Life as an F3 doctor in Waikato, New Zealand
Moving abroad as a junior doctor can be scary, so knowing what to expect before you take a new job is really important. Here, we’ll take a closer look at Waikato in New Zealand to help you decide if it’s a good fit for your F3 year in Australia or New Zealand.
Where is Waikato?
Waikato is a lesser-known, but incredibly beautiful, region in New Zealand’s North Island. It is named after the Waikato River which runs through it, meaning ‘flowing water’ in Maori. It encompasses a large area, stretching from Coromandel Peninsula in the north, to the north-eastern slopes of Mount Ruapehu in the south.
The biggest, and only, major city in the region is Hamilton. With a population of 166,000 people, it is the fourth-biggest city in New Zealand.
If you are looking for big city lights and action, this is not the spot for you. However, if you are looking for an outdoor wonderland, which still offers enough city amenities and conveniences, it’s definitely worth considering.
The region includes 21,000 migrants so far from the UK and Ireland and has a very young population, with around half of the residents aged under 30, which means you’ll meet many people like you there.
Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, is 71 miles north of Hamilton, a drive that would take you around an hour and a half.
What is there to do in Waikato?
Hobbiton and The Shire
Waikato, and the town of Matamata, is famous for being home to ‘Hobbiton’ and ‘The Shire’ in The Lord of Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies. You can visit the set and take guided tours around the town.
Hamilton Gardens & Waikato Museum
One of the biggest tourist attractions in the region is the Hamilton Gardens. These are essentially an exhibition of the history of flowers and plants from across the world, with some of the concepts on display dating from 4000 years ago. There is also a strong representation of Maori cultivation methods and ceremonial practices. The other great manifestation of Maori culture in Hamilton is the Waikato Museum, containing lots of Maori exhibitions, both historical and contemporary. And what makes both of these places even better? They’re both completely free to enter.
The western part of the region is also on the coast of the Tasman Sea, meaning you can have your regular beach days to unwind. A particular highlight for many people is the area of Raglan, a buzzing surf town renowned for its black sand coastline and for having great, consistent waves.
From casual strolls along river banks to overnight bush excursions and mountain top vistas, the Waikato region also has a huge variety of hiking options and cycling trails. If being in nature floats your boat, you will easily find a trail or track for most weekends of the year.
Finally, the Waikato region is the place to make the most of some of New Zealand’s best local produce. Famed for award-winning cheese and wine, fresh produce including asparagus or blueberries, and the crème de la crema of coffee roasters. There are numerous farmers markets, cafes and restaurants to keep your belly and your instafeed full.
What's the weather like?
The weather always plays a big part in our decision to travel. Waikato has a mild temperature not so different from London, with summer highs between 22 and 28º C and the lowest temperatures in winter being between 0 and 8º C. The big plus it has over the UK, however, is that they average 2,200 hours of sunshine hours per year, which means they have 40% more sunshine than we get here - the bleak days will be a distant memory once you’re in Waikato!
Waikato averages 40% more sunshine per year than the UK
How does the cost of living compare?
It’s always interesting to compare the prices in less prominent regions to those in the big cities, as one reason for people not wanting to stay in the hubs of countries is the price (see Exhibit A...London!). According to the Numbeo Cost of Living database, rent prices in Hamilton are 39% lower than Auckland and 34% lower than Wellington.
Transport also comes in much cheaper in the Waikato city, and these are likely to be two of the biggest considerations when looking to find a new job as a doctor overseas. On the other hand, Hamilton appears to be noticeably more expensive if we look at restaurant prices, utilities or sport and leisure activities, so it depends on what you are planning to do in your free time! You can find the complete comparison with Auckland here, and that with Wellington here.
What are the local hospitals?
Waikato Hospital in Hamilton is one of the biggest single-site hospitals in the country. It is one of 6 hospitals in the region and provides services to an area that represents 8% of the national population.
If you want to learn more about Waikato, check out this video, and the official government site has lots more information.
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