A tale of two nations

Rebecca and Sean Dirks with Hunter, 6, and David, 8, near their home at Methven, about an hour south of Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island.

Rick Morton Social Affairs reporter – The Australian

Fresh from the success of recreating Middle Earth, Kiwis have done it again by making real the twin modern fantasies of stable government and economic ­reform, an alluring combination attracting Australian businesses and workers across the ditch.

While the zeal for reform has been lost amid political instability in Australia, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been in charge since 2008, delivering ­income tax cuts and boosting the GST to 15 per cent.

The Dirks family was living on the southern tip of the Gold Coast when the global financial crisis eviscerated it, but after a move to New Zealand’s South Island just months before Joe Hockey’s disastrous budget of 2014, there has been no looking back.

“There is never going to be a reason for us to go back as far as I can see,” Rebecca Dirks, 32, told The Weekend Australian.

In the middle of a New Zealand truck driver shortage, her husband Sean landed a job at the first place he asked when the family moved to Methven, about an hour south of Christchurch.

He earns more driving trucks there than he did on the Gold Coast and the couple are paying $220 a week rent for a three-bedroom home. “Our (car) rego was cut this week and the accident claims levy, sort of like the health levy, was cut by 40 per cent,” Ms Dirks said. “When was the last time your registration got cheaper?”

The couple don’t pay for medications for their two children, Hunter, 6, and David, 8, because they are under 16.

In the year to May, 25,690 Australians moved to New Zealand while 23,951 Kiwis came the other way, indicating a growing trend in net migration that flipped last year for the first time in more than two decades.

BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said there was no need to criticise the Australian economy but he noted the “complexity and multiplicity” of governments imposed more red tape than it ought to. “I am all for good rules and regulations but you don’t need three or four of them,” he said. “New Zealand’s regulatory system is really simple; it’s a pretty easy place to do business.”

New Zealand’s parliament, which has no upper house, governs for the nation without states, although local governments bookend the system.

“There is not a lot of difference between the two nations but the key one is the political stability we have here,” Mr Hope said.

“We’ve had a National-led minority government since 2008, but despite this New Zealand has had a policy program that allowed us to deal with a catastrophic disaster and still manage the books in a responsible way.”

Mr Hope said this allowed a boost to social security benefits for the first time in decades, partly to offset the increase in the GST.

Ms Dirk said it had been “crazy” in Australia ever since Kevin Rudd was deposed. “We’ve had more prime ministers than we have had elections,” she said. “They don’t seem to like John Key over here, but I don’t think they realise how good they have it. Are we happier? A shitload.”

[Read The Australian article]

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