New Zealanders desperate to move to Australia are being told not to bother.
Rather than the good life they are expecting, they risk finding themselves broke and homeless and getting caught up in serious crime and prostitution, an Australian newspaper reported yesterday.
Statistics New Zealand figures show 29,900 permanent and long-term migrants left for Australia in the year to June in the biggest transtasman exodus for three years.
Brisbane's Sunday Mail said most were choosing Queensland - 16,000 short- and long-term-stay New Zealanders arrived at Brisbane Airport in the year to June.
The sunshine state appeals to New Zealanders because its weather is better than at home, wages are higher, and unemployment and the cost of living are lower.
But Nerang Neighbourhood Centre co-ordinator Vicky Va'a said there was a growing downside to the migration, with reports of homelessness among New Zealanders, teens "going to Surfers to prostitute themselves" and others aligning themselves with gangs and committing serious crimes because of a lack of jobs or access to services.
Her advice to Kiwis considering the move to Australia is simple and was reported in yesterday's Mail: "Don't come here, especially if you don't have a job, don't have money or a back-up plan if things don't work out."
Last year, Ms Va'a wrote a report for the Maori Party outlining the challenges facing community workers.
She said young New Zealanders away from their parents were graduating from petty offences to drug-dealing and gang-related crime.
Her report also said that according to staff at the southside office of the Brisbane Children's Court, New Zealanders accounted for 28 per cent of their case workload.
"These are kids who don't have access to student loans or allowances over here, so for many, tertiary education is out of the question," she said.
"It's just escalating to a point where these kids realise they have to make money ... There was a kid we used to deal with who was going nowhere; he got done for the aggravated robbery of a pizza driver."
Her research shows Kiwi families also face problems with overcrowding in homes. Sometimes up to three families share one rental property.
There are also reports of New Zealand children going to school without uniforms and food because their unemployed parents are not eligible for welfare payments.
Ms Va'a said that even after going through the "costly and convoluted" procedure of applying for permanent Australian residence, it was still difficult for New Zealanders to obtain the level of support they would receive at home.
"The Queensland floods highlighted the fact that New Zealanders or special-category visa holders were not protected."
The Nerang Neighbourhood Centre, about 70km south of Brisbane, sees 300 people a week wanting its free food packages. Half of them are New Zealanders.
The centre has also given emergency relief cash to at least 12 families in the past year so they could to buy plane tickets back to New Zealand.
Auckland native Daron Brinsdon, who lives in Morningside, Brisbane, and works for an electronics company, said Kiwis considering moving "should not be complacent".
"If you plan well, and I'm talking a one- to two-year plan, it is worthwhile.
"You need to have something mapped out - it's a very litigious society and it's very expensive to get yourself established."
Mr Brinsdon, 43, moved to Australia in March with his wife, their 4-year-old daughter and their dog. He said the move cost more than $30,000.
"It's like a big hole in the ground that you pour a lot of money into and people aren't aware of it," he said.
"You have to re-establish furniture, schools, cars ... I think a lot of people ignore those things and just bail over here and try their luck."
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said it was frustrating that Maori families were going to Australia and then having to seek help from relatives struggling at home when things didn't work out.
"Our families shouldn't be leaving home and going to a strange country without having put things in place before they leave."
* 29,900 permanent and long-term migrants leaving for Australia in the year to June.
* 16,000 New Zealanders arrived at Brisbane Airport for a short or long-term stay in the year to June.
* 38 per cent of foreigners living on the Gold Coast are New Zealanders.
* 28 per cent of case workloads at the Brisbane Children's Court involve New Zealanders.
Sources: Statistics New Zealand, the Courier Mail, Gold Coast City Council, Vicky Va'a