Special help for flood-stricken Kiwis

By Hayden Donnell

A local resident wades through flood waters from the Wimmera River in Dimboola, Australia. Many small towns in Victoria are ordering evacuations as water levels continue to rise, with peaks now expected later this week. Photo / Getty Images
A local resident wades through flood waters from the Wimmera River in Dimboola, Australia. Many small towns in Victoria are ordering evacuations as water levels continue to rise, with peaks now expected later this week. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealanders denied funding after being caught up in the devastating Queensland floods are set to be granted a special Government payout.

Many Kiwis had complained they were ineligible for a $1000 Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP), due to 2001 legislation denying social service payments to those without Australian citizenship or permanent residency.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully this afternoon announced the Australian Government had relented on those funding criteria.

In a deal struck yesterday, Canberra agreed to create another identical ex-gratia disaster payment that would be available to New Zealanders, he said.

"We could see there were New Zealanders who were really affected by the floods who were being treated differently to their Australian neighbours.

"The ex-gratia payment available to New Zealanders on the same terms as the AGDRP is an excellent outcome and I am grateful for the positive way in which the Australian government has dealt with this issue."

Mr McCully said it was difficult to tell how many New Zealanders would now be able to access the payment, but it would be a "significant number".

There are 150,000 New Zealanders in Queensland and many would have been affected by the floods, he said.

The Government has also announced it will give $4 million in relief aid to those affected by the flooding in Australia.

Of that, $3 million will go to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Fund, and $1 million will go to the Red Cross Victorian Floods Appeal 2011.

The decision to give the aid money was signed off by Cabinet on Tuesday and had no relation to the deal struck on the AGDRP, Mr McCully said.

Goodna residents Aaron and Kasey, who moved to Australia six years ago, last week told the Herald they had been told they were "not Australian" when they were denied the AGDRP.

They were forced off work for nearly two weeks without leave, while still incurring $500 a week in daycare bills for their two children.

Their Australian next door neighbours were granted the payment.

Toby Turner, a New Zealand hydrologist and engineer living in Brisbane, said he was denied the payment because he was still a New Zealand citizen.

He is still unable to access his third floor Brisbane apartment due to flood damage to its lower floors and is sleeping on the floor at a friend's house.

"I pay taxes here, I've lived here for three years.

"Australian [permanent residents] in the exact same situation as me are compensated. I'm at a loss, it's costing me a fortune," he said.

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