Kiwi caveats

12th January 1996 at 00:00
As one who started his teaching career in England, but emigrated to New Zealand about 25 years ago, I am very disturbed about the recruiting campaign currently taking place in England (TES, December 22). I should say that I paid my own passage to New Zealand, having assessed the situation as it was then while on holiday in the previous year.

Things have changed beyond recognition in the past two decades. Auckland's population has doubled in the past 30 years, and it is now the world's largest Polynesian city. Polynesians were attracted by the large number of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, with infinitely better wages than they could get in the Islands.

Now, along with the indigenous Polynesians, the Maoris, they find themselves at the bottom of the heap, so to speak, and the result is that they tend to live in ghettos. It is in these lower socio-economic areas that there is an acute teacher shortage, both primary and secondary.

New Zealand has tried to solve its teacher shortage with overseas recruitment, first with teachers from North America, and I believe not one of them stayed the full three years of their contracts. Teachers recruited in Australia soon faded away, along with some New Zealand teachers who crossed the Tasman Sea for better pay and conditions.

Now the recruiting campaign has switched to Britain. Workloads here have reached breaking point as funding has been progressively cut, if only by inflation, but the worst possible thing has happened with the Teacher Superannuation Fund having been closed to new entrants.

I recently took early retirement to escape all this, and am on a teacher's pension, but there is no way I could have saved for my retirement without a superannuation fund. New Zealand is not a low taxed country. Value-added tax, known here as a goods and services tax, is levied on everything (except residential rents) at 12.5 per cent. So if you buy a rail ticket, baby food, building materials, anything you care to name, it costs correspondingly more.

The average house in Auckland costs more than 200,000 dollars - Pounds 80,000 - and there is no tax relief for mortgage interest, and a mortgage will seldom exceed two thirds of the value of the house. It is also very difficult to find suitable rented accommodation.

So, to sum things up, yes, come by all means if you have no children, and try to come on teacher exchange first so you know what exactly you are letting yourself in for.

Do not, under any circumstances, terminate your membership of any UK teacher superannuation scheme. Remember that when you finally retire here, you will have the distinction of living in the only country with an old age tax. Believe it or not, if your retirement income exceeds about 6,000 dollars, a 25 per cent surcharge is added to your existing tax rates.

I wish things were more positive, but they are not. New Zealand has the second highest road accident rate, and the second highest prison population in the Western world.

What is the good news, you may wonder? It does not snow in Auckland, though other major cities further south get correspondingly colder weather, much like England. You will need your winter woollies all the same.

P R PARRY

30 Alexander Avenue Papatoetoe Auckland New Zealand

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