A Kiwi actor has slammed Aussies for being "d***s", saying the country is becoming New Zealand's "dodgy racist neighbour".
Samoan-born Oscar Kightley, who recently appeared in hit movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople, claims Australia is in close contention for the title of worst human rights abuser of the 21st century.
"Surely it's time for a quiet word," he wrote in a searing critique in the Sunday News yesterday. "Good mates have to tell each other when they're being d***s."
His comments follow the leak of thousands of incident reports from Nauru detention centre, which uncovered a shocking pattern of alleged abuse and mistreatment of immigrants.
Kightley also made reference to Australia's controversial offshore processing centre on Manus Island, whose closure was announced a day after the Nauru leaks.
"A Papua New Guinea court had to tell the Australian government that holding people against their will is - you know - illegal," he said.
While the actor accepted that New Zealand had not increased its quota of refugees for decades, he said his country still had the "moral high ground" over its old neighbour.
The Aussies he knew were decent and kind, he said, but "to treat people like this is not only un-Australian, but inhuman."
Kightley is clearly not alone in his views as the chasm between Australia and its cousins across the ditch widens.
Timothy Gassin, chairman of advocacy group Oz Kiwi, told news.com.au that New Zealanders had been growing increasingly disillusioned with the relationship between the two countries for the past 15 years.
"Australians are still treated pretty well in New Zealand, but there's been a gradual erosion of Kiwis' rights in Australia," he said.
"There's a lot of rhetoric about Australia and New Zealand being family ... politicians are always gushing, but people are feeling this isn't reality. Australians always try to drive a hard bargain."
His group regularly hears from Kiwis in Australia who are having problems with access to disability services, support for single mothers, basic services for women fleeing domestic violence and university access.
"This has put a bit of a wedge between the two countries," he said. "Australia being the meaner country."
LOCKING THEM UP
While New Zealanders receive special visas allowing them to live and work in Australia, Mr Gassin says Kiwis are increasingly being treated as "just another foreign country".
The Economist over the weekend looked at how Australia's immigration laws are undermining the relationship, disproving Malcolm Turnbull's claim early in the year that "no two nations could be closer".
Almost 200 Kiwis are locked up in immigration detention centres in Australia, more than any other nationality, with more held offshore.
Under the strict rules introduced by former PM Tony Abbott in 2014, Kiwis can be deported if they have been jailed for a year, even if it was at 18 years old and they have lived in Australia for most of their lives.
Mr Gassin says the deportation issue has grown in the past year, with Oz Kiwi frequently hearing from New Zealanders in detention, and NZ politicians raising concerns about their treatment.
More and more distressing stories have emerged about New Zealanders forced to leave their homes and families to return to a country they know nothing about.
Angela Russell is one Kiwi who was told she would be deported in April 2015 after serving three months of a nine-month sentence for theft, and was placed in detention in Darwin.
The 40-year-old had lived in Australia for 37 years and has two children who are Australian citizens, SBS reported.
Dylan Fraser was imprisoned at 19 after a fight with another driver in Sydney. His mother, sisters and children live in Australia. But he was deported in June last year and slapped with a bill of almost $60,000 for the legal costs of his failed appeals.
New Zealand's opposition justice spokesman Kelvin Davis described the Kiwis who had their visas cancelled as "people you'd have a beer with in the pub", although the Daily Telegraph showed that most had committed violent crimes.
Nevertheless, Mr Gassin says commentary about the Anzac bond is "ringing a bit hollow" and predicts: "We may see more in future years questioning the relationship between the countries."