The Top 7 Worst Places To Live in New Zealand in 2024

New Zealand is a pretty amazing place to live, but take our word for it; there are some cities where you wouldn’t want to end up. As in any other country, some towns are extremely popular with locals and foreigners, while others are less attractive. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you spot these least desirable areas across the country.

The top worst cities in New Zealand that you should not move to:

  • Huntly
  • Ashburton
  • Dargaville
  • Waimate
  • Greymouth
  • Tapanui
  • Otara

Well, you might not be surprised to read some of the names on this list. Surely, there are reasons why these places ended up here. We have the answers to explain why these cities aren’t ideal places for living.

Also read: Cheapest places to live in New Zealand in 2024 and the best cities to live in NZ.

Worst places to live in New Zealand: 2024 guide

Before we go any further, let us tell you how we judged these cities to determine that they are less-than-ideal places for living in New Zealand.

A prominent element can be the chances of earning a decent wage. The cost of living is one of the significant downsides of living in Aotearoa.

So if your hometown isn’t easy to get sufficient employment opportunities or a town’s economy is too bad, and salaries are minimal, would you really like to call it your home?

A primary consideration will be locality – in terms of neighbourhood, crime rates, and house prices. These things are going to impact your everyday life, so they are worth considering.

New Zealand is known to experience some pretty severe weather fluctuations and natural disasters – from hurricanes and cyclones, from earthquakes to volcanoes – so you should think twice before you live in a place that faces a greater likelihood of these disasters.

Here are the top 7 worst cities (the worst is the 1st) to live in New Zealand based on facts and stats:

7. Huntly

With a small population of 9,000 (in 2022) and most people who live there falling below the national average in age and income, Huntly isn’t a place we recommend for living.

Additionally, the percentage of people with a formal college degree is far below the average Kiwi population.

Huntly is 32 km North of Hamilton, so if you live in this town, you will most likely be going to Hamilton (or Auckland) for anything you can’t find.

Huntly relies on a nearby coal mine for survival. The thermal power station is the only major employment attraction (if you can even call it that), or if brick-making is your hobby, you might be keen.

The town has a total of 5 schools and one college – so if you are studying or planning to raise little ones any time soon, you better stay away from this town.

6. Ashburton

A population of 20,000 (in 2022) makes it decent-sized for Canterbury, South Island, but there isn’t much to do if you are living in Ashburton. Ironically, named Ashvegas, it would (at its best) be regarded as the ashes of Las Vegas.

Located in the Canterbury region of New Zealand, all the big cities are still far away – Christchurch is 85 km away, while Timaru is 75 km away. Yes, you wouldn’t be near any major town if you lived in Ashburton.

The only reason you would ever be willing to live in Ashburton is if you want farming to be your bread and butter. Since agriculture and pastoral lifestyle is the only choice in this city, no wonder people with college degrees make up only 10% of its population.

You can expect a drier climate (than nearby regions) in summer, and frosty wind plus snowfall in winter is what you can expect every year.

Yes, there is a hospital, a railway line, an airport with minimal use, and seven schools. Still, unless you are aspiring for a future in meat or vegetable processing, we wouldn’t really recommend Ashburton for a living.

What are the most beautiful cities to live in New Zealand? Find out here.

5. Dargaville

Dargaville is a tiny town with a little over 5,000 people living there (in 2022). Local people call it a dump hole because no one really wants to live here, and you shouldn’t as well.

Located in Kaipara District, it’s 55 km from Whangārei and 174 km from Auckland.

There are minimal job opportunities in the town, so most people commute to nearby cities for work. There is a very small hospital, but for most things, you will just have to drive to Whangārei or Auckland.

It is known for producing Kumara, and there is nothing else in this town that will interest you enough to live there. Dargaville has one of the biggest native Kauri trees, so maybe visit it once in a lifetime?

4. Waimate

A population of 7,800 (in 2018) means you will not see many people in Waimate. Located in the Canterbury region of South Island, it is 45.7 km away from Timaru – in essence, there are no major cities anywhere close to it.

There is a factory for making fries, a sawmill, and a milk powder factory – if you want a job in any of these three, sure, be their guest – but anything other than these is non-existent in this town.

Waimate is far away from the highway, so it’s easily bypassed by tourists as well. There is practically next to zero tourism because of the lack of attractions – there is nothing much to see there.

The city is known for wallabies brought over from Australia. So, even if you are a fan of wallabies, a day trip is all you need, don’t think about living there.

3. Greymouth

“Actually, after visiting Greymouth and the stunning area around, I don’t think it’s a bad place to live. At all.”

Well, there is a bit of sarcasm in its name because the town is literally like a grey mouth – dull, morning, wet, and warm.

Greymouth is one of the biggest towns in the West Coast region of South Island. With a population of 14,000 people (in 2022), it contains half of the West Coast’s population.

Coal and gold mining, fishing, and forestry are the major industries in this town. The rest of the economy relies on tourism.

Being right on the coast, it gets marine westerlies all around the year, which means more rain and warmer summers than the rest of New Zealand.

Greymouth has had its fair share of tornadoes. If you are not ok dealing with frequent flooding and chilly winds (called The Barber), then you may consider living elsewhere.

2. Tapanui

Tapanui is a very small town, and when we say ‘very small,’ we literally mean it. You can only live here if you are retired, love fishing and watching deer, and want to be away from the rest of the country. It is 1.5 hour’s drive from Dunedin and 2.5 hour’s drive from Queenstown.

A population of about 900 people (in 2018) tells you that not many people want to live there. There is a school and a college, and that’s pretty much it.

There isn’t a single thing that Tapanui is known for. Only people who want to hike and explore the wilderness would go there because there are no other things to do.

1. Otara

Photo credit: Phillip Capper

Don’t let Otara fool you just because it’s last on the list – it equally deserves the title of being one of the worst places to live in New Zealand. In fact, it’s one of the least areas we recommend you move to.

Otara is a suburb of the most populated city in New Zealand, Auckland. Located in the south of Auckland, it’s home to about 24,000 people (in 2022) – 78% of whom are Pacific Islanders.

The suburb is notorious for having the highest crime rate. There are gangs everywhere, which means a lot of police presence, raids, and fights. Hostilities between members of the public are a common sight. In short, do you really want to live there unless you are aspiring to climb the ladders of gang groups?


The country, people, and everything else about New Zealand is just great. If you want to settle here, we have given you a list of the worst places to live in the country, so avoid these, and you will be fine.

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