Brad Olsen believes new Australia citizenship deal doesn't 'move the dial' enough to see brain drain

A leading economist believes the new citizenship deal for Kiwis living across the ditch will not see a massive brain drain of New Zealanders leaving for Australia. 

Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese corrected two decades of pain when announcing on Saturday that Kiwis living there for over four years would be able to go straight to citizenship, without needing to become a resident. 

The changes restore most of the rights Kiwis had in Australia before they were revoked in 2001 and bring them more in line with Australians living in New Zealand.

From July 1, all Special Category Visa holders will be able to apply directly for citizenship without becoming permanent residents first, as long as they meet a four-year residence and other eligibility requirements. These requirements include passing a character check, adequate knowledge of Australia, basic English competency, continuing to reside in or have a connection with Australia and attending a citizenship ceremony.

Infometrics Principal Economist Brad Olsen told AM Early on Monday he doesn't believe the new deal is enough to "move the dial" to see a massive influx of Kiwis into Australia. 

"I think there's a risk that we could see a greater level of migration but more importantly, I think this change probably just leaves a lot more New Zealanders in Australia who won't be looking to come home quite as much," Olsen told AM Early host Nicky Styris.

"I don't know if it moves the dial considerably for Kiwis wanting to move over to Australia. There's already a lot of reasons that people have been considering doing so." 

Infometrics data showed Kiwis can earn an extra $200 a week working in Australia but despite that, Olsen said that's still not enough for Kiwis to be packing up and moving across the Tasman. 

"There are obviously reasons a lot of us, five million of us, stick around here in our own country," Olsen said.

"So I think there's more opportunity to keep people in Australia. I don't think you are going to see a massive exodus all of a sudden over to Oz but very much there is a risk, I think that a few more people will look at these opportunities and go, maybe that's maybe for the next few years." 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the changes are the "biggest improvement" in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia in a generation and Olsen backed up Hipkins' sentiments.

"The Aussies are a core part of New Zealand's interactions globally. They are our nearest and dearest ally, sort of favourite cousin and also our greatest sporting rivalry but when we look at the economics of this, having those opportunities for Kiwis to get citizenship really rights the wrong that was created nearly two decades ago," Olsen told AM Early. 

"It ensures that New Zealanders over in Australia who are paying taxes get a lot more of the ability to interact in society like other people do." 

Olsen said the amount of Kiwis leaving for Australia has been slowly increasing since the border reopened following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We know that migration already from New Zealand to Australia had been picking up. For the five years before COVID-19 on average, you're seeing a net 3000 New Zealanders more moved to Australia than coming back the other way," he said. 

"That increased to 10,000 since the borders have reopened but it's nowhere near the 30,000 net outflow that we saw at points in previous New Zealand, Australia, trans-Tasman relationships."

Infometrics Principal Economist Brad Olsen.
Infometrics Principal Economist Brad Olsen. Photo credit: AM

But not everyone is convinced there won't be a brain drain with many sectors worried it will lead to thousands jumping to better job offers across the Tasman. 

Post Primary Teacher's Association spokesperson Kieran Gainsford believes teaching will take a big hit. 

"Younger people especially have been telling us for some time that the vastly superior paying conditions on offer in Australia have been attracting teachers over there," Gainsford told Newshub. 

AM host Ryan Bridge told the show on Monday that he's not convinced the new deal won't lead to a brain drain. 

"Quite how the politicians can say that with a straight face, even though you have improved the lives of Kiwis living in Australia it won't lead to more people considering moving there, I don't know," Bridge said. 

"That to me just seems like an obvious endpoint. If you make life easier for Kiwis living in Australia more of us will consider going there I would've thought."

Many AM viewers who emailed the show said they are considering packing up and moving across the Tasman. 

One viewer said her son and his girlfriend left for Australia on Sunday on a one-way ticket to move to the same job that pays double. 

"I 100 percent encourage this move so the opportunity to get ahead financially could actually happen," one viewer said. 

Watch the full interview with Brad Olsen in the video above.