Christchurch with over 310,000 people is the largest city in the South Island and is always described as the most English of the cities. The people are friendly but more reserved here and the pace of life slower than that of the North Island. The concept of good service is yet to infiltrate into all aspects of business.
Cold southerly winds in the winter has meant that miles of shoreline remain undeveloped and provide remote beaches in the summer You do not really have the same relationship with the sea as you would in Auckland.
The city centre however, is far more people orientated with a beautiful park and a river running through the middle. There is ample opportunity to live only a 20 minute drive from the centre of Christchurch and still enjoy a rural lifestyle.
Dunedin, the second largest city in the South Island, has a population of approximately 110,000. It has had more of a Scottish influence and at one time was the wealthiest city in New Zealand. It boasts a lot of distinctive buildings and is the home of Otago University (well known for its medical school).
There is a large port and you have access to the sea and beaches. The area is hilly, in fact the steepest street in the world is in Dunedin. House prices are cheaper than Christchurch.
Should the idea of living in or around a big city not appeal, then there are other urban areas which range in population from 148,000 in Hamilton to 20,000 in Masterton. I would strongly recommend perhaps hiring a campervan and touring the different places as they vary quite considerably and all have distinct personalities. Many, particularly in the far north, comprise practically entirely of Maori communities.
Obviously your top priority will be finding work, so you need to be realistic and take this into account when choosing where to live.
For immigrants thinking they would prefer to live in a very small town I would mention that they are quite different to the quaint villages you know back home and standards of living can be quite low.
There are still a few active volcanoes in New Zealand. White Island off the east coast in the Bay of Plenty, steams and erupts continuously.
Wherever you settle in New Zealand earthquakes are a real possibility. There are many small earthquakes each year but they do not cause any damage. Napier in the Hawke’s Bay region experienced one of New Zealand’s worst disasters in 1931, when an earthquake virtually destroyed the town with the loss of life totalling about 500 overall.
My first experience of an earthquake, when the whole room shook, left me determined to catch the next flight back to Britain, but I quickly forgot about it. New Zealanders take them in their stride and most people opt for earthquake cover to be included in their home contents insurance as a matter of course.
Should a violent earthquake hit, it is recommended that you stay indoors, keep away from windows and heavy furniture, and take cover in a doorway or under a strong table or other support.