Strong numbers of Kiwis returning from Australia

Expat Kiwis returning
Which is better, Australia or New Zealand? (Photo: NZ Herald)

Dan Petrie

For decades, Kiwis have been moving across the ditch in search for a better life in Australia. Now they’re coming back, reports

A resurgent and more confident New Zealand continues to lure expatriates home in strong numbers as interest in the Australian economy begins to wane.

It is estimated there are over 500,000 New Zealanders currently living and working in Australia who historically have been drawn to Australia’s economic growth story of the last 25 years.

However, in more recent years New Zealand has become a magnet not just for returning citizens but for people all over the world.

In 2016, New Zealand recorded a net gain of 70,000 migrants and long term arrivals.

Interestingly, Australian citizens are migrating to New Zealand in larger numbers as well, with a record 3500 people moving across the Tasman last year, compared to 1600 in 2006.

ANZ economist Philip Borkin notes the number of New Zealanders returning to live effectively offset departing residents seeking to travel or work offshore; a big improvement from five years ago where the country was losing 30,000 citizens annually.

“New Zealand has in the last 10 years undertaken a pragmatic reform program against a backdrop of political stability which has seen the country’s labour market participation rate now testing record highs,” he said.

While the prospect of returning highly skilled citizens was a positive for New Zealand, it begs the question: has Australia taken for granted the large number of Kiwis living and working here?

Such a sentiment is borne out in Australia’s often criticised attitude of indifference towards its trans-Tasman neighbour with policies that restrict a range of government benefits and higher education access to New Zealanders living in Australia.

Data from Statistics New Zealand shows a large number of its country’s citizens are returning home. (Graphic: Statistics New Zealand)

“The reciprocal rights issue around access to university and government benefits in Australia remains an obvious irritant for New Zealanders seeking to work across the Tasman,” Mr Borkin said.

While New Zealanders can access Medicare, there are limitations around Centrelink benefits and accessing higher education lending schemes which stand in contrast to Australians living in New Zealand who can access the same services as residents of that country.

Reforming economy and optimism abound

Queensland-based New Zealand citizen, Rachel Ellison and her husband have entertained the idea of a return home.

“New Zealand’s economy is doing quite well and the optimism from friends and family at home is hard to ignore” she said.

“The country has been able to reform its tax system and the education system in New Zealand is one I would like for my daughter.”

Ms Ellison highlighted the country’s unitary government also stood out next to the federation style of government in Australia.

Rachel Ellison, a New Zealander, lives in Queensland but is thinking returning home with her husband and daughter. Photo / Facebook

Is Australia becoming complacent?

Australia’s political gridlock, high housing costs and flat wage growth have also assisted the flight of the Kiwi.

New Zealand in the last decade has undertaken sweeping economic reforms including raising the country’s goods and services tax while slashing personal and income tax rates.

New Zealand is rated as the 10th most desirable place to work and live according to Expat Insider Survey, while Australia has fallen to 34th on the same list.

In terms of returning residents and migrants with strong skills sets, the value placed on overseas experience and the knowledge gains that come with that is also well received.

This stands in stark contrast to Australia which places a greater value on local experience.

Benjamin Pedley, the son of a New Zealand parent recently returned to Australia after almost 15 years in Hong Kong and Singapore, said that from a professional standpoint New Zealand had a lot to offer.

“On the surface it appears New Zealand places a greater premium on international experience than Australia does and its economy is benefiting from skilled migration and a more light-handed tax environment,” he said.

“Australia’s two decades of economic growth and an overt preference for local talent in industries where a global perspective could be useful might be a sign of complacency.

“Skills are transferable and intellectual know-how will often go to places where it is most welcome.”

[Read the NZ Herald article].

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