It’s hardly a new phenomenon, Kiwis have always been a mobile bunch; and thanks to the Trans-Tasman Agreement, we have the right to live and work in Australia! Today, more than 600,000 Kiwis call Australia home.
We New Zealanders move to Australia for many reasons - job opportunities and great beaches are high on the list. Higher wages too, but depending on your lifestyle these may well be offset by higher costs. The price of vehicles, in particular, will be a shock to New Zealanders, used to the availability of cheap Japanese used cars. Health insurance is also much more of a necessity in Australia than New Zealand, and the premiums are high.
Essentials for Kiwis moving to Australia
Since 2001, the rules have changed dramatically, and New Zealanders are no longer automatic permanent residents of Australia. Although you can legally stay as long as you like, and work, you are not eligible for most benefits. For example, if you have a child in Australia, they will have to pay foreign fees to attend university.
You can apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship, and if you can qualify this is a very good idea so that you access the welfare safety-net. Gaining Australian citizenship does not affect your New Zealand citizenship - you can hold and travel on both passports simultaneously if you wish.
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Coming from a small island nation, Australia pretty mind-blowingly large. The flight to Perth from Auckland is over 7 hours; it’s further from Sydney to Perth, than from Auckland to Sydney! It takes about the same time to drive from Sydney to Brisbane, as it does to drive from Auckland to Wellington. Now look at a map and see just how small a part of the east coast that is. Do not underestimate driving time in Australia!
Although you won’t encounter a volcano and earthquakes are rare compared to home, Australia does have its own challenges, particularly bush fires, and storms (including hurricanes in the far north).
The wildlife is not entirely friendly, though the chance of seeing a snake in urban areas is quite low. Shark attacks do happen, but are rarer than you think, and are mainly a hazard to fishers and surfers.
Weather in Australia
The climate has it challenges as well. It’s not all warm and pleasant, as any Tasmanian will tell you. A heat wave is not even declared in Perth until the temperature has been over 38C (100F) for a week. At those temperatures the minimum overnight temperatures don't drop below 21C.
A Kiwi in the sun
The biggest danger in Australia is the sun. Not just from skin cancer, although that risk is real and similar to New Zealand’s, but also from dehydration. If you are working outside in the Australian summer take precautions otherwise you will get heat stroke. If you are driving in the outback, never leave home without significant water supplies. Highway rest stops are frequent, but rarely have water.
When Captain James Cook arrived in Sydney Cove, he and his Tahitian and Maori interpreters were shocked to discover that they couldn’t understand the locals. While New Zealand is very much a Pacific country in language and culture, Australia is not. Although few would claim the Maori-Pakeha relations are perfect, they have never been as dire as the on-going issues for Australian Aborigines.
In the large east coast cities like Sydney and Brisbane, Australia is a melting-pot multicultural society, with vibrant gay and alternative communities. However, if you end up living in remote outback towns you may well encounter seriously racist and misogynistic attitudes as well as openly homophobic attitudes.
Australia’s economy is significantly larger than New Zealand’s, which means there are opportunities in many industries. There are also entire industries that barely exist at home including large scale export industries of iron ore, LPG and gold. Like New Zealand, around 70% of Australia’s economy is the service sector including, tourism, education and financial services.
Health care costs
Basic health care in Australia costs quite a lot more over the Tasman. Doctor's visits are typically 70 AUD and up, but the real kicker are prescriptions. Many Australians have private health insurance to cover these costs, which in turn puts up the price of medical bills.
In short for many New Zealanders, if you need something major but not urgent, say a major dental procedure, it may well be cheaper to fly home (including the flight costs), or, if you are living in Western Australia, find an Otago trained dentist in Kuala Lumpur.
Taxes in Australia
Australia’s tax system is a great deal more complex than New Zealand’s - you will probably need a local accountant to file a tax return, and yes, you need to file an annual return even if you are salaried employee.
