Kiwis burnt in the lucky country

Kiwis heading to Australia's golden shores face a stark reality of stretched wallets, safety fears, racism and discrimination.

A new study is warning of an emerging migrant underclass after a series of law changes that have left New Zealanders struggling to access welfare payments and disability care.

They are suffering socially, with one in five saying racism and discrimination is what they like least about their new lives in the supposedly Lucky Country.

A report by Professor Andrew Markus, of Melbourne's Monash University, published yesterday, looked at the attitudes and experience of 1000 recent migrants to Australia.

It found 40 per cent of expat Kiwis were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with their financial situation - the highest level of any immigrant group.

The migrants were asked whether they would describe Australians as caring, friendly and hospitable people; just 1 per cent of Kiwis did so, compared with 7 per cent of immigrants from the United States and Canada.

Kiwis were the least likely to become Australian citizens and gain the established benefits including voting rights. Just 41 per cent gained citizenship, according to the report.

While more than half of all immigrants were happy to identify with their new country, Kiwis were more reluctant. Just 32 per cent described themselves as "an Australian".

Victoria University migration researcher Paul Hamer said the "welcome mat was being pulled away" from New Zealanders in Australia.

Despite paying taxes, Kiwis could not claim many advantages that Australians could, and felt excluded. "There's been an attitude going back to the 1970s and 80s that has been negative to New Zealand migration."

New Zealanders moving to Australia are granted a special visa that allows them to live and work, but people wanting permanent residence must meet strict criteria, such as having a job on a skills shortage list, or having the sponsorship of an employer.

An editorial in Melbourne's The Age said the research hinted at "a growing problem with New Zealand-born migrants, one that should not be tritely dismissed as the result of friendly trans-Tasman rivalry".

"Our political leaders must ensure they do not develop into a new migrant underclass."

The study found migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds were almost twice as likely to report suffering discrimination as those from English-speaking countries.

A significant number of New Zealanders also complained of discrimination, with one in four Kiwis saying they had experienced it personally.

Last month a group called Iwi in Aus organised protests against Australia's immigration laws. From Adelaide, spokeswoman Erina Anderson said an increasing number of Kiwis were heading home.

"And less people are coming across. We are being absolutely destroyed in this country."

The Dominion Post