Paul and Helen Christensen are happy New Zealanders living in Australia.
Paul and Helen Christensen are happy New Zealanders living in Australia.

Should Kiwis be whinging about life in Australia?

LIFE is just fine for many Kiwis living in Australia who say they have nothing to moan about after crossing the Tasman in search of a better life.

Helen Christensen wrote to the New Zealand Herald after a story in Monday's paper revealed that Kiwis were Australia's unhappiest migrant group.

A study by Melbourne's Monash University found that almost half of Kiwi migrants surveyed were struggling financially, and many felt they had been discriminated against.

"We came here with only a suitcase each," Mrs Christensen said.

"The kids settled into their new schools quickly and made many awesome friends. Within two years we had built our own home and have an awesome life here.

"Yes we have to pay for our education, yes we have to have private health insurance and income protection insurance, but so does everyone else. Australia has provided us with more opportunities in the last six years than New Zealand did in the whole time we lived there."

Rai Mahi, who left New Zealand in 1989, agreed with the view that Kiwis were whingers.

"All I can say is maybe the fact that Kiwis are whingeing is because Kiwis are whingers. I left New Zealand in 1989 and never looked back. It seems to me that it's all about choice. If Kiwis think they're hard done by in Australia they should return to New Zealand where they will then whinge about the weather and the low pay."

Others who contacted the Herald suggested the only unhappy Kiwis in Australia were lazy people who did not want to work, and that Kiwis often stuck to themselves and were rude.

"Kiwis have been lazy workers and if they are unhappy with their situation they are unwilling to do something about it," said Nathan Seed, who has lived in Australia for 18 months.

"Kiwis tend to exclude themselves from hanging out with Aussies and can come off arrogant. Since being over here I have been so disgusted over the behaviour of 90 per cent of Kiwis that I now try not to associate with them."

Christopher Reid, who moved to Perth two years ago when he was 53, said he had just built his first house - something he would never have been able to do in New Zealand.

"This is a land of opportunity. But this place can give you a lot or it can take it away. I have to work hard as there is no social security here for me."

The restrictions placed on Kiwi migrants since 2001 meant many did suffer hardship, said Chris Hayden.

"We run a food bank in a middle-class area and many of those who have used our emergency food are Kiwis ..."

'Grass isn't always greener' - Key pessimistic on change

Prime Minister John Key says the plight of New Zealanders in Australia is a lesson that the grass is not always greener, and they are unlikely to get any reprieve in the short term from restrictions on entitlements.

"Clearly for a group of New Zealanders caught by the rules there is a degree of frustration. But the other thing we would say is that often when people move, they believe it's because the grass will be greener.

"And what this probably shows is that for a lot of people moving across the Tasman it definitely isn't."

The Government would continue to raise the issue, "but given the state of their Budget, which will be delivered the day before ours, it's hard to believe there will be any significant changes for New Zealanders in the short term. Ours might have black ink, but theirs certainly won't."

Mr Key said the former Labour Government signed the agreement in 2001 which removed the rights to welfare and social services for New Zealanders who moved to Australia in return for retaining access to the labour market and freedom of movement.

"I don't think people read the fine print before they go over the Tasman."

Labour MP Phil Goff, who was Foreign Affairs Minister in 2001, slated Australia for its refusal to budge since then and for further eroding the rights New Zealanders did have.

"It's 100 years of Anzac tradition next year and what's Australia doing? Moving to increase the discrimination by making it harder for New Zealanders who live on the other side of the Tasman."

One example was the extra taxes New Zealanders had to pay to fund a new National Disability Insurance Scheme which did not cover them.

He said Australia could not be forced to change its position, but New Zealand should be stating its case very firmly behind closed doors.

"You could retaliate against Australians living in New Zealand, but if you do that you simply lose the moral high ground."

Mr Key visited Prime Minister Tony Abbott last year, but came away with nothing other than an agreement that Australia would proceed with a Labor Party bill allowing Kiwis aged under 18 to get a student loan if they had lived in Australia for more than 10 years.

Mr Abbott refused to budge on other entitlements, saying he expected migrants to be "lifters not leaners".

- Claire Trevett

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