West Coast

The West Coast is famous for dramatic scenery, high rainfall, National Parks and characterful locals. Tourism, Mining and Agriculture are the major earners here.

Map showing West Coast region

  1. West Coast
West Coast

The region stretches 600 km along the western side of the South Island. The largest town is Greymouth (population around 13,000), which is a ½ hour drive from Hokitika and 1½ hours’ from Westport. Driving from Greymouth to Christchurch, crossing the southern alps over the spectacular Arthur’s Pass, takes 3 hours.

There are daily flights from Hokitika to Christchurch and Wellington to Westport, providing easy access to international connections.



Population (2018 Census)


% born outside NZ:


Average house price Dec 2019:

Buller: $207,798
Grey: $226,981
Westland: $268,369

Median Wage


The West Coast is rugged, and in many parts, heavily bush-clad or forested. A number of New Zealand’s most beautiful national parks, forests, rivers and heritage areas are located in the region.

The drama is heightened by the nearness of the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s highest mountain range with 19 peaks over 3,000m tall. Even on the coast, these giants are only about 50km away.

The alps are huge rainmakers, with annual rainfall in the region of around 2.8 metres.


Coasters, even in the towns, enjoy a low-pressure rural or semi-rural lifestyle while still enjoying access to a good range of amenities. With so much rainforest on the doorstep, tramping, hunting, kayaking, mountain biking, and fishing are all popular local pastimes.

One of the attractions of the West Coast is its people. Living in relative isolation (the Coast is New Zealand’s least populated region) in such a rugged environment, “Coasters” are known for their self-reliance and independent ways.

Economy and industry

Tourists (including many eco-tourists) flock to the region for its glaciers, ‘pancake rocks’, wild and unspoiled beauty and native birds.

Commercial fishing in the area is rewarding but challenging; the Tasman sea is often rough. Gold has been productive not just in the rush years of the 1860s but on a smaller scale since then. There is limited logging of native timber literally on a tree by tree basis, and the West Coast has always produced excellent coal.

More recently dairy farming has also expanded, as previously marginal land has become economically viable.


The West Coast is known for its very high rainfall and rapidly changing weather. Summer temperatures range between 12-25°C, falling to 5-15°C in winter. Snow is rare.

Winter is usually the driest season, while spring is the wettest.

Top five migrant populations (2018 Census)

Many migrants have already made the West Coast home. The table below shows where these migrants are moving from and demonstrates the diverse population you can expect to find in the West Coast.

It can be comforting to know there are others, similar to you, who have experienced the move.

Country of origin and no. of migrants from each country

Country of origin

No. of migrants

UK and Ireland

1105 (3.5%)


821 (2.6%)

Australia 537 (1.7%)
Europe (excl. UK and Ireland) 410 (1.3%)
Middle East and Africa 347 (1.1%)

Now that you know about what the West Coast has to offer, have a read about everyday life in the region, and services and support you can access.

In this section

Upcoming events in your region

Events for new migrants are regularly held throughout the country. Gain local insight into finding a job and getting setup and settled in New Zealand.

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