An Australian couple each receiving the cost of living payment despite living across the ditch since November say it's a "role reversal" given the difficulties of Kiwis there getting social services.
Kelly McGuire and her partner left last November after eight years living in New Zealand and were "surprised" on Saturday to receive an email saying they were entitled to the first of three cost of living payments adding up to $350 over the next three months.
"We'd never even heard of the policy," McGuire told the Herald.
McGuire said there were no instructions on how to opt-out and so she hoped it simply would not turn up in her account today.
She was wrong. Both she and her partner today received the funds.
And they are not alone. Charlotte Castle, a New Zealand citizen, received the funds despite not living here since 2016. She still has a New Zealand bank account with KiwiSaver linked to it.
The Herald has spoken to several others in similar situations and social media is flooded with stories of people living overseas, some who had lived here as temporary migrants, receiving the payment despite its intention to be targeted at those living here.
McGuire said they both had their New Zealand bank accounts open and had filed tax returns last year, which meant their stated incomes would have fallen well below the $70,000 cap.
"I understand why it has happened but they should have had access to immigration or travel records.
"The money could make a lot of difference to a lot of families and it just seems a bit wasted imagining how many people like us might be out there."
McGuire said it was especially strange given how difficult it had been in the past for New Zealanders living in Australia to access social assistance.
"It's a bit of a role reversal, people living in Australia struggle to get support yet Australians leaving New Zealand are still getting free money."
Australia operates a similar scheme but it is targeted to beneficiaries and those on lower incomes, and New Zealanders living there are eligible.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday morning said she accepted people living overseas would receive the cost of living payment and she did not know how many people there could be.
Inland Revenue Department, which is administering the fund, told the Herald it also had no idea how many such payments could be made.
The alternative would have been an application-based process which would have taken too long and it may not have reached those who were most vulnerable, Ardern said.
The payment was still more limited and more targeted than a broad based tax cut, she said.
A tax cut would also likely contribute to inflation but offering a targeted, time-limited payment would limit the possibility of that according to Treasury, she said.
Ardern said she had asked IRD whether individuals who were overseas could be identified based on the interest they were paying on their student loans.
National's finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis said this was not good enough.
Willis said the problems have occurred because it was a policy "made on the fly" and she had a lot of sympathy for IRD which was having to administer it.
"Both the Treasury and the IRD explicitly warned the Government against this approach, they advised them that this was not a good way to go, they said 'some people who are ineligible will end up getting it, it'll be very administratively complex, we don't want to do this' and yet the Government pressed play anyway and now we're seeing the results."
National favoured using tax cuts, such as the inflation adjustments it proposed at the last Budget, over a payment since the only people who would get the money would have earned it in the first place, Willis said.
"We were told it would be targeted and this is clearly not the case. The Government has left the door wide open. If all that is required is a New Zealand bank account left dormant then tens if not hundreds of thousands could have got this payment."
In its advice to the Government on the scheme, IRD also said initiatives could be more targeted around addressing child poverty targets.
The Treasury recommended against progressing a broad-based payment, instead recommending investigating a more "targeted form of support to lower-income households".
The Greens had supported both these proposals, along with extending the current scheme to those on benefits and winter energy payments, who are currently excluded.
Former Inland Revenue deputy commissioner Robin Oliver, who now runs his own tax advisory service, said such outcomes of the policy were expected.
"The Government wanted to give out money, and the only organisation that can do that is the IRD.
"But then they can only work with the limited information they have, in most cases those who had filed a tax return, their age, names and bank accounts.
"A non-targeted policy like this, what else do you expect?"
Oliver said he would have preferred to see a more targeted approach to those doing it the toughest, such as boosts to Working for Families and tax credits.
However, Oliver said there were problems with all approaches and the Government's current policy, despite its flaws, was the most immediate.
The payments were announced as part of Budget 2022 to tackle the rising cost of living.
About 2.1 million people are eligible for the three monthly payments from August 1, receiving a total of $350. The estimated total cost is $816 million, with $16m to resource the 700 staff needed.
An IRD spokeswoman said the payments were calculated based on the information held at the time of making each cost-of-living payment instalment.
To determine whether a person was "present and resident in New Zealand", IRD used a variety of information including addresses, bank accounts and tax residency status.
People must have had a 2022 tax assessment with eligible income such as salary and wages or bank interest.
"If someone has left the country and hasn't told IRD they're not living here currently we will have treated them as resident here and they may receive the Cost of Living payment," she said.
IRD is not currently sure if people who hold shares in New Zealand but live overseas can receive the payment. Those getting income from portfolio investment entity (PIE) funds are not eligible.
If people believe they have received the money when they weren't eligible they can return it and there is also an opt out option. Information is on the IRD website.