Kiwis at risk, group says

If there is a downturn in the Australian economy, many New Zealanders long-term residents there will be among the worst affected, because they are ineligible for welfare support payments.

That is the view of Timothy Gassin, a Melbourne-based spokesman for OzKiwi, a group lobbying for long-term New Zealand residents in Australia to have the same rights as Australian residents in New Zealand.

Mr Gassin, who is an Australian with a New Zealand-born wife, said that if there was an economic downturn in Australia, ''New Zealanders are bound to be disproportionately affected''.

''Unlike all other permanent residents, they will not have access to unemployment benefits. ''They would also not have access to support for retraining.

''It is certainly unfair that New Zealanders are denied the same rights as all others living permanently in Australia.

''They ... pay their taxes, contribute to the economy, and volunteer in their communities, but are denied many of the services for which their taxes pay and are permanently disenfranchised.''

The issue affecting and annoying the largest number of people was ''the lack of voting rights and the inability to gain citizenship'', he said.

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