Going across the ditch?

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OPINION

Going for the ‘Hot Sister’

The Question of Strategic Migration

By Rew Shearer

“Congratulations, finally you can come to Australia!” So went a comment on social media on a friend’s announcement that she was now a New Zealand citizen.

There are, of course, plenty of arguments for making the move to Australia. Better climate, better pay, tax breaks, the affordability of living and housing. None of those things are in dispute.

But what of those migrants who come to New Zealand and gain their citizenship, only to reveal that Australia was their end-goal all along?

Fair enough? A legitimate pathway to a better life? Or is it, as one analogy went, like “dating a girl just to get to her hot sister”?

In her early 30s Cheryl sacrificed a lot to come to New Zealand. For the first two years, with her husband and infant daughter waiting back in the Philippines, she pursued her PR in New Zealand, alone. Finally, once she became a resident, they were able to join her: and in due course they ascended the stage at the Auckland Town Hall and took their oaths of citizenship.

To paraphrase that oath: “I solemnly and sincerely affirm that I will faithfully observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfil my duties as a New Zealand citizen.” But it was Cheryl who had received the congratulatory comment from a friend across the Tasman and less than a year later the family had packed up their lives in New Zealand and made their permanent move to the Lucky Country.

It is true that one of the privileges of being a New Zealand citizen is having the freedom to live and work in Australia – and of course, vice versa. The best of both countries is on offer and the holder of either nation’s passport has an almost endless choice of lifestyle, landscape and climate.

But how solemn and sincere, really, was Cheryl’s oath – when the intention all along had been to defect across the ditch?

Kieran, 29, a Kiwi, thinks that using New Zealand as a back door into Australia is dishonest and believes that there should be a watershed on the privilege. “I feel that there should be a time limit on that sort of thing. For example, come to New Zealand, work here for 10-15-20 years, then be able to cross the ditch.”

Nick, 42, also Kiwi, is more on the fence. “If it’s a bad thing for New Zealand, it’s only because it makes us look bad in Australia’s eyes.” But he believes that New Zealand benefits overall from what is effectively a financial transaction. “It’s not like they get a free ride through New Zealand. We make money. But they get into Aussie effectively for free. The New Zealand government makes all the money; Australia just takes them after we’ve given them the rubber stamp.”

Lynn, 32, from the Philippines but now a NZ citizen, sees it as an obvious and inevitable strategy. “(New Zealand’s) immigration is so easy compared to Oz.” In her mind, New Zealand is a legitimate stepping-stone, a way of bypassing Australia’s stricter immigration requirements. Lynn herself has no intention to move, for now, but stays only because of family ties.

Shane, 38, is also a naturalised Kiwi from the Philippines. Australia was never on her agenda and she doubts that it is a conscious end-goal for many. She suspects that it’s more about opportunity. “Filipinos are survivalists, not strategists. I lean more towards ‘anything goes’.”

 Richard, 43, originally from the UK and now a New Zealand citizen living in Australia, takes a charitable view. “At the end of the day, to become a citizen in New Zealand they would have had to be contributing members of NZ society, working, paying taxes. So really, New Zealand got something out of it. A lot of people would say that’s a fair transactional relationship.”

It’s Nick who points out that the recent change of government here may close that ‘back door’, after a succession of record migration years for New Zealand. “Labour and New Zealand First will make that loophole tighter … if you can even call it a loophole.”

Jacqui, 20, is a New Zealander by birth. She isn’t convinced by the ‘grass is greener’ perception and feels that those crossing the Tasman are missing out on everything this country has to offer. “I just wonder why they prefer to go to Australia and not stay in New Zealand in the first place.”

In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and while Australia may have its allure, New Zealand offers as much in its own right as a multicultural Pacific nation. Perhaps those with their eye on the ‘hot sister’ are missing the true privilege of being Kiwi.

Editor – Rew Shearer, a Kiwi married to a Filipina, is a columnist for FMN. We welcome feedback on our Facebook page: Halo Halo NZ. Or contact us by email: filipinonews@xtra.co.nz or text: 027 495 8477.