Auntie Sandy comes out as a Kiwi to offer advice to other NZ mining families

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Hi! I'm Sandy (although lots of people call me 'Auntie') and my husband works offshore in oil/gas. We've been together for 30years, many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time we've raised two daughters (both now at uni) and moved more than 19 times! I wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.

I was wondering how many of you out there have put two and two together and realised I am from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Yes, another New Zealander! There are so many of us over here now, it's like NZ is an island just off the coast.

I don't generally discuss it with people, as I've come across very mixed reactions. The harshest response was from some of the people we met living and working in the Pilbara. "Oh, another one here taking the work off us Australians!" (Verbal abuse at my place of work because I opened my mouth and the accent came out.)

My reaction was controlled. I love being here and am proud to be part of this vast country. I am a Kiwi by heart but embrace this new country of mine. I am reluctant to return there. This country has so much to offer. We are not those new immigrants who arrive and complain. Sure I do have a love of 'Kiwiana' which most of you will not understand - chocolate fish and onion dip are hard things to let go! Thank goodness for the Kiwi shop. And please can someone explain AFL to me ... wrong shaped field and an extra goal post?

Our decision to relocate came about accidentally. The man of the house was here working. I stayed behind to give the girls a base. But hello! I woke up one day and realised they were never at home. One was in boarding school and the other away at university. The daughter at boarding school was never home as she was heavily involved in sport. The original plan was to have her finish school and get her started at uni and I would look at moving. To be honest I think now I was trying to delay things. There was the fear of the unknown. The youngest said to me, "You might as well go and live with Dad." Wow, hit me with a wet fish. The decision had been made for me.

There was the nervous time of breaking the news to my employer, family and friends. Everybody seemed pleased for me, but why was there still a shadow of doubt in my mind? Because of the apprehension we made the decision to leave the family home empty. It would be there as a base for the girls and as a security blanket for me. My parents used the house once or twice and I think the girls went home once. A year later and I was living in the my third state of Australia. It was time to go back and celebrate Christmas with everyone in NZ and make the move permanent. Now the task of packing up a home of 20 years, filled with memories and unnecessary items the had accumulated over the time. Where to start? (At one end and work our way towards the other!) We packed and cleaned as we went. Items were sold in garage sales, thrown away or donated to better homes. The man at the local tip stopped charging me as we soon become regulars and he was able to recycle most of the items. Furniture and car in storage, house left in the hands of a property manager.

To be honest, the relationship between the two countries has made the transition easy. Basically we can come and go without any hassle. I was off on an adventure. Three-hour bus trip and three-and-a-half-hour flight. Done, it was then I could
breathe that sigh of relief. Here I was in my new country.

I thought I was clever and had certified copies of documents. Phone numbers for everyone left behind. One word of advice: bring the original documents with you. (Even those documents you think you'll never need.) I can't recall the
number of times I have needed my marriage certificate ... in all my years in NZ I don't remember ever having to use it.

After a couple of years here it was time to go back and check on the house, catch up with family. House in one piece but in need of a little work. Organise builders, gardener. What to do with the furniture? To date we had been living in fully furnished accommodation. My major concern was the car - yes I am a true bogan who drinks bourbon, drives a Holden and lives out west. I went through the process of importing the car. This was lengthy because of the time I'd let lapse. Apparently if you want to import a vehicle, you have to do it within six months of relocation. Damn, I was like a dog with a bone, forms sent to Canberra and an application made under personal imports. Six months and a lot of patience later, and little piece of paper arrived in the mail. There was no brass band playing but I sure felt like hiring one.

If anyone out there wants to contact me about moving from NZ to Australia,  I'm very happy to run through the process with you.

The cost to import the car, for example, was not excessive and it was well worth the effort (especially when you consider the money I would have lost on selling my car in NZ and then having to buy a new one here). The process was made easier with the help of Tracey at Jenner Cargo at the New Zealand end. At this end I used Andrew from International Trade Management. As for the furniture, it has been given away and very little remains. But try and tell the man of the house it is not worth importing his tools. Well, that's another story!

My man originally travelled to Australia for work and opportunities. He works in oil and gas, and NZ has one refinery. Yes, only one to service the whole country! Once you've worked there, where to next? He was given the opportunity to work here and enjoyed the variety and daily challenges that were put before him. We had opportunities in years gone by, but had never taken them up. Now we look back and wonder what could have been. But that is retrospect and it is better to look to the future and what new adventures there are to offer. I think the reluctance was on my behalf. I was used to the safety of daily routines.

Australia is a country rich in natural resources, with great job opportunities in new and challenging roles. To be honest, Kiwis do come over and take jobs, but we have a very strong work ethic and will take on most challenges put before us.

So, for all you New Zealanders out there contempating a move - here's some advice of the things you'll need when you get here:

  • A blue/white card for work on the sites. This can be obtained online or through various training organisations. Other safety tickets are also required depending on the industry you will be working in.
  • Driver's Licence (this has to be done within three months of arrival). A combination of compulsory and secondary identification documents is required. For details, visit government websites such as
  • As a visitor from New Zealand, you are covered under reciprocal health agreements and entitled to free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient at public hospitals, as well as access to subsided medicine under the PBS. All you need is a current passport. If you hold New Zealand citizenship you are eligible for a Medicare care and will need to provide documents to support your residency in Australia. More information can be obtained from the internet under the Australian Government Department of Human Services.
  • Health insurance, especially if you are in the high income bracket. I obtained more information from
  • A tax file number - again, this can be done online through the federal Australian Taxation office (ATO).
  • Bank accounts. We found this a bit difficult - we don't have credit cards and subsequently don't have a credit rating. I got around this by taking out a small loan and paying it back in a short timeframe.

When we bought a house in Australia, we are eligible for the first home owner's grant. The process of home ownership is quiet different to New Zealand and we found the use of a mortgage broker eased the challenges. We used the services of
John from Focus Finance here in Perth.

Most visits to government agencies require patience! Most have a system where you take a number, so enjoy the company of your iPod or good book while you wait.

Australia is a truly beautiful country. I feel blessed to live here. So if you're back in NZ thinking about making the move, don't hesitate. Go for it! 

More from Auntie Sandy:

If you've got a question for 'Auntie' Sandy or would like to make a comment about FIFO living, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!