Friday 28th January 2011

New Zealand expatriates who lost everything in the recent floods in Australia may be eligible for emergency flood aid according to reports from the country.

Last week many Kiwi expats living in Australia feared that they had lost everything amid rumors that they would not be entitled to federal disaster funds under the 2001 Trans-Tasman social welfare arrangements, which blocked Kiwis living in Australia from access to federal disaster funds.

New Zealand expatriates who were affected by Australia’s recent funds were concerned that they would be excluded from the Commonwealth disaster relief payments of $1300 AUD per adult and $400 AUD per child.

The Trans-Tasman Agreements

The Trans-Tasman social welfare agreements were introduced in 2001. They necessitated the division of New Zealanders living in Australia into two distinct categories: residents and non-residents. Residents were considered as those that lived in Australia on the 26th of February 2001 with all expats arriving after that date being treated as non-resident.

The agreements were made in order to determine eligibility for social welfare payments with resident expats being allowed to claim and non-residents being ineligible. The agreements were made in response to Kiwi expat’s reluctance to formalize their lives in Australia, with less than 40% of those emigrating across the Tasman choosing to become Australian citizens yet regularly claiming social welfare payments from the Australian government.

Unfortunately it emerged last week that the trans-Tasman agreement would also be applied to federal relief benefits.

Trans-Tasman and the Australian Floods

In the aftermath of the flood disaster rumors circulated that New Zealanders who had arrived in Australia after February 2001 and had failed to gain residency would not be entitled to any federal relief payments. This was devastating news for the Kiwi expatriate population, many of whom had lost everything in the Queensland floods.

This week, however, it emerged that there may be relief offered afterall. The Australian agency responsible for social security payments, Centrelink, revealed on Monday that they would consider non-resident Kiwi expats for income recovery subsidies. These payments include bi-weekly payments of $469.70 AUD for single people, $424.00 each for couples and $388.70 for youths under the age of 21.

Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, announced the changes to the arrangements while also announcing that the New Zealand government would donate four million dollars to Australia's flood relief funds.

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