'Back door' concerns about migrants rejected
By REBECCA TODD - The Press | Saturday, 17 May 2008

Migrants are not using New Zealand as a "back door" to Australia, research shows.

However, unequal opportunities for migrants in the New Zealand workforce are encouraging them to look overseas.

Waikato University director of population studies Richard Bedford said there had been concerns that foreigners were using New Zealand as a back door to Australia.

The assumption was that it was easier to get into New Zealand than Australia, especially from the Pacific Islands and some Asian countries.

Statistics showed that of the 38,738 New Zealand citizens who moved to Australia in the year to March, most were born in New Zealand.

While New Zealand-born people made up 77 per cent of New Zealand's population, they accounted for 81 per cent of those who moved to Australia.

People born in the Pacific Islands, Europe and Asia left in lower numbers than their population percentages would suggest. Pacific Islanders made up 3.5 per cent of the population but 2.8% of departures.

Those born in Africa or the Middle East were the only group that headed across the Tasman in greater numbers than normal.

They made up 2 per cent of the population but 3.7 per cent of departures.

Bedford said it was to be expected that foreign-born New Zealand citizens would move overseas as often as everybody else.

"Just because they do this doesn't mean they are back-door migrants," he said.

Back-door migration was a big issue for Australia from the late 1990s, when New Zealand required only three years of residence before awarding citizenship, he said.

But now migrants had the same chance of getting into Australia as they did into New Zealand and had a five-year wait before getting New Zealand citizenship.

Some migrants felt pushed to look to Australia because their skills were not recognised here, Bedford said.

"There's still discrimination in the New Zealand workforce on the basis of different culture and language," he said.

Equal Employment Opportunities Trust chief executive Philippa Reed said there were challenges for migrants in the labour market.

"I do know of people who have gone to Australia also people who have checked out Australia and said it's just the same or worse over there," she said.

Zimbabwean Moses Chamboko lived in New Zealand for seven years before moving to Perth in January. Better wages were part of the reason, he said.

"Also, the under-utilisation of migrant skills in New Zealand. A lot are doing very junior menial jobs, but across here their skills are recognised and they find themselves at levels they would like to be in," he said.

He said this was particularly the case for African migrants.

"The Government is doing its best to create conditions of equality and justice in the workplace.

"But the bottom line is when you go to workplaces, equality is not there. It's highly biased against migrants," Chamboko said.

The business analyst gained his master's degree from Auckland University, but said New Zealand businesses were not interested. In Australia, his Kiwi education was highly regarded.

"The climate is better. It's almost like an African climate and it takes eight hours to fly home if I want to," he said.

Chamboko said he often met African migrants with New Zealand citizenship in Perth.

His wife and three children would soon join him there.

"It's (New Zealand) a paradise for kids and I don't think they will be as happy here as they are there, but I will be able to look after them better here," he said.

From here .