New Zealanders being treated as so-called "second-class citizens" in Australia will be a hot issue when Prime Minister John Key meets his counterpart Julia Gillard over the weekend.

The pair will hold annual trans-Tasman prime ministerial talks in Queenstown on Friday and Saturday, with the meeting also marking 30 years of the Closer Economic Relations trade deal, which Mr Key says has made Australia and New Zealand two of the most integrated economies in the world.

Despite such strong ties and paying tax to the Australian government for years, an estimated 280,000 New Zealand residents who have arrived in Australia since 2001 are on temporary or special category visas, meaning they are denied voting rights, access to welfare benefits and student loans.

A joint productivity commission report last year said Australia's selection criteria and quotas for permanent residence may prevent more than 100,000 "temporary resident" New Zealanders ever getting it, recommending the Australian government make changes.

According to internal Australian immigration documents, one potential change is allowing New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for eight years or more to gain permanent residency.

Mr Key says he's raised the issue of Kiwis' rights with Ms Gillard previously, and Australian lawmakers have given it some consideration.

He has no doubt it will be on the agenda again this weekend.

"There are a number of factors they need to consider. One of them is obviously the financial implications but then there is whether they think there is fairness in the system as it currently sits," he said.

"We always encourage a situation where New Zealanders are treated well and fairly, but that can have different definitions in different places."

Ultimately, any decision rests with the Australian government, Mr Key said, adding that New Zealanders heading across the Tasman to live need to be aware of their obligations and entitlements.

Mr Key said New Zealand's treatment of Australians living here is clearly different, and his government has no plans to change that.

 

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