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Monday, 11 December 2017 01:10 pm

New generation of Brits moves here for vastly different reasons

While this country – once called “little Britain” by Premier Richard Seddon – has distanced itself from the former colonial empire, it still remains a hotspot for British immigrants. CHRISTINA McDONALD finds out why from two families who came here 30 years apart:

HAPPY IN RED: Anita and Dave Alcock migrated from Liverpool, England to New Zealand 32 years ago

“ALL New Zealanders have either migrated to this country or are descendants of people who migrated in the past,” says Archives New Zealand.

A large chunk of New Zealand’s history is devoted to British immigration, and as a result many New Zealanders consider themselves to be of European descent, mostly British.

Immigration from the UK was once an open affair, but over the course of time various governments have imposed limits to all migration. In 1987, the government introduced a points system for skilled migrants, which consisted of a set of questions which, when answered “yes”, gives the potential migrant points. This system is still in place today, and points must total at least 100 for the applicant to receive an “invitation to apply”.

The costs of migration have also increased, in part due to the majority of migrants now having to fund the process, where 30 years ago the bill would fall with the employer, and the New Zealand bureaucracy amplifying its requirements.

That apparently hasn’t put off Britons wanting to come here, judging by immigration statistics, which showed 14,633 Britons migrated in 2011, compared with 11,079 in 1980.

But do they still undertake the big journey round the world for the same reasons? Apparently not. If the two families interviewed here are a fair indication, British families are migrating here now for vastly different reasons from those of 30 years ago.

Dave and Anita Alcock migrated 32 years ago, with adventure in mind and disregard for a concrete plan. Mr Alcock already loved New Zealand music and was prepared to cope without English football, and Mr Alcock was eager to experience a different culture.

Julie and Simon Salt-Cowell migrated in January this year to give their children the chance to experience a better quality of life, and to increase their chances of finding global employment. Mrs Salt-Cowell loved New Zealand for a beautiful simplicity that she said, England no longer has.

The Alcocks

Age 52 and 51. Children aged 20 and 24. Migrated at 22 and 21 from Liverpool to Johnsonville.

Thirty-two years ago, the Alcocks, aged 22 and 21, migrated from Liverpool to embark on an adventure which they both thought would last no longer than two years.

The thought of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister had some sway in the decision for Dave, but for the most part they were eager to become adventurers, spurred on by stories of New Zealand’s beauty relayed to them by Kiwi travelers in pubs.

“Whenever we travelled, and every pub we went to, there were Kiwis behind bars who would tell us how beautiful New Zealand was. You could not go to an airport bar without seeing a drunken Kiwi.”

For Dave, New Zealand music (he is still an enthusiastic fan) also helped to reel him 12,000 miles away from what he had called home, which is testament to the communication of the time.

TOP PERFORMERS: Split Endz in typical attire. Photo: Stuff

Although they relied on a lack of planning to start their adventure, they did time the date of their flight to see Split Enz three days after arriving, a day before Dave was due to start work.

They were “too late” to be part of the so-called “ten-pound Poms” scheme, but Dave says they had no problem getting visas, as they had skills New Zealand was after. Dave specifically trained in information technology to be portable. As it was, New Zealand 30 years ago lacked people trained in IT and many Britons were contracted to work for New Zealand companies.

“It was simply because we had skills that weren’t available in New Zealand. They were new in New Zealand, but we had been using them for two years in England. The whole reason I got a job in IT was to get jobs overseas,” he says.

Anita says they were bound to the company, and effectively New Zealand, for a year, and Dave’s contract was for two years. However, like many such workers, they settled permanently long ago.

“If you were to go into an IT department today and sit in a room, at least 10 percent would be people who would have come across from the UK,” Dave says.

Another feature of a younger New Zealand was the lack of emphasis placed on academia. This is now worlds away, but Dave relished the laid-back lifestyle New Zealand provided. Even his much-loved English beer is not so missed now, with New Zealand cider taking top shelf in his fridge.

On arrival, they found New Zealand to be different from the UK in that Kiwis appeared to live in a classless society. Dave’s step-mother’s brother lived in Johnsonville and counted among his neighbours a manager of a Christian bookstore, a dustman and a rugby coach. He says while this was commonplace in New Zealand, streets were not as varied in Britain.

“In the UK, we were used to the people doing manual work living in streets together. White collar people lived together and people who were executives and bosses, they would live in executive and boss suburbs.”

And it wasn’t just the streets in the UK that were socio-economic based; the process of separation began at school level. Dave remembers being shocked at how socially and ethnically mixed New Zealand schools were.

On a culinary level, this mix seemed also to exist in butcheries, with the English range consisting of either mince or sausages, while New Zealanders had the luxury of a much wider selection, including steak.

