here any general or specific bits of info/impressions. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Dunedin is definitely more isolated than Hamilton - Hamilton is actually pretty central and well-situated with Auckland a 1.5 hr drive to the north and (if the outdoors is more your thing) mountains, beaches, grassy hills, lakes, etc all within 2-3 hrs drive. On the other hand while Dunedin is fairly close to lovely outdoorsy spots in the South Island, the closest 'city' is Christchurch which is 5 hrs drive away (and even then Chch is a lot more 'small town' than Auckland).

    City-wise I think Dunedin itself is a nicer place than Hamilton. I've been living in Hamilton for about a year and I've found out that I'm really not a huge fan of it. The 'city centre' is quite empty, with so many abandoned shop lots. It looks kind of... (forgive me Tron folks) trashy, and I wouldn't feel safe walking alone here at night. However, it's nice to be able to go to Auckland or Raglan or Taupo or Ruapehu etc for the weekend. And there are a few nice places in Hamilton - there's a lake close to the city centre, the Hamilton Gardens are quite beautiful, and driving 10 min out of the city takes you to the gorgeous rolling hills of Waikato. It would be a tough choice for sure, and my partner and I are facing this dilemma as well.

    Crime-wise Dunedin is safer than Hamilton except for the student partying shenanigans. Of course, New Zealand is a pretty safe country in general so while Hamilton feels 'less safe than average for NZ' it's still pretty darn safe in global terms.

    Buses are okay in Hamilton, but are quite sparse. Forget getting anywhere on Sunday within a reasonable amount of time, for instance. Don't know about Dunedin. Trams are not generally a main method of transport anywhere, even in places that have them they are a novelty. Cycle lanes do exist but with so many heavy vehicles in Hamilton (it's an industrial area) I wouldn't cycle on the main streets.

    Culturally, I'm Asian and, well, we are pretty much the minority everywhere except for Auckland and to a lesser degree Wellington. Not that many Asians in other parts. That isn't necessarily a bad thing though, and I've never been on the receiving end of blatant racism anywhere in NZ.
    Last edited by Elliana; 6th May 2016 at 05:32 PM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, Elliana - I've been thinking about this and will write more.

    I the mean time, Dunedin gets slammed a couple of times on this page: http://www.weatherwatch.co.nz/conten...t-weather-city

    Even Hamiton receives a blow:

    New Zealands worst weather

    I have lived in Alexandra, Dunedin, Invercargill, Oamaru, Timaru, Ashburton, Christchurch, Nelson, Masterton, Taupo, Hamilton and Auckland. Dunedin gets my vote for coldest place and Hamilton for wettest/ foggiest place.

  4. #4
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    Oh, but... The whole premise of that page is that people should say the worst. It's not serious analysis; it's someone stirring up a vox pop to get involvement, and therefore hits on their page, which will go down nicely with their advertisers.

    If you want to know what the weather's like, go to wunderground (https://www.wunderground.com/nz/auckland), look up any town that interests you, and scroll down to the 'History' box, where you can look back and see the actual data for a number of weather factors for every day through the year. That might be more useful than a lot of random strangers' highly subjective views.

  5. #5
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    I completely agree JandM about that page (http://www.weatherwatch.co.nz/conten...t-weather-city).... It's completely inaccurate and shocking! Being more serious, I think Elliana certainly raises many true valid points. However, I find it can be easy to understate just how good Hamilton's situation (location relative to others) is in New Zealand, being within 90 minutes drive time of Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo (maybe just over 90 mins), Waitomo Caves, the Coromandel Peninsula, Raglan, as well as all of the lovely quieter towns in the Waikato. There is no better city in NZ when it concerns the sheer number of good places you could go on a weekend day trip!

    These cities are very different to one another in almost everything imaginable! Some of the major things sticking out to me about the two are:
    Hamilton is bigger (and growing much faster too), with more shops, more business, more jobs, more people, (and variety of ethnicities as well). Dunedin has the large harbour and beach access which Hamilton unfortunately doesnít have, which is unusual for a NZ city (most cities in NZ are by the sea. At least the Waikato River is quite stunning, running through Hamilton). Both have universities. Both have some very nice parks and reserves. Both have stadiums, bars, restaurants etc. in similar levels to one another. Both have good and bad suburbs (Hamiltonís being more extreme). Dunedinís layout is very similar to Wellingtonís layout, with suburbs on very steep hills surrounding its flat and compact city centre (next to the harbour too, like Wellington). Hamilton is very flat overall, which can be a good or bad thing (good thing for travelling around, bad thing for lacking the pretty views you get from many Dunedin homes). Hamilton has more expensive housing, although the overall housing level of Hamilton is more modern and arguably better as well to compensate (Dunedin does have some very nice houses though as well). Hamiltonís crime rate is arguably worse, and the city from the outside (the business parts such as the CBD) may not look as appealing as many other cities such as Dunedin (as pointed out, Dunedin has some beautiful old architecture).

