NSW denies Kiwi expats crisis housing

By Greg Ansley

Kiwis commonly defined by agencies as temporary residents in Australia. Photo / File
Kiwis commonly defined by agencies as temporary residents in Australia. Photo / File

New Zealanders living in New South Wales have been excluded from emergency housing under another addition to the growing list of federal and state payments denied to expatriates.

Although entitled to live and work in Australia without restrictions, Kiwis who arrived since February 2001 are subject to special category visas and - despite earlier assurances and a number of anti-discrimination cases - are increasingly defined by government agencies as temporary residents.

In addition to ineligibility for a range of welfare benefits, their exclusion from emergency assistance available to other residents came to a head after the Queensland floods, when government help was initially refused.

Payments were eventually made on a one-off basis.

But the list of exclusions has continued to grow, despite heavy recruiting in New Zealand by companies desperately seeking skilled workers to fill key gaps in Australia's own workforce.

The NSW decision to refuse emergency accommodation to New Zealanders also follows their specific exclusion from new federal compensation payments for Australian residents injured overseas by acts of terrorism.

The exclusion has been referred to the federal Parliament's human rights committee by New Zealand advocate David Faulkner.

The committee is also considering the ineligibility of young New Zealanders for student loans, an issue viewed with concern by social researchers for its potential to entrench a permanent underclass.

The director of community partnerships at Griffiths University's School of Education and Professional Studies, Judith Kearney, recently warned that the block on higher education was especially hitting New Zealanders of Pacific Island descent.

Earlier optimism that New Zealand was making headway in its argument for equal treatment for expatriate Kiwis has largely evaporated as Australian governments haul in their spending as budget pressures increase.

The Government says its ability to intervene is limited because Australia has a sovereign right to impose its own laws and regulations.

In Sydney this month, Prime Minister John Key said that little would change unless Australia felt it could afford the move.

"I don't think it's their number one priority at the moment," he said.

NSW, struggling with its own economy, has now changed the rules governing access to social and emergency accommodation.

The state provides crisis housing when homes are damaged or destroyed by natural disasters, people are forced out by domestic violence or child abuse, and in cases where a person with custody of children is homeless.

Under the new rules New Zealanders will be refused help.

While NSW accepts that Kiwis have the right to live and work in the state, they are not permanent residents because they hold special category visas.

"Non-protected special category visa holders ... are not considered permanent Australian residents, and are therefore ineligible for social housing assistance," the new rules say.

The exclusion does not apply to New Zealanders holding protected special category visas.

These include Kiwis who were in Australia before February 26, 2000 or who, if they were out of the country, had been living in Australia for 12 months in the preceding two years and subsequently returned to Australia.

- NZ Herald

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