Tax rates are lower than New Zealand for lower incomes - primarily because the first 18,200 AUD is tax free. However on income over 180,000 AUD you will be paying 45c on the dollar. Unless of course your high income is associated with living in a remote region or offshore - then you will get a big tax cut. If you’re looking for a job, tax accountants are always in demand in Oz!
You will also pay a 2% Medicare levy. You should try to get a Medicare card, which involves more paperwork, but without it you will pay even more for doctor’s visits and prescriptions.
As soon as you arrive in Australia, you will need to apply online for a Tax File Number (the equivalent of an IRD number) with the Australian Tax Office.
Australia has complex tax laws around capital gains on rental property, so if you own property in New Zealand, make sure you consult a New Zealand accountant before departure.
Superannuation and retirement
If you work in Australia you will have contribute approximately 10% of your gross income to an Australian Superannuation scheme. You may or may not have a choice of fund, depending on your employer’s rules. Keep track of your Australian Superannuation - many millions go “missing” each year as people fail to update their contact details.
If you return to New Zealand permanently, you can transfer your Australian Superannuation to a NZ Kiwisaver account, although it’s not compulsory. In Australia you have access to your superannuation from age 55.
Australia has no universal pension scheme - the Age Pension is only available to those who have few assets and little other income. If you are planning on moving to Australia to retire you need to have your income secured. Australia does have reciprocal agreements with many other Commonwealth countries. New Zealand Superannuation is also means tested, if a New Zealander retiree moves to Australia permanently.
Banking and credit
The Australian banking system will be familiar to New Zealanders as many of the big players are the same, e.g. ANZ, Westpac, and Commonwealth Bank. Before travelling to Australia, it’s easiest to setup banking before you depart, particularly if you already have accounts with one of the Australian banks.
Credit ratings don't travel with you internationally, so you will need to develop a credit history in Australia before you can get a credit card.
Education in Australia
Education in Australia is broadly similar to that of New Zealand with a 13 year compulsory school system. However, each state runs its own system and they are not compatible, for this reason, locals tend to attend to universities in their home state.
There are many top-notch schools, including international schools and over 40 universities in Oz; keep in mind that New Zealanders pay full foreign fees in Australian universities.
Where to live in Australia: our top picks
Traditionally Kiwis have moved to the large cities on the east coast: Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane - but patterns have changed over recent years. Moving between states is not quite as straightforward as moving around New Zealand, as each state has different rules for driving licenses, professional registrations, and pretty much everything else.
Based in Western Australia, Perth is an attractive modern city centred around the Swan River, but with suburbs which hug the coast for many miles north and south. Spread out, with only a limited train service, it will remind some of Auckland, but with a much drier climate. Perth is also a boom town, and when the good times are rolling, jobs will literally find you.
If you want a job in any of the WA’s large iron ore, other minerals, gold, offshore oil and gas industries, then Perth is most likely where you will find that job. Note you may not even need to move out of New Zealand - many of the extractive industries operate on a fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) shift bases, where if you are up for the extra travel time you can be based in Auckland or Christchurch as easily as Perth.
This is the other big mining state, which has a lot of coal mining in the south of the state and the huge Bauxite mines in the far north Cape York, along with hard rock mining centred around Mt Isa also in the north.
It’s here that you find coastal cities like Cairns and Brisbane, as well as the famous Great Barrier Reef.
If you’re into sport, Victoria is the state for you: 10 of the 18 Aussie Rules Football clubs are based here and most play in Melbourne. The compact city is traditionally the location of head office of most large banks and financial organisations, and has been voted the world’s most liveable city by The Economist every one of the last five years.
Melbourne is also famous for the probably the best public transport system in the southern hemisphere, and is probably the city closest to Wellington in terms of sophisticated food and arts scene.
Sydney is more difficult city to live in as the harbour makes transport difficult, and the public transport system is not as efficient as its southern rival’s. Like Auckland, this means property for rent or purchase near water or near a train line is at a premium.
Looking for more reasons to move to Australia from New Zealand? We have 20 things for you to know prior to moving to Oz.