Kiwis want a fair go

Nathan Taylor. Photo: Pasha Nielsen
Some New Zealanders here are calling for the same benefits Australians enjoy living in their country. Pasha Nielsen reports.

Some New Zealanders in Australia say they are denied the benefits Australians enjoy in their country.

Real estate agent Blake Knapping from Auckland, 28, has lived in Melbourne since 2016, and does not have access to social security benefits or HECS-HELP loans.

“I wasn’t eligible for Medicare for the first year I lived here, so I just didn’t go to the doctor. I thought about going back to uni for architecture, but I couldn’t afford to pay up front, international fees and didn’t want to uproot my whole life for three years.”

Benefits not available to Kiwi residents include welfare payments in case of unemployment, disability and pregnancy, HECS-HELP loans as a local student and voting rights, instead being classified as an international student.

New Zealand residents living in Australia are not eligible for the benefits Australian citizens living in New Zealand receive as part of the Trans Tasmin Travel Arrangement.

Australian residents living in New Zealand receive the same benefits and rights as New Zealand citizens, prompting Kiwi expats to question the fairness of the arrangement. Since 2001, New Zealand residents are not eligible for social security benefits.

“My old housemate has lived here for six years. He broke his leg in a skating accident and couldn’t work for seven months. He couldn’t claim disability, and his girlfriend had to support both of them for almost a year,”Mr Knapping said.

Blake Knapping. Photo: Pasha Nielsen

Melbourne venue manager Nathan Taylor from Wellington, 34, has lived in Australia since 2006, and holds both New Zealand and Australian citizenship. “Things like not voting affect us. We pay taxes, and we live here too”.

Mr Taylor agreed, saying, “Australia has a history of wanting to keep Australia Australian. This government doesn’t want to make it easy for any migrant to live here, which is a shame because the diversity of Melbourne is what makes it such a great city”.

The Trans Tasmin Travel Arrangement has been in place since the 1920s to facilitate free movement across the two countries. Since 1994, Australia issued the Special Category Visa for New Zealand citizens, which is not permanent residency, but allows holders to stay in Australia indefinitely.

Under the SCV post 2001, after ten years of residency holders will be eligible for a one off six month unemployment benefit.

“I pay the same taxes as any citizen, my taxes go towards social security benefits, but if I lived here for nine years and got sick, I would have to move countries just to survive,” Mr Knapping said.

“Most Kiwis are moving here permanently,” Mr Taylor said. “We need the same rights we give to Australians”.