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Otago is one of New Zealand’s most scenic and therefore photographed, regions. The sky-piercing mountains of the southern Alps, a collection of spellbinding glacial lakes and miles of winding, wild coastline mean that Otago is a popular destination for tourists, but it’s becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for skilled migrants, too.

The urban centre of Dunedin and perennially popular resort of Queenstown means that Otago will continue to thrive and grow. Thus, opportunities for skilled migrants are becoming increasingly abundant – and there are few places in New Zealand that will give them an authentic taste of the kiwi experience.

A look at a modern Otago

Otago is enormous, at least in New Zealand terms – at some 32,000 square kilometres, it’s the second-largest region in the country. Much of that space is made up of crystal lakes, verdant forests, mighty glaciers and wild beaches. Indeed, Otago has always been a huge farming region, but today, there’s far more to it than sheep and cows.

There’s space for a bustling student city in the shape of Dunedin, a thriving ski and adventure resort in Queenstown, as well as the popular residential hubs of Wanaka of Oamaru. With such a diverse selection of places to live and work, skilled migrants largely have their pick when it comes to career opportunities. The world-renowned University of Otago means that education is a big sector, especially medicine and dentistry, but tourism, agriculture and horticulture are all important industries here, too.

Living in Otago

Otago is among the most diverse of all New Zealand’s regions. The mountainscapes, forests and lakes intermittently give way to busy urban areas and secluded hamlets, and it’s this variety that remains a big drawcard for skilled migrants. Whether you fancy an evening on the ski slopes after a day on the clock, or perhaps a glass of the good stuff in an artisan bar, it’s likely you’ll find what you’re looking for in Otago.

Dunedin is a booming city that’s also home to New Zealand’s only castle. With approximately 20 per cent of the population comprised of students, according to New Zealand Now, there’s always something going on for the discerning explorer. Queenstown is among the country’s premier ski resorts, but the self-styled ‘Adventure Capital of the World’ also offers bungee jumping, jetboating and skydiving if you feel so inclined. Wanaka and Oamaru are smaller, but still offer a raft of things to see and do – as well as job opportunities aplenty.

Otago is a popular destination among skilled migrants. New Zealand Now states that almost 20 per cent of the population of Otago were born outside of New Zealand – that’s around 40,000 people. Largely, they come from the UK and Europe, with pockets of Asian and Australian migrants also making their home here.

What’s it like to work in Otago?

Otago has been the third-fastest growing region in New Zealand for some time now, it’s GDP growing by 4.8 per cent in the last year, according to Statistics NZ. The unemployment rate in the region is just 3.8 per cent, according to New Zealand Now. This figure compares to a national average of 5.4 per cent, with construction and tourism leading the way, alongside agriculture.

White-collar professionals are in high demand in Otago, with the region always on the lookout for legal, IT and property professionals. The construction sector also continues to grow – some 3,000 construction specialists, from crane operators to forklift drivers, through to building managers and labourers, are required each year, according to government statistics.

Of course, Otago’s long agricultural history means that there are plenty of employment opportunities in this sector. It’s not just farmhands and shepherds that can land a role here, though – mechanics, electricians and other skilled professionals are all required to help keep this industry running as smoothly as it ever has.

What to do in Otago

Coming to the end of a day’s work in Otago is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Rather than simply heading home, you’ll have a veritable raft of things to see and do. Here are just a few of them.

The blue penguin colony at Oamaru showcases the smallest penguin species on the planet, with daily viewings in the late afternoon. A purpose-built viewing stand has been built in the area, allowing you to watch the penguins go about their day, in their natural environment – an Oamaru must-do!

Have you ever been to a theme park dedicated solely to puzzles? You’ll find just that at Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World, a few minutes’ drive from Wanaka. Here, you’ll find a gigantic outdoor maze, lose all sense of perception in the Illusion Room and even get your picture taken with the Leaning Tower of Wanaka.

Lake Wakatipu forms the backdrop of many a scenic photograph of Queenstown. Aptly then, there are plenty of water-based activities for you to try out. A white-knuckle jet boat ride across the mirror-like waters will get your pulse pounding, but if you fancy something a little slower-paced, jump aboard the century-old TSS Earnslaw.
This paddle steamer will take you on a tour of some of the most jaw-dropping of the lake’s sights, just as it has done since 1912 – great mountainscapes, ancient caves and local wildlife await!

Back in Dunedin, Baldwin Street has been recognised by the Guinness Book Of Records as the world’s steepest street. It rises by one metre for every horizontal 2.86 horizontal metres, and is so steep that concrete steps are needed, rather than a footpath.
Houses are largely obscured by the sharp gradient, and walking up the 350-metre street will take a good 10 minutes – but the view from the top is well worth the effort.

New Zealand has but one castle, and you’ll find it in Otago. Not far from Pukehiki, Larnach Castle was completed in 1874 and is open to the public year-round. Set in several acres of award-winning gardens, Larnach Castle has everything a history buff could want – from suits of armour, a fine art collection and a grand ballroom. Guided tours are hugely popular, and you can even spend the night there, if you dare – that’s right, several ghosts are reputed to stalk the halls of the old place, so only the brave need apply.
Otago is a hospitable region that welcomes skilled migrants with open arms. A region well worth considering when planning your move to New Zealand.

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