Young criminals being sent back to alien society

By Michael Dickison

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Two months ago an 18-year-old Kiwi raised in Australia made a last vain bid to stay in the country he called home.

The teenager had spent only a few months in New Zealand since he was 5. All the family he knew, and all his friends, were in Australia.

But he had made a mess of his life, and now he was being deported back across the Tasman.

The teen, whose name cannot be made public, grew up in Melbourne. His parents separated and his mother returned with him to New Zealand.

Within months he was back, living with his father. But his father worked nights and slept during the day. At 13, the teenager was roaming the streets, mixing with bad company and sliding into drug and alcohol abuse.

Over the next few years he was convicted of a series of increasingly serious crimes.

Finally Australia lost patience and ordered his deportation, even though he had no links with New Zealand.

In his appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, evidence was given of his strong family and social ties in Australia, and of his potential for rehabilitation. But the tribunal ruled that the teenager, if allowed to stay, would pose a significant threat to Australian society.

The case illustrates a growing problem for New Zealand: the blowback of Australian policies on New Zealand's economy and society.

Young criminals with no family ties or support networks in New Zealand after growing up in Australia are being sent back across the Tasman to fend for themselves - raising potential new issues for crime and law enforcement.

Welfare agencies in Queensland have noted that many youths, particularly Pacific Islanders, have been deported to New Zealand after committing serious crimes, leaving families and friends behind.

At the other end of the scale, New Zealand's universal pension could pull both expatriate New Zealanders and Australians across the Tasman.

A joint draft paper by the two countries' Productivity Commissions noted that New Zealand's flat rate, non-means tested pension payment could be an attractive option.

"With an increasing state pension age in Australia [and] a harsher income test ... it may become relatively attractive for New Zealanders to return home to retire, especially if New Zealand does not increase the pension age, " the paper said. "These factors may also make it attractive for some Australian citizens to retire in New Zealand with their privately managed superannuation monies, which would also not be subject to means testing."

- NZ Herald

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