    There are many more differences, but I think those are some of the more crucial geographic differences between the two. I personally wouldnít choose to live in Dunedin, due to the isolation and the fact that I think Wellington outclasses it in many ways. Hamiltonís situation really is fantastic, and the city is quite well-rounded and low maintenance to live in, having shops where you want them, main roads in the right places etc. I think Hamilton offers that little bit more and is more convenient (being so close to Auckland but not in it is awesome), although both cities are perfectly fine though. Dunedin's CBD is certainly quite pretty and unique though. Gosh these places are so different when you think carefully about it

    Hope this helps,
    Ansistent

  6. #6
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    Thanks, Ansistent

    I've still been looking into this. I understand the geo advantages Hamilton seems to have - just 60 mins or 90 mins to here or there - but this is all based on car access or ownership, and that would add to a limited budget. Walkability would be a big advantage, and Dunedin's more compact. Flat Hamilton, on the other hand, sounds more bike friendly. Maybe for outside day trips, there are decent bus services, though?

    Wellington - Yes, W sounds fine too, but I'd be worried about the wind. My wife has this thing about wind and hates it. Also, if you go around on 2 wheels it sounds like it'd be strong enough to knock you off a bike. Moreover, when I've checked rental prices in Wellington they've seemed significantly more expensive. Happy to hear if I'm wrong, though. You've got Victoria U in W.

  7. #7
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    Hi Asteger,

    Yes Wellington is definitely more expensive per house to live in (especially compared to Dunedin!). Wellington does have heavier wind than most of New Zealand, but it generally isn't really a problem. It can be a little annoying if you are by the waterfront or up in the high parts of the hills when the wind is really heavy, but in general, the wind should be more of a minor annoyance than a deal breaker to moving to a place (being realistic). Dunedin CBD is more compact than Hamilton CBD (not by much really) but otherwise Hamilton is more compact and easier to walk around (suburbs and other areas) due to Dunedin's horribly steep hills and poor road layout. It really depends on where you live and what you're doing I suppose. Both cities could be better than each other, depending on where you end up living and what you're looking for in a location.

    Just remember, Wellington is more expensive for a reason House prices in NZ really do reflect the desirability of many places (Auckland is so expensive because it is so sought after). There is a reason not many people immigrate to Dunedin, and many immigrate to Hamilton and Wellington and Auckland and Tauranga. That is not to say Dunedin is bad or anything; as I've pointed out, it has its charms and is very much liveable; I just think Wellington, if you can afford it, outclasses Dunedin overall.

    If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. We're happy to help.
    Ansistent

  8. #8
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    Thanks again, Ansistent.

    I'm wondering if there are any 'opponent's to the pro-Ham camp here? One thing I don't know is, of those who've written well of Hamilton here or on other threads, how many people actually live there. However, seems kind of reasonable to guess that people who've chosen to live there would naturally prefer or recommend it when asked.

    Another point, I can understand how Dunedin is considered remote. (It is. Well, NZ is all remote anyway...) This could be interesting, though. Personally, I've lived in several big cities, bigger and more international for sure than Auckland, and so if I think of NZ and its favoured urban centres I don't feel any special pull. Dunedin, which gets a bit of a 'don't go there' reaction, seems a bit more distinctive.

    I remember one writer's one dismissive take on the place, though. Just 'cold and frugal'.

  9. #9
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    I've visited both, wouldn't live in either, but certainly not in Hamilton. I am always slightly wary of places whose main attraction is that you are quickly somewhere else...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dharder View Post
    I've visited both, wouldn't live in either, but certainly not in Hamilton. I am always slightly wary of places whose main attraction is that you are quickly somewhere else...
    Hehe, yes - I've zoomed down a bit through google and wasn't struck with awe. Looks passable, though when searching for affordable places to rent the photos looked decidedly grim

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