A Kiwi in Munich

Our international NZ Greens network is growing! Penny Leach has started up Kiwi Greens in Europe and is campaigning from Germany. She shares what drives her.

Hi, I’m Penny. profileI’m originally from Wellington, but I live in Munich, Germany. I left New Zealand in early 2008 and have lived in London and Switzerland before setting down here with my new family. I’m planning on voting for the Greens this election and I wanted to share why.

I never wanted to be one of those expat Kiwis who fell into one of the two stereotypical groups: either those that loved their adopted cities and couldn’t see the positives about New Zealand anymore, or those who missed New Zealand terribly and couldn’t appreciate wherever they were abroad. Since leaving I’ve tried to keep an open mind and use my experiences travelling to appreciate what I love about New Zealand, but also identify ways New Zealand could be doing things better.

For me, the Green Party represents most closely the changes in New Zealand while the #LoveNZ election theme taps into how I feel about (and how much I miss!) my home country.

One of the starkest differences between the city I live in now, Munich, and pretty much everywhere I’ve ever been in New Zealand, is how completely unnecessary it is to have a car here. Munich city has about the population of Auckland urban area, but with about three times the density. This means that if the car ownership was the same, traffic in the city would be astronomical. This higher density also makes public transport much easier.

Munich has an amazing public transport system, comprised of trains, trams and buses, and car sharing is becoming more popular.

The coverage of the city is excellent, the ticketing is much simpler than in New Zealand, and the timetable is both way more frequent, and way more reliable. We do actually own a car (we bought it when I was 8 months pregnant with my first child) but we hardly ever use it.

Apart from public transport, our primary means of transport in Munich is biking. I was never, ever a cyclist in New Zealand and I’m ashamed to say I had the same sort of attitude towards cyclists that most New Zealanders do – lycra wearing freaks who are annoying to pass on our roads. But since moving here I’m a complete convert.

In Munich you see people in suits cycling to work, and people cycling to the park with picnic baskets. I’ve learned how to cycle in a dress and heels if I need to! When we first moved here I saw someone cycling in the rain holding an umbrella in his left hand, and I thought it was hilarious! But it’s the sort of thing I would do now without even thinking about it.


We have a bike trailer for our daughter and we use it for everything from grocery shopping, taking her to crèche, heading to a beer garden for Sunday lunch, to meeting friends for play dates. The cycle path coverage is excellent, and unlike the few cycle paths I’ve seen in New Zealand, the paths here are almost always between the parked cars and the footpaths.

I read the other day that the modal share for cycling in Munich is 17% (compared to 3% in Wellington, 8% in Christchurch, and 1% in Auckland). Because it’s so normal here and so well supported, it’s really safe. I don’t feel scared at all cycling around with my two-year-old in the trailer. It was a great way to get back in to shape again after our daughter was born, and I love that she’s growing up thinking biking is a completely normal way to travel.

If you look at those tables in the article I linked above, and include public transport and walking, the leftover modal share for private cars in Munich is only 37%! Compare that with New Zealand – 65% drive their cars to work in Wellington, 78% in Christchurch, and 89% in Auckland. Can you imagine the impact reducing the number of people driving to work in those cities to even close to that amount? It would make such a huge difference to the livability of our cities. Not to mention the land that could be reclaimed from parking infrastructure and reused!

I would love to see a government in New Zealand stop investing so much in roads and prioritise public transport, cycling and walking.

The Greens have great policy in this area and I dearly hope they have a chance to make some of it a reality.

The Greens have many policies that resonate with me, but another one that’s important to me is about shifting the economy from a (largely) one trick, unclean pony to a more diverse, highly skilled, higher wage one. I worked as a programmer for close to 10 years before I became a full time mum, and while that exact lifestyle is not for everyone, those sorts of high tech, well paying jobs are the sort of jobs we should be aiming more and more for. New Zealand needs to invest much more in education and R&D to get there, as well as infrastructure. We need to keep more of the vertical stack in New Zealand and stop exporting raw products. I think the Greens have a great plan to do it.

I didn’t get close to a $140,000 a year salary when I was working in New Zealand, but if I did, I would happily pay more tax to ensure that kids in New Zealand get better chances.

Those are some of the reasons I’ll be voting for the Green Party from Germany this election. I hope you consider doing so too, from wherever you are in the world!

If you’re a kiwi living overseas, there’s still time to vote in the NZ election. Check out votefornz.com for all the essential information – plus come join us at our election breakfast party on the morning of the 20th.


1 thought on “A Kiwi in Munich

  1. Pingback: Globetrotting Greens #2: Penny in Munich |

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