Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Fed-up Kiwis head to Oz en masse

Australia's mining boom is fuelling its economy, making the country even more attractive to Kiwi job-seekers - including those at the Oz Jobs Expo. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Australia's mining boom is fuelling its economy, making the country even more attractive to Kiwi job-seekers - including those at the Oz Jobs Expo. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Thousands of New Zealanders - including many disillusioned immigrants - are looking for new jobs and new lives in Australia.

During the weekend, about 6000 people packed the Oz Jobs Expo in Auckland, at which Australian companies were headhunting Kiwi skills and experience.

And, judging by the long queues for the $15 event, it seems many of the employers will have no problem finding takers among job seekers who say they are fed up with New Zealand and believe the lifestyle, pay and opportunities are far better across the Tasman.

The expo is the third in 18 months, and director Jason Clayton said the numbers attending each had been fairly consistent.

But those attending the latest seemed "better matched" and "more prepared to move".

"People who came are more closely matched to the skills that the Oz employers want, and are seriously thinking about making a move as opposed to just a look-see," Mr Clayton said.

The number of New Zealanders moving across the Tasman hit a record 53,000 in the year to February, but the unemployment rate at home and Australia's new tax breaks that would make millions better off are tipped to lift that number.

Young job seeker Joanne Frew said she wanted to move because of the National Government's lack of focus on "creating better jobs and affordable housing".

"I've given up hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel, and decided to make my own light," said Miss Frew, a political science graduate who had been working as a receptionist since leaving university in 2009.

"My pay now is not much higher than a school drop out working at the supermarket, so if I can find a job, any job, then I'm out of here."

Many at the expo did not want to be named or photographed when approached by the Herald because they did not want their employers to know they were looking for jobs in Australia.

About 100 people were in the queue yesterday afternoon to find out more about the electricians, mechanical fitters and IT professionals that BHP Billiton Iron Ore was seeking.

Kamal Shenmar, 32, who moved to New Zealand from India five years ago, wants to go because he does not think New Zealand "values my skills or qualifications enough".

The former mechanical engineer from New Delhi is employed as a machine operator on about $35,000 a year - but he believes he will be worth twice as much across the Tasman.

Nurse Kim Mendoza, from the Philippines, was also keen to move as Australia's offerings were "closer to the life I dream to have".

"There is definitely a better chance of me becoming a home owner in Adelaide, where I plan to go, than here in Auckland," she said.

Participating Tasman recruiters and moving companies said the number of inquiries "exceeded expectations".

More than 400,000 people born in New Zealand now live in Australia.

Immigration commentator Paul Spoonley said Australia used New Zealand as a talent pool, and Kiwis were responding because New Zealand struggled to match what it offered in wages and tax breaks.

"Australia has increased its recruitment here quite significantly, and outflow of migration continues to be high not just because of the availability of jobs, but also what people get paid for those jobs," Professor Spoonley said.

Mandy Taylor, of Aus Move, said the number of people "with real intentions of moving" that her company would follow up with this week numbered in the hundreds.

"What we're seeing are people whose minds are all made up about moving over, but are just waiting to find a job to make it happen," she said.

Australian companies, including mining giant Rio Tinto and Stamford Hotels, have recently placed large advertisements in a bid to find New Zealanders to fill Australian jobs.

Stamford Hotels and Resorts managing director Graeme Goldberg said 250 New Zealanders had applied for positions as a result of an advertisement, and 40 would now be interviewed.

The Herald reported last week that large Australian companies were headhunting Kiwis at a time when Canberra is fattening citizens' wallets with tax cuts and school benefits.

As part of the Government's policy to spread the benefits of the mining boom, one million people will be freed from paying tax when the tax-free threshold is trebled from A$6000 to A$18,200.

More than seven million earning less than A$80,000 ($102,000) will receive tax cuts and parents with children at school will be paid A$410 a year for each primary school pupil and A$820 for each secondary student.

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