The woman on the cover of the Government's Wellbeing Budget says she had to give up New Zealand because she couldn't afford to live here - and moved to Australia.

Vicky Freeman said she got the shock of her life when a friend messaged her two days ago saying there was "a guy" holding her photo on the news.

"A friend just messaged me and said 'you're all over the news'. And I was like 'what, what have I done, I'm not even there'.

"And she's like I'm sure it's you and Ruby-Jean and I'm like 'I don't think so, I've never done an ad for the Budget'.

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"Then she sent me the photo of the guy holding the magazine and I was just like 'oh my God, yep, that's me and Ruby-Jean."

Vicky Freeman and her daughter Ruby-Jean appear on the cover of today's Budget. Photo / Getty Images
Vicky Freeman and her daughter Ruby-Jean appear on the cover of today's Budget. Photo / Getty Images

That guy was Finance Minister Grant Robertson, posing with copies of the Budget as they came off the printing press.

Robertson's office said the image on the Budget cover was a stock photograph purchased by the Treasury.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson with the 2019 Budget. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Grant Robertson with the 2019 Budget. Photo / Mark Mitchell

However, Freeman isn't such a great choice to be the face promoting today's Budget - given she no longer lives in this country.

Her shock was one of pride as she had worked hard to get into the acting and modelling arena - which eventually led to her moving back to Australia to make ends meet.

Freeman, who features on the Wellbeing Budget with her 9-year-old daughter Ruby-Jean, said she moved to Auckland at the start of 2018 to pursue her dream.

While they both got good work - featuring on Shortland Street, Jono and Ben and advertisements including Harvey Norman - she couldn't afford the financial sacrifice, a brutal realisation after discovering she was paying her 15-year-old babysitter more than she was earning.

She admitted she had given up on New Zealand.

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"Honestly, I'm a single mum, so that photo is true, it's just me and my girl, that's us.

Freeman said she messaged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Instagram earlier today because she was curious as to why officials had selected that particular photo.

"I actually messaged Jacinda this morning ... said 'Great cover, do you mind if I ask why you chose that photo'.

"She'll be busy but I'm sure she'll get a hold of me, because that's my photo. I'm stoked though, like totally coming from a good place."

Freeman said the high cost of living in Auckland was a major factor in moving overseas.

"We moved to Auckland to do the TV thing but I couldn't pay the rent ... sometimes I would have to hire a sitter to look after my girl while I went and did some TV work and I was paying the sitter more than I was coming home with because I was passionate.

"I didn't do it a lot because it made me feel kinda stupid, paying a 15-year-old sitter more than what a single mum is making. It was crazy."

Freeman said she was paying $500 a week in rent but was short about $200 each week - and she still had to feed them both.

"I just said to my daughter I can't do another year here .. the TV stuff was going well, it was good but not great pay. When you're just an extra or featured. It was hard and my daughter was like 'yeah mum, just tell me when and I'll pack my bags'.

"She didn't really enjoy school in Auckland either, she had a grumpy teacher."

The pair left for Australia in December.

As for politics, Freeman said she wasn't political at all - and said if she had to choose she'd vote for the Greens.

"I don't follow [politics] at all, to be honest. I would vote Greens because I'm a bit of gypsy and I don't get into what's going on. I just choose to tune out because I'm one person and if I get really passionate and upset about it what's that actually doing for my soul and wellbeing.

"It doesn't help me, it doesn't help the world, I just choose to be really passive and whatever they're going to do, they're going to do."

A stock image was purchased for today's Budget coverage.
A stock image was purchased for today's Budget coverage.

As for the photo on the cover of today's Budget, she said she initially felt it was out of context but then she saw that the Budget was all about happiness and wellbeing which both she and her daughter had now found in Queensland.

"It was very out of context but I kind of get it after they've been talking about happiness and wellbeing. Obviously it doesn't matter that I'm not even in NZ anymore."

However, she was aware that the photo could be purchased by anyone and understood it was the photographer who would get paid and not her.

The photo shoot was carried out at Long Bay, Auckland, for which she said she "didn't get paid a lot" but knew it could lead to getting exposed.

"I've always wanted to be a model or an actress or be known. I did a lot of shoots for free and be taken seriously and I'm proud, I'm so proud. I'm 41 next month and to finally have my childhood dream come true of being on a magazine. I'm blessed and grateful."

Freeman said she qualified for benefits in Australia due to living there for 10 years in her 20s.

She grew up in the small fishing village of Moeraki, south of Oamaru, where her parents, Neville and Mary, still live.