Bad drivers, health costs annoy New Zealand immigrants

17 February 2006

Although as reported earlier the vast majority of new immigrants to New Zealand are quite happy with their new home, a few things still get on their nerves. The cost of health services and bad driving are among the biggest gripes that immigrants to New Zealand have, a new survey shows.

The Department of Labour survey of more than 2000 people assessed skilled migrants six to 12 months on and showed more than 90 per cent were still glad to call New Zealand home.

However, about 12 per cent found discrimination or attitudes to migrants problematic.

"In a time of skill shortage and low unemployment it is important not only to attract new migrants but to make sure their settlement experiences are positive," said the department's deputy secretary of workforce, Mary Anne Thompson.

She said efforts to make sure migrants fit in quickly were key to them becoming contributors to the economy.

A department spokeswoman said officials had just launched a three year study into the economic impacts of migration.

The most recent data measuring the fiscal impact of migrants dates from 2002. That data showed migrants had a positive net fiscal impact, contributing $1.7 billion to the economy, despite the Government spending more than $4b on them, including benefits and health care.

Only two new migrant groups, Asians and Pacific Islanders, had a negative fiscal impact in their first five years. However, that quickly changed over time, emphasising the need to help them assimilate quickly.

The new survey of skilled migrants showed 84% were in paid employment or working for profit.

A slightly lower 79 per cent were satisfied with their jobs and 8 per cent were not happy.

The high cost of housing came as a nasty shock for 52 per cent of migrants, as did the high cost of living for 44 per cent.

About 36 per cent lived in Auckland, with Canterbury 18 per cent, Waikato 10 per cent and Wellington 7 per cent.

There were 60 nationalities represented, and by far the largest group were British, totalling 56 per cent.

Others included South Africans (8 per cent), Chinese (5 per cent), Indians (4 per cent), South Koreans (4 per cent), Americans (3 per cent), Germans (2 per cent), Zimbabweans (2 per cent), and Filipinos (2 per cent).

Migrants most disliked the geographical distance from their homes (40 per cent). Bad driving or road safety, and the cost of health services were also cited (35 per cent).

"Some of the costs, food items, are more expensive," said Neelesh Kinnerkar, 27, an Indian engineer working at the Christchurch research and development unit of Navman New Zealand.

"But if I compare Kiwi to Indian driving, it is much, much better I reckon," he chuckled.

Kinnerkar said that before moving to New Zealand friends had warned him of racism, but that so far he had not experienced any.

Other gripes identified in the survey included: public transportation (32 per cent), quality of housing (22 per cent), the cost of living (22 per cent) and the tax system (19 per cent).

But overall, 93 per cent of migrants were either "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with living in New Zealand.

Lifestyle featured highly when migrants were asked why they chose New Zealand.