Dean and Tabatha Forbes from Suffolk said they fell for New Zealand's relaxed way of life and other charms on a brief visit last year.

"It was the lifestyle," said Mrs Forbes. "People here are so relaxed. There's country living and the chance to be outside more ... It's kind of like England was 30 years ago."

The couple spent much of this year planning to move here and all was going well when Mr Forbes landed a job as an aircraft engineer at Ardmore Airport.

Mrs Forbes, an IT manager for a housing charity in England, was confident she too would find work.

They took some time out from job hunting to learn more about New Zealand and went to the Auckland Museum on Wednesday.

But their cultural insight was not a great one - they came out of the museum to find a rear window of their rental car been broken.

Two suitcases with all of their clothes were stolen, as were an iPad, Mrs Forbes' laptop, iPhone chargers, cash and Christmas presents they had bought for their friends and family.

"The only things we had left were the clothes we had on, our passports, a camera and two bags of dirty laundry," said Mrs Forbes.

Among the items taken was a gold necklace, left by Mrs Forbes' mother in her will.

She said the necklace had a lot of sentimental value and she wanted it returned. "It's something that's important to me."

Catherine Neazor Brady, an immigration consultant helping the Forbes with their planned move to New Zealand, hoped the couple would not judge the country on one incident.

But Mr Forbes, who until Wednesday was "99 per cent certain" of moving here, said the theft had "put a big dent" into how they see the place.

"That's probably due to what's happened more than anything ... It could possibly happen anywhere, but we have never been victims of crime in our 34 years while living in the UK," he said.

The couple, who have been staying with friends in Te Awamutu, are now looking forward to their return to Britain on Tuesday.

They are hoping that before they leave, some of their belongings, especially the gold necklace, will be handed in to police.

"We are going to take some time to think about the move now," said Mr Forbes. "We need to be in a more familiar place."