Fewer Kiwis coming to Australia as citizenship battle continues


New Zealanders are making the move across the ditch without being aware of the dangers.

New Zealand-born couple Hinetu Kaihau and Dave Sherlock moved to the Sunshine Coast with their children Tainui and Grace in 2006.

Like many of the 600,000 Kiwis living in Australia, they migrated for job opportunities and a warmer climate.

But the ideal weather may no longer be enough to entice New Zealanders into a move across the ditch.

Population data from the 2016 Census shows that the number of New Zealanders living in Australia increased by 25 per cent from 2006, but only increased by five per cent from 2011, indicating a slow in migration.

In 2016, following a bout of unexplained bruises and rashes, Tainui was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia.

After more than a decade living and working in Australia, the Kaihau family said they were shocked to find they were not eligible for government support despite years of paying taxes.

“It’s not until you go to the pharmacy at the hospital and pick up your huge paper bag full of medication that you get the bill,” Hinetu said.

Dave said the first bill “was well over $1000 and we were like…what the hell? And you’re up for that every month”.

Tainui has completed his treatment, but Hinetu said recovery would not have been possible without being “saved” by the fundraising of the Sunshine Coast community.

“Other people have had GoFundMe accounts that haven’t been as lucky as we have in getting that top financial support,” she said.

The Kaihau’s situation is one the Nerang Neighbourhood Centre on the Gold Coast see far too often.

Centre coordinator and New Zealand citizen Vicky Rose has been living in Australia for more than 12 years and said the centre assists the most vulnerable members of the community.

“We get on average 30 enquiries a day and over 50 per cent are from Kiwis in crisis,” she said.

Automatic access to permanent residency, health care, benefits and higher education for New Zealanders arriving in Australia was removed almost two decades ago.

New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia after February 2001 are granted Special Category Visas (SCV).

Australian-based advocacy group for New Zealanders living in Australia, OZ Kiwi, has been lobbying for fairer rights since their establishment in 2013.

Deputy chair Joanne Cox said the SCV visa puts New Zealanders in a place of “uncertainty as they are a temporary resident who can remain indefinitely”.

“You can basically stay here forever and have access to nothing,” she said.

New Zealanders’ entitlements are extremely limited, especially when compared to the rights of Australians who move to New Zealand.

“They get Medicare, but they can’t get unemployment benefits, social security and don’t have access to the NDIS even though they pay for it,” she said.

According to the 2016 Census, New Zealanders are the second most populating nationality and account for 2.35 per cent of the population.

“We are so astronomically small…it’s beyond anything comparable to that of the overall Australian population,” Ms Cox said.

English-born residents are the leading nationality living in Australia at 4.1 per cent of the population. China closely follows New Zealand at 2.31 per cent.

Ms Cox said in just five years OZ Kiwi has developed an ever-growing Facebook following of almost 50,000 to create a community that is now aware of the reality of living in Australia.

Food and Party World has been operating for more than three years at Warana, attracting Kiwi customers for their range of New Zealand goods.

Co-owner Graham Wakeling said his customers love Australia and do not want to return to New Zealand.

“They move over here for the good times, and they admit they do miss the motherland, traditions, and the food they eat, but one thing is sure, they don’t want to go back just because of the bad things,” Mr Wakeling said.

Ms Rose said she was like many of her clients and failed to educate herself on the negative things that can occur while living in Australia before she migrated.

“I never thought what would happen if I got cancer, if my husband left me, if I lost my job, all those things that happen to people every day,” Ms Rose said.

“That’s why we get so many Kiwis – they’ve gone to Centrelink for help and found out they don’t qualify.”

Between 2011-2016 the number of New Zealanders living in Australia increased by just 24,200, a 106,100-person difference than the previous five years of 2006-2011.

This trend is expected to continue, as OZ Kiwi’s Ms Cox said last month’s election outcome was a major loss for New Zealanders.

“Nothing will change under this government…in fact things will go backwards,” Ms Cox said.

“We have this group of Kiwis who are being used as a nice little help to the budget, and since 2005 they (Liberal government) have just stripped their rights.

“We will have to keep fighting the fight, our main goal is to educate the new people and senators to gauge how they will vote on these bills as they come in.”