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Australia may help New Zealanders get residency

TRACY WATKINS IN MELBOURNE
Last updated 17:43 28/01/2012

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The Australian Government is looking at easing residency requirements for an estimated 100,000 Kiwis denied welfare and other entitlements across the Tasman.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed this afternoon the topic was high on the agenda for talks with his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard and members of her Cabinet in Australia tomorrow.

The move follows repeated representations from the New Zealand Government over the plight of New Zealanders across the Tasman who have been denied welfare and other support since 2001, when the rules were changed.

Mr Key said the Australian Government had mooted " a new pathway to residency" that would apply to an estimated 100,000 Kiwis living across the Tasman,  in recognition of their plight.

While many have lived and worked there for years, they do not qualify for permanent residency.

The process being mooted by Australia would make it easier for them to get residency but Mr Key said details on how that worked were still to be thrashed out and it seems likely there will be   qualifying period of some years.

The plight of New Zealanders living in Australia without permanent residency under the current right of free travel between the two countries was highlighted during the Queensland floods and Melbourne bushfires, when many were initially denied government assistance.

The Australian Government made an exception after representations from New Zealand but that is currently on a case by case basis and not automatic.

Mr Key said the Australian Government was looking at "resolving that issue".

"It won't fix every situation but it may give them much greater rights and give them that pathway through to citizenship.

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