Aussies value NZ entitlements

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013

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When Australians Adam and Shana Greer moved from Brisbane to Napier, there was help on hand.

Within weeks of touching down, the married couple were able to claim Working for Families and subsidised childcare for their young son.

After two years, if one of them had lost their job - which neither did - they would have received an unemployment benefit and help with finding a new job. "We were pretty much entitled to anything Kiwis are," Mr Greer said.

Six years later, the couple have had little need for assistance. They bought the struggling Hog's Breath Cafe franchise in Napier and turned it into a profitable venture. Since then, they have opened another cafe in Hamilton and now employ about 60 people.

"I never expected any handouts in New Zealand, but it is great they are there," Mr Greer said.

Last year 2990 Australian citizens migrated to New Zealand, a trickle compared with more than 53,000 New Zealanders travelling the other way.

But while better wages may be luring more Kiwis to Australia, the New Zealand government is considerably more generous to Australian new arrivals.

After clearing immigration, Australians are automatically given residency, entitling them to work indefinitely in New Zealand. After two years they gain full access to social welfare and, after five, they can apply for New Zealand citizenship.

Conversely, New Zealanders who move to Australia are considered temporary residents upon arrival. They can work and live in Australia indefinitely - a right afforded only to Kiwis - but they cannot access many social security payments, including unemployment benefits.

Some of the benefits that are available - such as superannuation and severe disability payments - are paid for by the New Zealand government, which paid out more than $200 million last year to support expatriates in Australia.

Many New Zealand children who finish school in Australia cannot access student loans or work in government jobs, because of their "temporary" status.

To gain the same rights as Australians have in New Zealand, Kiwis must apply for permanent residency and meet strict skill requirements.

It has been estimated as many as half of the New Zealanders who have migrated to Australia in the last 12 years are ineligible for permanent residency.

Mr Greer said New Zealanders going the other way were good for the Australian economy and - providing they had been working and paying tax for a few years - should get the same support. "I'm a strong believer that you should look after yourself. But if you have been paying taxes for two years, you should get the entitlements."

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Unless the economy turns particularly sour, the Greers have no intention of returning to Australia. Although they came "purely as a business opportunity", they now have New Zealand-born children and are enjoying the more relaxed lifestyle.

KEY: UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS

Prime Minister John Key has warned New Zealanders heading over the ditch that they need to be fully aware of their limited rights in Australia.

"I say to New Zealanders thinking about crossing the Tasman, make sure you understand . . . what your rights and opportunities are," he said during a post-Cabinet press conference yesterday.

The comments follow a report in The Dominion Post that the Australian Government is considering loosening access to permanent residency for New Zealanders, but only after they have been living in Australia for nearly a decade.

The changes could potentially open access to welfare, state jobs and tertiary education for thousands of expat New Zealanders, but critics says it is too little too late.

Australia's policy towards thousands of New Zealanders - who are allowed to live, work and pay taxes indefinitely but cannot access many social supports - has been described as discriminatory and even racist by some critics.

- The Dominion Post

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