Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

No 'reciprocal change' likely following changes for Kiwis in the UK

There is no plan to reduce the entitlements of British people living in New Zealand in response to Kiwis in the United Kingdom being hit with a health surcharge.

Prime Minister John Key this morning repeated his position that the UK changes were disappointing, but said New Zealand was unlikely to respond in kind.

"We are not planning any sort of reciprocal change. One of the reasons, and this is the point that the British High Commissioner has been at lengths to try and make to MPs right across the Parliament, is that the rules aren't equal at the moment.

"He would say, that if a British person comes to New Zealand and has to go to the doctor they would have to make a payment for that. If you go to the UK, his argument is that you don't because the NHS is free."

Labour leader Andrew Little has slammed the Government over the changes, saying Mr Key should have been on the phone to British Prime Minister David Cameron straight away to strongly protest.

"We still have close connections with Britain. New Zealanders are big contributors to the UK, and we've got to knock this on the head," Mr Little said.

"The UK are very good at coming out here when it suits them, talking about the great relationship between New Zealand and the UK. This is about not fleecing New Zealanders who contributed an enormous amount."

Kiwis in the UK will still get free doctors' visits and emergency treatment, but from April 6 those planning to spend more than six months in the UK, or applying from within the UK to extend their stay, will pay up to $434 a year surcharge for other health and dental care.

Brits can still use free care in New Zealand, an entitlement bound by the Health Benefits Act 1982.

Mr Key said, despite the arguments made by the British, the surcharge change was still a reduction of rights for Kiwi expats. The change had been made to help deal with general population changes, and New Zealanders had been snared, he said.

"Unfortunately, a bit like the Australian situation with deportees, it's not specifically aimed at New Zealand, but it has an impact on New Zealand."

About 200,000 Kiwis are living in the UK. Numbers of those staying long-term have fallen from about 18,000 in 2000 to 8500 in 2014, mostly as a result of previous changes that have restricted job opportunities.

Last month, the Government said it would continue to lobby UK ministers over a strict immigration policy that might threaten the OE dreams of many Kiwis.Stricter visa rules mean that from April 6, non-European Union migrants working in the UK will be kicked out after five years if they earn less than $76,000 a year.Since 2010, Kiwis wanting a skilled migrant visa have also had to secure employer sponsorship first.

- NZ Herald

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