Story: Kiwis overseas

Page 3. Staying in Britain

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Intimate strangers

The longer New Zealanders stay away, the less likely they are to return. Career paths take them down certain roads, or they marry. After decades away, many expatriates have children and grandchildren. By 1978 the writer and publisher Dan Davin knew that living anywhere but England would be ‘emotional suicide’. In 1962 he had spoken of himself and other expatriate writers as ‘early settlers who by pioneering in this country have made it possible for our countrymen to stay at home’. 1 Like many others, Davin made return visits, but referred to himself as an ‘intimate stranger’. Many other New Zealand-born people have remained in Britain, attracted by a richer and more specialised cultural life – people like R. W. Burchfield, the editor of the Oxford English dictionary, or Alexis Hunter, who arrived in 1972 and went on to become a leading feminist artist.

As citizens of the Commonwealth, New Zealanders had free access to Britain. Until 1973 the words ‘British Subject and New Zealand Citizen’ appeared on every New Zealand passport, but from 1974 the wording read, ‘New Zealand citizen’. In the 2000s many New Zealanders qualified through having patriality (because they had a United Kingdom parent or grandparent), and could live and work there for four years, followed by the prospect of full citizenship. Those without patriality and who were aged between 17 and 30 could still visit for up to two years on working-holiday visas.

A conservative estimate of the New Zealand population in the United Kingdom in 2001 was 50,000. In 2003 the British Home Office estimated that 400,000 New Zealanders held British passports. At any one time, many will be working visitors in the United Kingdom, and this is why other estimates put the New Zealand population as high as 150,000–200,000. The true figure is hard to determine but probably lies somewhere in the 60,000–150,000 range.

Best and brightest

In the 1930s Margaret Mead, a visiting American anthropologist outlined her thoughts on the phenomenon of Kiwi migration:

‘It is New Zealand’s role to send out its bright young men and women to help run the rest of the world. And they go, not hating the country of their birth, but loving it. From this loving base they make their mark on the world’. 2

Britain’s expatriate community

With a shared language and history, and similar legal and cultural backgrounds, ties between New Zealand and the United Kingdom have always been strong. The New Zealand Society was formed in 1927 as a dining club for Kiwis in London. Later, many other organisations based around sports, culture, business and professions were also established, mainly in London.

In 1999, 8,000 people went to Whitehall, London, on Anzac Day to pay their respects to Australian and New Zealand servicemen. In the 2000s the weekly newspaper New Zealand News UK, established in 1927, claimed a readership of 62,500.

  1. Keith Ovenden, A fighting withdrawal: the life of Dan Davin, writer, soldier, publisher. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 329. › Back
  2. Quote 85, cited in John Daley, ed. Good as gold: being a New Zealander. Auckland: Godwit, 2002. › Back
How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Kiwis overseas - Staying in Britain', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 August 2022)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 17 Sep 2014