Making flood relief payments accessible to New Zealanders living in Sydney is a "return to a policy now grounded in fairness", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, after a "grossly unfair" approach under Australia's previous government.
Ardern on Wednesday morning touched down in Sydney, which is experiencing widespread flooding. Up to 85,000 people are affected by evacuation warnings and orders, though torrential rain is starting to now subside.
The Australian government has announced disaster payments for eligible residents in 23 local government areas (LGA), with equivalent assistance for affected New Zealanders on 'non-protected' Special Category Visas and subclass 444 holders.
It's being described by the Prime Minister as a "significant shift" for New Zealanders, who were not always eligible for such payments.
"For me, this is recognition of the fact that New Zealanders are Australia's best migrants in terms of the contribution they make here," Ardern said from Sydney. "It is only right that they get the same access for support and it is so pleasing to see the Prime Minister recognise that."
She said it was "emblematic of the step change we are seeing in the relationship" between the two countries.
Australia elected a Labor government to power in May after nine years of Coalition rule.
When Ardern met with new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in June, the pair said they wanted to "reset" relations. The rights of New Zealanders living in Australia as well as the 501 deportation issue had caused tensions between the two countries in recent years.
It was suggested to Ardern on Wednesday that Kiwis getting access to the disaster payments was something unlikely to have occurred under the previous Australian government, led by Scott Morrison.
"No. In fact, we did explicitly see the opposite," Ardern bluntly said.
She later said it was always her expectation Kiwis would have access to support.
"I think probably what stood out to me more is that they didn't. This for me feels like a natural return to a policy now grounded in fairness. What happened before was unfair, grossly unfair."
The move reflected a government with a different view of Kiwis' contribution to Australia, Ardern said.
It's not the first time Ardern has made a jab at the former Australian Prime Minister during her trip across the ditch this week.
Appearing on Australia's The Project on Tuesday night, Ardern was discussing New Zealand tourism campaigns when she was asked if we needed any help from Morrison. The former Liberals leader previously worked in tourism marketing in Aotearoa.
"I'm sure you recall that our last PM worked for Tourism NZ for a while. He's kind of out of a job - would you like to have him back?" host Hamish Macdonald asked.
"Oh, our marketing campaigns are solid," Ardern replied, giving a thumbs up.
"That was a very brief response, Prime Minister," Macdonald replied.
"We're good, we're good," she laughed in response.
Ardern is set to meet with New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet on Thursday and then hold talks with Albanese on Friday. She said she planned to discuss the floods with the Australian Prime Minister and is also expected to again raise the issue of 501s.