The current RN salary scale gives an RN with at least 4 years experience an annual salary of NZD66,750.00 for a full time equivalent (80 hours/fortnightly). That's roughly NZD32/hour. This, by the way, is the highest step in the RN salary scale, meaning, even if you have 10 years experience you will still get paid the same. The unions are currently negotiating a new enterprise bargaining agreement with the district health boards or DHBs (the publicly funded health entities that manage all matters relating to health and hospitals). The current agreement expires in July. When that comes through, hopefully you will see a yearly pay rise of one to two dollars per hour every year. You also get paid a weekend penalty of 50% on top of your hourly rate for working Saturdays and Sundays (so if you're getting paid $32/hour, it becomes $48/hour). Any hours worked between 20:00 and 07:00 attract a 25% penalty. You get paid double for working on public holidays (there are about 11 in a year) and will also get a Lieu Day whether you work on a public holiday or not. A lieu day is like a paid day-off which you can accumulate and use as annual leave. Lieu days get paid roughly 25% more on top of your normal hourly rate. You get annual leave of 4 weeks pro rated (20 days) & 1 week shift leave for shift workers. All up, if you work weekends all the time, and with regular shift work, you could go up to NZD80,000/year at least (if you work full time).
ON the nursing side of things, I somewhat disagree with the previous reply. I always use my stethoscope because I work in cardiology and a large number of patient have AFib and the automatic BP machines don't always catch their BPs. Plus, I worked in thoracic medicine for 5 years before my current job so it was my business to be always listening to patient's lung sounds. I guess it depends on where you work and what you do.
NZers are very friendly people and have a relaxed attitude towards most things. As mentioned above, healthcare is free (that's one MAJOR aspect in life that people here don't stress about)
Housing Wellington is expensive, Auckland even more (average house prices are 1millionNZD). A decent condo unit in the Auckland CBD will cost you somewhere around 350-400NZD/week, without a carpark. If you're single, you can try flatting with others or go at it alone. Of course, the further your move away from the CBD, the cheaper rent gets. You can also try living in a smaller city close to the major cities like Palmerston North (about two hours drive from Wellington) or Hamilton (about 1.5 hours drive from Auckland).
Having visited the US on several occasions, I can fairly say that the food here is expensive. It is a small country with a small population though, so the cost of growing or making anything costs more so that is to be expected. Having said that, it is not expensive to the point where you have to pinch pennies to be able to eat. Your salary as a nurse is MORE than enough to pay for rent or mortgage, food, car, insurance, travel, etc and you will still have enough left to save.
It's not as bleak as you think. When I moved here I only had NZD1,000 to last me two months! I do, however, recommend you save yourself a little nest egg before you move here.
The lifestyle in NZ is great! Everything is so close you can drive anywhere. The scenery and the natural beauty of this country still continues to amaze me to this day.
I'm assuming you've already looked up nursing registration and eligibility. That can be the tricky part, if anything.