New Zealand did, however, have a “dark side”. “Having a drink was like going out in the dark ages.”

The silver lining was witnessing the trend and funk revolution in Wellington and presumably the rest of the country. According to Dave, the 80s saw Cuba St go from being grungy and dangerous to grungy and trendy.

The Salt-Cowells

Age 49 and 48. Children aged 16, 12 and 10. Migrated from Henley-on-Thames to Kapiti Coast. Simon migrated February 2011, Julie and the kids January 2012. Oldest son has since returned to England to live with his grandparents and complete his education.

Julie Salt-Cowell and her three children flew to New Zealand in January to join husband Simon, who had flown over a year earlier. They came with the specific purpose of permanent migration, after Julie and her husband discovered the country “20-odd years ago”.

She reflects that post office employees in the UK are all behind bullet proof screens, and accessing bank accounts has become very difficult due to high level security measures. “England has become very complicated. The weight of people in the UK means it has become very security conscious.”

Her three children were growing up in this security-focused world. Now, at their local shops on the Kapiti Coast passersby and shop attendants ask what school the children go to. Because of a sense of tighter personal protection in the UK, the children were instructed not to give out such information, and were confused about how to answer when asked this in NZ.

“The kids’ asked ‘is it ok, mum, to say what school I’m going to?’ There’s all this fear in the UK in case the person asking is a paedophile. There’s always a risk, but there seems to be more freedom in New Zealand.”

She has found the effects of living in a less-populated and less security-conscious country refreshing, especially when dealing with tradesmen. Her New Zealand electrician arriving within the hour is a stark contrast to her British one usually turning up the next week, and her having to take a day off work to accommodate him.

New Zealanders also benefit from a multitude of playgrounds and a “brilliant set of toilets in every town”.

Like Anita Alcock, Julie’s husband works in IT, except the migration system had been upgraded since the Alcocks migrated. There is now a points system in place and Julie says when her family first considered migrating, she and Simon thought they might be considered too old for the system. Nonetheless, they did some investigation and realised they did have enough points to come as a family.

As the Salt-Cowells intended to migrate permanently, they also planned to have their furniture migrate. She found New Zealand has strict rules concerning what is brought in and how.

At what was a stressful time, Julie found laughter in some of the chores New Zealand bureaucracy listed for her. One day she found herself cleaning “Buddha’s bum”. Julie’s Buddha was a small statue that sat outside her front door in England, and because he was exposed to the outside world, he was required to be scrubbed clean. “This country protects its eco-system very stringently, whether it’s Buddha’s bum or a tent, it’s very strict.”

MUSCLE POWER: The five men loading the car into the container. Photo: Julie Salt-Cowell

An item even bigger than Buddha was the family car, which needed to be empty of petrol before being loaded into a container. “I had to figure out how to get the car empty of petrol, but the driveway was not big enough for a 40 foot container and the village was a mile away. I had to get the car there with no petrol.  Five men ended up pushing it into the container!”

Their furniture had to be wrapped in special extra-absorbent brown paper which would prevent mildew. She remembers the strange sight of her house encasing rown-papered objects. “I came back

and it looked like a post office.”

One precious item that was not able to be wrapped in brown paper was Floppy, the family’s labradoodle, who had to have his own sky kennel made by airport carpenters. After spending a month at Shado-Lans Quarantine Station in Levin, Floppy was reunited with his human father when Simon picked him up.

Now that her family has migrated, Julie once again reflects on her family’s reasons for heading south. “Nothing seems too extreme – I don’t like extremism, it’s dangerous. That’s what’s happening in the UK.”

Migration rules then and now

Then: As long as you had a job offer from New Zealand you were able to migrate, and the migrant’s employer would manage the application process.

Potential migrants were more likely to get job offers if they had skills which were sought after in New Zealand.

Because the internet did not exist, forms were mailed out to migrants and if there were questions, replies could take two weeks.

Immigration interviewers would ask questions about whether the migrants had children or had property to sell – this system performed the same function as today’s points system.

It was common for the migrant’s employer to pay for every minor detail, from flights to New Zealand House in London for interviews to the cost of a hotel when they arrived in New Zealand.

Now: Under the Skilled Migrant Category potential migrants must have “specialist, technical or management expertise obtained through recognised relevant qualifications and/or relevant work experience.”

Migrants must complete an Expression of Interest in the form of a question sheet, which includes questions such as: “Do you have a qualification in any one of New Zealand’s identified future growth areas?” or “Areas of absolute skills shortage?”

If their points tally 100 or more, they are likely to receive an Invitation to Apply. The invitation is then sent back to Immigration New Zealand along with supporting documents, such as medical checks and academic proof.

Migrants themselves generally have to fund the cost of relocating, which can be a costly process.

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is a Whitireia journalism student.
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