Most read story: 'Seriously we just go back to survival mode' - High living costs drive Kiwis back across the ditch

Note: This story first ran on Wednesday May 9

Kiwi families who have moved back to New Zealand after living in Australia are struggling with high living costs and low wages that could push them back across the Tasman.

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have moved to Australia to try and build better lives for themselves, but the move back home is proving difficult for some.

Rochelle Palmer met her Kiwi husband John in Brisbane and they moved to Whenuakite in the Coromandel four years ago.

"We were caught up in the rat race of busy city life of suburban life - having two boys we thought New Zealand might be a great place to let them be free."

In Australia, Ms Palmer could afford to be a stay-at-home mum - but in New Zealand she split her time between her four sons and working three cleaning jobs.

Her husband John is a mechanical engineer and works full time, but has often struggled to find work in their small community.

Mrs Palmer said she was shocked at the low wages and the high cost of food, power and rent in New Zealand.

"There were moments - and there still are every now and then - times when we have to go 'actually, how are we doing food shopping next week and how are we going to pay the power that's three weeks overdue?'.

"Seriously we just go back to survival mode of 'okay, what don't we use that can we sell to pay the power bill or to buy food next week?'."

Jan Stewart lived in Brisbane for 18 years with her husband Ken after both were made redundant from their jobs in Whangārei.

Last year, they retired and decided to move back to Whangārei, but Ms Stewart said she was shocked to find how much New Zealand had changed.

"Our home over there (in Brisbane) was worth $500,000 - we'd pay a million dollars for the same type of home here in Whangārei."

Another reason Ms Stewart was looking to return to Australia was the poor standard of healthcare she said her husband had received so far.

After being unable to walk, she said Ken was rushed to the hospital only to be discharged a short time later.

"I've picked him up and brought him back home only to find that I've had to take him back early hours in the morning and for them to realise he had five cracked ribs and a cracked lung."

Carmen Brown has lived in Australia for the past 23 years - apart from a brief two-year stint when she returned home to New Zealand.

But it was a stint that made her family quickly hop back across the ditch to Perth.

"It was just struggle street from the time we got home, we couldn't believe how much things were costing," Mrs Brown said.

"Power bills we get them two to three months and pay less than you do a month back home."

Ms Brown currently works part-time at a supermarket and earns $26 per hour and her family has been able to build their own home with grants from the Australian government.

Although she'll always call the Taranaki region home, she said she couldn't see her family moving back to New Zealand unless they could live mortgage-free.

"I loved growing up in New Zealand, I wished my kids had that kind of experience but Australia has been wonderful for them too."

Recent statistics show more Kiwis are making the jump across the ditch.

In the year to March 2018, 20,000 people left for Australia while just 15,000 returned home.

- By John Boynton



Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran's voicemail message from RNZ former chair released in wake of Carol Hirschfeld controversy

Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran's office has this evening released a series of documents via an official information request revealing her communications during and after her controversial meeting with former RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld.

The wad of documents were loaded onto Parliament's Beehive website today, and include text message correspondence and a voicemail left by the then RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

Carol Hirschfeld resigned from her top job at RNZ after misleading the broadcaster's management over a meeting with Minister Curran in a Wellington cafe in December last year. 

The voicemail from Mr Griffin to Ms Curran relates to RNZ executives having to return to a parliamentary committee to clarify answers they gave prior to the revelations about Curran and Hirschfeld's meeting not actually being "coincidental" - as initially claimed by Ms Hirschfeld. 

However, the documents released today do not reveal that Curran and Hirschfeld had any other meetings by themselves.

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School for children with learning disabilities needs more funding say parents, teachers' salaries below mainstream

A Christchurch school for children with learning difficulties is surviving on a lot of dedication and goodwill and parents say it needs more funding.

Seabrook McKenzie Centre for Specific Learning Disabilities is a private school for children with learning difficulties like dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Seven Sharp reports learning difficulties affect a staggering one in four New Zealand children, but specialist schools are few and far between. 

Seabrook, even as a private school, is a lean operation, as principal Mary Gillies explained.

"We keep the fees to a minimum, so much so that teachers are on a lesser salary than they would be in a mainstream school," Ms Gillies said.

But the rewards can't be banked, Ms Gillies giving this example: "To hear a child say to me 'could I please take this book home' after he's just read it because he's so proud of what he's just done."

Children with high-end learning disabilities who find mainstream school far too tough are thriving at Seabrook, but they're the lucky ones.

"There are a lot of kids that are just getting overlooked. Teachers aren't trained to be able to identify these children," Ms Gillies said.

Twelve-year-old Maia used to struggle with reading but has vastly improved thanks to her education at Seabrook.

Her mother, Marcelle de Bonth, said the teachers focus on what Maia needs, "not where the curriculum is and where she should be according to her age".

Ms de Bonth said children with learning disabilities deserve to have a good education, "and one size doesn't fit all so we do need the funding".

Seven Sharp asked the Government about this and Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin admitted the system needs work and funding.

Ms Martin wouldn't say any more ahead of the Budget on Thursday next week, May 17.

It all happens at Seabrook McKenzie Centre for Specific Learning Disabilities. Source: Seven Sharp