Career 12: Doors open across the ditch

By David Maida

Many New Zealanders have the right skills, experience and qualifications to move smoothly into the Australian workforce. Photo / Supplied
Many New Zealanders have the right skills, experience and qualifications to move smoothly into the Australian workforce. Photo / Supplied

The exodus of workers continues to stream across the Tasman.

People from every demographic are seeking all kinds of jobs in Australia from bartenders to barristers, says Jason Clayton, producer and founder of Oz Jobs Expo.

"The vocational backgrounds of the people who are looking to move to Australia from New Zealand are as diverse as the jobs that are available," Clayton says.

In November, Australian organisations advertised more than 300 job categories at the expo. Some 7000 job seekers attended with the hope of being a part of the 80,000 New Zealanders to migrate each year. Even though annually around 35,000 of those come back, it's still a significant drain on the workforce.

"They want to move to Australia for better pay and better career opportunities. What they're really looking to do is create a better lifestyle through better income and better opportunity. There are more choices of jobs."

Clayton says it is expat Kiwis which are the main driving force behind the migration. They're enticing their friends and family with stories of how nice life is in Australia. One thing they talk about is the money which on average equates to $85,000 per year, he says. But surely those high salaries are compensated by higher costs of living? Clayton says no.

"If they were paying in Australia the price that we pay for petrol here, they'd be tearing the pumps out of the ground."

Clayton says the cost of housing, utilities and even a cup of coffee are comparable in Oz.

Landing a job before you head to Australia is important. Australian employers offer a full relocation package for their senior staff. But for junior roles, all that companies will offer is the security of knowing that you'll have a job when you first arrive. Clayton says it's easy for Kiwis to burn through their savings while looking for work there.

"Most New Zealanders can't really carry themselves for more than a few weeks on their own savings. Because of that, it's important to have something set up before going. Otherwise be prepared to cover yourself for three months."

A face-to-face meeting is required for most jobs and travelling from city to city can be expensive. Years ago Kiwis were set on moving to their chosen location within Australia but now the focus is more on where the jobs are. That means Kiwis are branching out into South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT and Tasmania where the economies are doing quite well. Three of Australia's top four mining companies, BHP, Anglo American and Xstrata, came to last year's expo seeking people with experience operating heavy machinery to work in some of those regions.

"People that work in infrastructure, building roads and bridges have all got skills which are immediately transferable into the mining industry."

The lifestyle of a miner in Australia might not be so bad if you consider the large purpose-build resorts where they live and that cater for them while they're onsite.

Other exhibitors included local governments, early childhood schools, health centres, financial institutions, agricultural businesses, resorts, and even an Antarctic programme to name a few. Kiwis are spoilt for choice when looking for employment in the West Island.

Although Kiwis like to pride ourselves that it's our work ethic that keeps us in demand, there is also another reason.

"The reason why New Zealand's a really good place for Australian employers to recruit from is because New Zealand passport holders don't have to complete any work visas or special paperwork in order to work in Australia."

New Zealanders have the right skills, experience and qualifications to move smoothly into the workforce. Kiwis even have a slightly higher rate of employment in Australia than Australian's do. In fact, some of the jobs advertised at the expo would be classed as manual labour rather than skilled employment.

Whichever jobs Kiwis take up, the reality is that many will return home and apply their skills and experience in New Zealand. Often they'll save up a nest egg to spend when they come back, Clayton says.

But be warned that in some industries in Australia there is a bit of a "work till you drop" motto. They can pride themselves on busyness where taking the whole weekend off is seen to be lazy. Clayton says he has seen this mentality with some lawyers and bankers who were "all on". But he says that is not the case with most businesses.

In terms of commuting, if you think the traffic is bad in Auckland you'd be right.

"The infrastructure is so much better in Australia, there's nowhere near as much hassle to get around."

In Sydney it's easy to take the ferry or a bus from your suburb straight into the CBD. Fast bus lanes and trains make it easy to navigate through most of the city. Clayton warns that living out west of Sydney and driving into town might not be the best plan.

"It's got the public transport system in place which causes people to use it. The reason that they use it is because it's easy to use. There are a lot of different choices running on a very regular basis."

Clayton, who is himself from Invercargill, says Kiwis adapt to living in Australia because it's a place they're quite familiar with in terms of lifestyle. He has lived there off and on since he was a child but now lives in Auckland.

"It's a good move to go from Auckland to a city in Australia. I don't think there's a culture shock at all. I think that that's quite an exciting thing for most people."

He also doesn't believe he should be considered an enemy of the state for enticing Kiwis to emigrate.

"If the domestic economy shrunk a little bit then wages would go up. It wouldn't be so bad."

* Contact David Maida at:

- NZ Herald

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