New Zealand: The loss of talent to Australia

How serious is it?

There's ongoing concern in New Zealand that large numbers migrate across the Tasman in search of work and higher incomes in Australia. Underlying this, I suspect, is a fear that New Zealand's independence will be lost eventually as its economy becomes subsumed by Australia's. Fierce patriotism persists, and the loss of young talent is a running sore. As New Zealand slips down OECD rankings, Australia's booming mining sector beckons.

How serious is all this in fact? This isn't a recent phenomenon. Cross-Tasman migration has been excessive for decades. For Phil Goff, the Labour Leader, to charge PM John Key with being responsible for the loss of yet another 100,000 Kiwis to Australia is rather ridiculous, given Labour's own nine-year past record in that respect. Pots and kettles come to mind.

But Australia is no land of milk and honey, it seems. And actually, by some calculations New Zealand's economy will grow faster than Australia's in 2011. Australia's non-mining sectors continue to struggle. "While real investment growth of 5 per cent year on year in 2011 was the fastest since the global financial crisis, non-mining sectors were flat, according to UBS economist Scott Haslem" reported The Australian on 14 November. 

And how long will mining expand as China slackens off demand in the near future. Much of China's infrastructural development should be nigh on completed, so hard commodity imports will reduce soon enough. And, according to a recent World Bank statement, Asian economies are beginning to slow in response to weaker demand from the debt-laden developed world. Australia's mining sector may be booming now, but how long will it last?

Do Australian states also shed people? The answer is, unsurprisingly, yes. According to ABC News (reporting last year), "Queensland dominates interstate migration with 16,000 people moving to the state in the past 12 months. New South Wales, South Australia, and the ACT lost residents to other states." So, even if New Zealand were to have become a state (or two?) of Australia, there's absolutely no guarantee that Cross-Ditch migration would cease. In fact, it might even accelerate.

The other issue relates to mining. There was strong antipathy expressed in New Zealand to the National-led government's proposal last year to begin extracting resources from the vast Crown Estate conservation land. Some 50,000 marched down Queen Street in Auckland to protest at the ravaging of a national treasure.

The debate persists, with mining proposals still on the agenda, albeit not on the conservation estate. Beautiful, unspoilt natural habitats are endangered, environmentalists insist. Yet, as if almost in the next breath a barrage of criticism is levied at the government for being unable to prevent people from seeking mining jobs in Australia. It seems that Australia's fine to mine, but New Zealand is not. 

Do others not also see the inconsistencies in these arguments?

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