High living costs drive Kiwis back across the ditch

NZ High living costs
Rochelle Palmer and her family are finding it difficult to deal with the high cost of living in NZ. (Photo: Supplied)

8 May 2018

John Boynton – Radio NZ

Kiwi families who have moved back to New Zealand after living in Australia are struggling with high living costs and low wages that could push them back across the Tasman.

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have moved to Australia to try and build better lives for themselves, but the move back home is proving difficult for some.

Rochelle Palmer met her Kiwi husband John in Brisbane and they moved to Whenuakite in the Coromandel four years ago.

“We were caught up in the rat race of busy city life of suburban life – having two boys we thought New Zealand might be a great place to let them be free.”

In Australia, Ms Palmer could afford to be a stay-at-home mum – but in New Zealand she split her time between her four sons and working three cleaning jobs.

Her husband John is a mechanical engineer and works full time, but has often struggled to find work in their small community.

Mrs Palmer said she was shocked at the low wages and the high cost of food, power and rent in New Zealand.

“There were moments – and there still are every now and then – times when we have to go ‘actually, how are we doing food shopping next week and how are we going to pay the power that’s three weeks overdue?’.

“Seriously we just go back to survival mode of ‘okay, what don’t we use that can we sell to pay the power bill or to buy food next week?’.”

Jan Stewart lived in Brisbane for 18 years with her husband Ken after both were made redundant from their jobs in Whangārei.

Last year, they retired and decided to move back to Whangārei, but Ms Stewart said she was shocked to find how much New Zealand had changed.

“Our home over there (in Brisbane) was worth $500,000 – we’d pay a million dollars for the same type of home here in Whangārei.”

Another reason Ms Stewart was looking to return to Australia was the poor standard of healthcare she said her husband had received so far.

After being unable to walk, she said Ken was rushed to the hospital only to be discharged a short time later.

“I’ve picked him up and brought him back home only to find that I’ve had to take him back early hours in the morning and for them to realise he had five cracked ribs and a cracked lung.”

Carmen Brown has lived in Australia for the past 23 years – apart from a brief two-year stint when she returned home to New Zealand.

But it was a stint that made her family quickly hop back across the ditch to Perth.

“It was just struggle street from the time we got home, we couldn’t believe how much things were costing,” Mrs Brown said.

“Power bills we get them two to three months and pay less than you do a month back home.”

Ms Brown currently works part-time at a supermarket and earns $26 per hour and her family has been able to build their own home with grants from the Australian government.

Although she’ll always call the Taranaki region home, she said she couldn’t see her family moving back to New Zealand unless they could live mortgage-free.

“I loved growing up in New Zealand, I wished my kids had that kind of experience but Australia has been wonderful for them too.”

Recent statistics show more Kiwis are making the jump across the ditch.

In the year to March 2018, 20,000 people left for Australia while just 15,000 returned home.

[Read the Radio NZ article].

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