Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Aussies beware: the Kiwis are coming

Australians should brace themselves for a Kiwi onslaught, according to a population expert who says a New Zealand election later this year will trigger an exodus.

Speaking at the Australian Population Association's 14th biennial conference in Alice Springs, Professor Richard Bedford from the University of Waikato said there was an average of 800 New Zealanders a week leaving for Australia.

"With an election coming up in New Zealand later this year, inevitably there will be a migration issue. There has been one for every election since the early 1990s," he said.

"The migration issue for 2008, in my view, without doubt, will be the exodus to Australia."

Prof Bedford's comments follow the release in June of New Zealand's latest migration statistics which found that in the year to May 44,749 people left permanently for Australia.

This compared to 37,713 people for the same period the year before.

Prof Bedford today said the move was not always permanent and, over time, the figures tended to even out.

"The New Zealand flow to Australia is very significant, and it's a big component of population change," he said.

However, the professor added, it was "terribly dangerous" to rely on monthly figures without considering them within a broader historical context.

"Migration is highly volatile," he said.

"Coming back to New Zealand from Australia there were 96,000 (people) in the 1980s and 94,000 (people) in the early 2000s.

"Going to Australia from New Zealand there was 200,000 (people) in the early eighties, and 225,000 (people) in the early 2000s."

There were many reasons for the Kiwi shift, he said, including the search for better jobs, more money and a better lifestyle.

"There is a bit of a debate about the gains moving to Australia," he said.

"There's no doubt that for a Maori truck driver if you want to go off to an isolated community in Australia you will get far better wages than anywhere in New Zealand."

But middle-income professionals won't earn much more and many elected to eventually return home, Prof Bedford said.


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