Australia lays out the “big welcome” mat for NZ citizens25 May 2023

The recent announcement by the Australian Government to enable New Zealand citizens to pathway easier and quicker to Australian citizenship is very much welcomed, and will finally allow NZ citizens in Australia to enjoy the same benefits that New Zealand confers on their citizens in New Zealand. What impact will this on the NZ job market and NZ employers?

Historically, New Zealanders have had the right to live and work in Australia without a visa under the Trans- Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA) since 1973. However, they have not been entitled to the same benefits as Australian citizens. For example, they have not been eligible for government assistance, such as social security payments, and they have to pay higher fees for healthcare and education. On the other hand, Australians (& Australian resident visa holders) have had full rights to live and work in New Zealand. Australia also tightened its rules in 2001 as it viewed (correctly) that too many migrants were using New Zealand as a back-door entry to Australia.

Now, from July 1, 2023, NZers who have lived in Australia for four years or more, and meet health and character requirements, can be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship and will then have all the rights that such citizenship confers.

Time will tell on what impact these changes will have on the New Zealand job market. With higher wages and a lower cost of living, and the range of job opportunities in Australia, coupled with a desire for younger NZers to throw off their “covid shackles”, the likelihood is that there will definitely be a strong pull factor. In addition, families with school-aged children, who had previously been reluctant to consider a move to Australia due to potential education costs may now reconsider their plans. With some 700,000 kiwis in Australia most NZers have friends and family there who can provide support and guidance should they decide to relocate. It is also only a 3-4 hour flight, and the cost is cheaper than flying many domestic routes. Australia is already very active on NZ job sites targeting NZ teachers and nurses, and many other roles and with many including attractive relocation grants. In short there are many incentives to move!

(As an interesting aside many kiwis (& NZ residents) in Australia are eligible to vote in the NZ general election and the NZ Government has recently made a temporary change to widen the eligibility criteria….)

The potential impact on NZ employers could be very significant. They are already experiencing skill shortages and now stand to lose more skilled staff. Further, in order to retain their existing staff, employers are being required to pay higher wages, but at some point, and given the talk of recession, some employers will have no choice but to batten down the hatches – something that will both further hurt the economy and will directly promote movement across the ditch.

Employers will be left with the option of attracting and employing migrant workers, but this is a highly competitive market for the right skills and, in an international marketplace, NZ has definitely lost its shine. The other increasingly attractive, and possibly the most feasible option, is to invest in technology to reduce reliance on staff and to identify and promote business production and efficiencies across the board. Previously NZ’s lower waged economy had tended to negate and stifle the need and desire for such investment – something which is no longer the case!

The Australian Government announcement is definitely a big win for NZers who wish to take up, and bene- fit from, the opportunities available in the “lucky country”, but it is NZ employers who will be on the losing side. The challenge for New Zealand will be to stop the trickle turning into a flood.

Link: First published in Waikato Business News April/May 2023 Volume 31 Issue 4 Page 13