Being Kiwi: Kiwis in Aussie still call New Zealand home

Paul Bithell. Photo / Supplied
Paul Bithell. Photo / Supplied

For New Plymouth-born Jess Goldsmith, life in New Zealand was a struggle.

Without a job and with high childcare costs, the 28-year-old mother of two young children found it hard to make ends meet and resorted to going back to live with her parents.

In 2010, she and her partner Simon Thomassen moved to Sydney to improve their quality of life - a move, she says, they have no regrets about.

"It all comes down to money, to be honest," she says.

"Back home it was a bit of a struggle ... it was such a huge stress. Since coming here, we're probably a bit too carefree now."

They are now saving to buy their first home.

She is pessimistic about New Zealand's future and believes moving to Australia "has been one of the best things I could do for my kids".

About 50,000 Kiwis leave for Australia every year in search of higher wages and a better living standard.

Almost a fifth (18.4 per cent) of all 20 to 39 year olds who are either resident in New Zealand or NZ-born now live overseas - 192,000 in Australia and 75,500 in the rest of the world.

The proportion is virtually the same among 40 to 59 year olds (18.1 per cent), suggesting a decisive shift from the traditional short-term "overseas experience" to predominantly permanent emigration.

Ms Goldsmith's brother Matt, 21, doubled his pay as a waterproofer by moving to Sydney last year.

"When I was doing road works in New Zealand I earned $350 a week, here I've doubled that," he says.

Now he is hoping to start his own business and be his own boss.

"I'm pretty satisfied with my situation now, the move to Australia has probably got a lot to do with it," he says.

"Now the doors have opened, opportunities are coming up and I know now what I want to be happy."

However, although he is "glad and grateful" to be in Australia, he would rather live in New Zealand if he "could make the money I make here".

Although generally happy, other Kiwis in Oz also hope to return one day.

Concreter Paul Bithell, 27, a Fijian New Zealander originally from Thames, describes Australia as a "land of opportunities" where "you can dream and achieve that dream".

But he says: "Sometime in the next 50 years I'd love to go back home."

He now resides in Queanbeyan in New South Wales, where he works as a leading hand foreman and is trying to start a business.

Although they have left their homeland, Kiwis in Australia are determined to keep their identities as New Zealanders.

"Yes I am a Kiwi, I wouldn't give it up for anything," Mr Bithell says.

"I'm passionate about where I come from. I'm half-Fijian, but I always refer to myself as a New Zealander."

Megan Leatherby-Ford, 37, formerly from Lower Hutt but now a public servant in Canberra, says despite having been in Australia for 16 years she still "absolutely" considers herself a Kiwi.

"I have Aussie citizenship, but I'll always be a Kiwi," she says.

"I hope that [New Zealand] prospers, not just economically but culturally too.

"I hope that it doesn't sell itself off and that it remains what everyone knows it is - that beautiful place at the end of the world."

What shaped us - key events 1972-92

1973 Britain enters the EEC. For almost a century we had made a living by sending meat, butter and wool to England. Now we had to find new markets, and stand on our own feet.
1975 Maori land march. The month-long hikoi from the Far North to Wellington focused attention on issues of Maori land and proclaimed a new assertion of Maori rights. Three days before the march reached Wellington the Waitangi Tribunal was established.
1981 Springbok tour. The civil war between supporters and critics of the tour expressed a major debate about national identity and the effect was to present an image of New Zealand as standing for non-racial human justice.
1984 Rogernomics begins. With the election of the Labour Government, the dollar was floated, subsidies were removed, state assets sold and New Zealand embraced the free market. Within six years we could shop 24/7.
1985 Anti-nuclear policy. In expressing an opposition to nuclear power and arms, New Zealand was forced out of Anzus and into confrontation with France over the Rainbow Warrior. New Zealand took an independent line in the world.
1987 A new immigration act. From this time immigrants were selected firmly on skills, not ethnic background, and this was strengthened by the points system in 1991. Asian-born people increased from under 40,000 in 1986 to over 250,000 in 2006.
Source: 30 key events 1912-2012 selected by Dr Jock Phillips and his team at the online encyclopedia Te Ara. More online at: http://blog.teara.govt.nz

The question

Who are we: What does it mean to be a New Zealander in today's interconnected world?
The context: The "typical" New Zealander who will read the new compact Herald is much harder to pin down now that we are more likely than ever either to have come here from overseas or to have been born here and gone.
The methods: A DigiPoll of 750 New Zealanders plus in-depth interviews with 91 people in New Zealand and 16 NZ-born people in Australia, including similar numbers in five 20-year age bands. The NZ interviews were arranged with the help of primary schools spanning the decile range in North and West Auckland, Cambridge, Rotorua and Christchurch. In addition, historians at the online encyclopedia Te Ara selected 30 key events that helped shape our identity over the past 100 years.
The team: Greg Ansley, Kurt Bayer, Simon Collins, Yvonne Tahana, Lincoln Tan, Vaimoana Tapaleao.

The series

Monday: Pioneer stock - aged 80-plus
Tuesday: War babies - aged 60-79
Yesterday: Opening up - aged 40-59
Today: Children of Rogernomics - aged 20-39
Tomorrow: Sport unites the nation - aged under 20.

Snapshot: New Zealanders aged 20 to 39

* European 65.5%
* Asian 11%
* Maori 9.1%
* Pacific 6.8%
* European-Maori 5.1%
* Other/mixtures 2.7%

Where we are:
* New Zealand 81.5%
* Australia 13.2%
* Rest of world 5.2%
Source: Statistics NZ

- NZ Herald

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