The latest Quality of Life Survey has found Dunedin residents are the happiest in the nation. The government backed survey is carried out every two years across New Zealand’s largest urban areas; Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Results showed 85% of Dunedin residents think the city is a great place to live – a higher rating than anywhere else in the country. The survey also found 87% of Dunedin residents rated their quality of life positively, while six out of 10 said they enjoyed a good work/life balance. The survey results reinforced Dunedin’s reputation as a pleasant city in which to live, work, study and play.

Dunedin (Ceidrik Heward)

The southern town was once the largest and most dynamic city in New Zealand. Today, it is 6th largest but still offers spectacular coastal scenery, precious wildlife, rich heritage, a highly educated population, including the country’s oldest university, and innovative businesses.  The city has some of New Zealand’s top restaurants among the more than 50 eateries in town. The survey results also showed 95% of Dunedin people rated their city as a safe and affordable place to live, while over half agreed that their current housing costs were affordable. Dunedin rated higher than anywhere else in the country on both these measures.


Huntly is consistently rated the worst town in New Zealand and has more than once been voted the number 1 ‘Shit Town of the Year’ by voters on a Facebook page which runs the yearly competition. Both travel bloggers and quality of life surveys have rated the town the ‘Worst Place to Live’. The town of 9,000, which straddles the Waikato River, was on State Highway #1 until a bypass opened in March 2020. It is located 95 kilometres (59 mi) south of  Auckland and 32 kilometres (20 mi) north of Hamilton. It is also on the North Island Main Trunk Railway served by a daily commuter train between Auckland and Hamilton since April 2021. For most Kiwis, Huntley is of little interest as there is nothing much to do and most people who live there fall below the national average in age and income. The town’s only ‘landmark’ is a sign from an extinct chain store called DEKA. However, the main landmark is the Huntly Power Station prominently situated on the western bank of the Waikato River beside the town. It is New Zealand’s largest thermal power station in the area which is the country’s main producer of coal, producing over 10,000 tonnes a day. Huntly is also surrounded by lakes formed by open-pit mines which are used for fishing, yachting and waterskiing. The town has a large Maori population and is home to one of the first bilingual schools (Māori/English) in New Zealand. It became a total Maori language immersion school in 1994. The school was first established as a native school in 1896.


Local people call it a dump. Located beside the tidal Wairoa River in the Kaipara District, 55 km (34 miles) from Whangārei and 174 km (108 miles) from Auckland, Dargaville has a population of around 5,000 people. There are minimal job opportunities in the town. This is one of the reasons it frequently appears in lists featuring the worst towns in NZ. The area around it is one of the chief regions in the country for cultivating kumara or sweet potato, so the town is known by locals as the “Kumara capital” of New Zealand. There is a very small hospital, but for most things, residents have to drive to Whangārei or Auckland. Dargaville is marketed as the gateway to the Waipoua Forest, a protected national park and home of the biggest Kauri tree in New Zealand. However, this forest is a 45 minute drive away so cannot be classed as a town attraction.


Located 19km (11 miles) from central Auckland, Otara is home to about 24,000 people. Only 45% of the locals are employed full time meaning a large chunk of the population in the suburb have plenty of time to get into mischief. The suburb was chosen as one of the first sites in NZ for government state housing and since then, it has become notorious for having the highest crime rate in NZ. There are gangs everywhere, which means a lot of police presence, raids, and fights. Hostilities between members of the public are not uncommon. For these reasons, Otara has appeared in the list of worst places to live in NZ on a few occasions. On the plus side, the suburb does host one of New Zealand’s largest outdoor markets every weekend. This draws people from all over Auckland and has even been a destination for tourists who want to get a flavour of Polynesian life.

Ceidrik Heward

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