Mozzies buzzing in rich mining territories

By Yvonne Tahana

The increasing numbers of Maori living in Queensland, particularly the Gold Coast, are portrayed in the reality show The GC. Photo / Supplied
The increasing numbers of Maori living in Queensland, particularly the Gold Coast, are portrayed in the reality show The GC. Photo / Supplied

Booming Western Australia is becoming the home of choice for Maori moving to Australia - with the mining state's Mozzie (Maori-Aussie) population growth outstripping all other states by a huge margin.

Census figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics put the country's 2011 population at 21.5 million. Of that, 128,418 were Maori, a 38 per cent increase on 2006.

Migration is driving that growth because 64 per cent of Maori were born in New Zealand.

Queensland claims the most Maori with 48,281 living in the maroon state, a 55.4 per cent increase on the 31,077 in 2006. The high numbers living there made it a prime place to film TV3's The GC where young Maori chase a lifestyle and higher wages.

But WA saw the largest leap in Mozzies with 23,062 in 2011 up by 83.7 per cent from 12,557.

A report from CommSec - a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia - in April trumpeted how the state was outperforming the rest of the federation in most indicators of economic growth.

It's State of the States report said: "... the best way to describe the situation is Western Australia first and daylight second."

The resource-rich state's output is just over 32 per cent higher than its decade average level and long term the WA government says the A$43 billion ($54 billion) Gorgon natural gas project, expansion of iron ore production and other developments put the state in a secure economic position.

Aaron Morgan, 33, left Ngaruawahia two years ago for Kambalda, a town 50km from Kalgoorlie. The solo dad of three had worked as a timber yard manager here but the wage just covered bills and kept food in the cupboards. There was nothing to spare.

He works in the mines as an underground grader - a job he had no experience in. He's pulling in around A$70,000 but expects to hit a pay rise soon and A$100,000 probably isn't far off.

He misses whanau, two of his children live in New Zealand, but the chance to earn cash to pay off debts and save for an eventual return to New Zealand couldn't be passed up, he said.

Ngati Porou's Jo Matthews, 56, has been heavily involved in Perth's kapa haka group Wairua Tipuna. She's lived in the city since the mid-1980s and has watched scores of relations make the move. These days many find jobs within days, she said.

Ms Matthews has worked as a musician, chimney sweep and owned rental properties. She's still working but is comfortable, she says.

"It's true to say the sky's the limit. I would say the majority of Maori that are here are very successful. If you're not that's your own personal fault."

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples was not available for comment but Labour MP Shane Jones said migrants couldn't be faulted as many wanted to better themselves.

One of the "perversities" of the situation was that while "Greenies" were opposed to mining here, droves of young Maori were leaving economically deprived areas such as Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) to work underground.

"We have to suck their rhetoric that mining is bad yet we have to watch our young people go to Western Australia."

Paul Hamer of Victoria University, who has studied Maori migration, published a report in 2007 that said there was likely to be under-counting of Maori in Australia because of the way the census was structured.

He says this is likely to apply to the 2011 figure, and said a case could be made for as many as 150,000 living across the Ditch. Add that figure to the 673,500 and the combined population was more than 800,000 - heading towards the "millionth Maori".

- NZ Herald

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