Teachers driven out of Auckland by rising living costs

Teacher shortages in Auckland have reached a crisis point, with many principals worried they'll have to cancel classes.

They say teachers are being driven out of the city by soaring housing and rental prices, but the Education Minister doesn't seem to think the problem is that bad.

Jan Handey was a geography teacher at Whangaparoa College in Auckland for 11 years, but this month instead of returning to her old job, she's starting a new one - in a new city.

"It's got so big that I don't want to be there, it's very expensive," she says.

She plans to sell her Auckland house and buy in Christchurch.

"Financially it will be much better for us and that's important coming up to my age."

And Ms Handey isn't alone in her choice - one Auckland school principal Newshub spoke to still had four jobs to fill just days away from the start of school.

"There are many fewer applicants for those positions and the quality is lower than we've had in the past few years," says James Thomas from the Auckland Secondary Schools Principals Association.

With the average age of a secondary teacher way into the 50s and younger ones unable to afford to live in our biggest city, finding new ones to replace retiring teachers is getting harder.

"We're thinking of it as a crisis because there are going to be classes without teachers, we'll start with a reliever and the Head of Faculty will have to prepare lessons," Mr Thomas says.

But Education Minister Hekia Parata denies there's a shortage of teachers.

"There isn't literally a shortage, but there are gaps in some subjects and in some of the skill levels, and that is something we have been working on with the Auckland Principals Association on," she says.

Ms Parata says she's not looking at an incentive for teachers to stay in Auckland.

"I think you would find there's an argument from teachers all over the country, around [challenges] they face in different ways."

A regular teacher in New Zealand can earn a maximum of $72,000 a year, with the  median house price in Auckland around $840,000 - almost 12 times the average teacher's salary.