Welcome to our series of Migrant Tales, accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand.
Usually Migrant Tales are told in the first person, but this tale is told by another. It is the story of John Doe and Kimiko Suzuki
I am retired as a writer now, but there are just some stories you never told, and they just won’t go away. This is one, and it is not a pleasant one. I have seen all the papers, from the New Zealand family court, from the banks, the letters and emails. I can not pass that on, but I can tell the story, I feel I have to.
Let’s call them John Doe and Kimiko Suzuki, not their real names, I just plucked them off the web and made sure they do not easily associate to the real people.
Now, let’s roll the clock back some 30 years. John, had just finished his university studies overseas and was backpacking around Asia. There he met a pretty 19 year old, and a certain bond developed. Kimiko was honest about that she was looking for a foreigner to marry to escape her overcrowded home country. They had a lot of fun together, and finally got married. For the most it became a very happy marriage, but they had no children.
John was ambitious and successful, worked long hours and made it to real high flying positions. Kimiko was happy and lived a leisure life in luxury. They jetsetted the world together. John’s parents passed away, and he invested his own money and his inheritance, money the family earned through hard backbreaking work during generations in the farm industry, in a very nice country home in New Zealand.
They never got any children but had a maid who cared for the house, and Kimiko took the odd job she enjoyed. She worked less that half the time of marriage. She drove luxury special edition cars, enjoyed good wines and food, bought the most expensive clothes, and had lots of friends and an active social life. John worked, and drove a 10 year old 4WD, but he choose to do that.
Then disaster struck, John ended up in hospital for a long time, and had a very long, difficult and slow recovery. His career was destroyed and the money flow stopped. Kimiko complained. This was not the life she had been used to.
After a couple of years Kimiko wanted a divorce. They nearly negotiated a settlement, but then a New Zealand lawyer got hold of her and convinced her she could get much more, after all the had no higher education, had no career, John had given her a good life and she now had acquired a right to the lawyer said, and surely John could be made to pay – a lot.
It ended in the secret family court. John, who had a legal training, represented himself and could not believe what he experienced, the judge openly assisted Kimiko’s lawyer by making suggestions and constantly interrupted John to stop him putting his case foreward. John asked the judge to present his case, but the judge ordered him to sit in the whiteness box and ask himself the questions his lawyer would have asked. John asked to make a final address to the court, the judge denied it. The judge was openly biased and openly unfair.
Since John’s inheritance was invested in the home, the judge considered that it all should be regarded as matrimonial property and divided equally, plus that he ordered John to pay much of Kimiko’s divorce expenses and a few “extras”.
When John received the protocol from the court, of course written by the judge, it was right out falsified. Judges are supposed to be fair and impartial, but this judge was anything but that. The Family court is a secret court, so no public scrutiny is possible.
Johns life was destroyed. His dream family home was sold under him for a song. Most of his family inheritance was gone. A New Zealand accountant calling himself “investment expert” pretended to take pity on John and made friends with him. John did not want to live in New Zealand any longer, so the accountant offered to assist with an investment in China, and then John could live and work there. John accepted.
When the financial crises came 2008, the Chinese company John and others invested in went broke, and all the money was gone. Other investors tried to retrieve their funds, but nothing was left, as was the New Zealand accountant who quickly vanished.
John has given up on life now. He has become what he describes as a PT, Permanent Traveller. He drifts around the poorest areas of Asia volunteering as an English teacher. He say it gives him reason to live another day. He is receiving Super, but zealous bureaucrats at WINZ trolled through his records and found that he had lived overseas for his studies and some work, and they decided he was not entitled to full Super, so they reduced it. That he, or rather his family, paid for his education at no cost to New Zealand, and that he carried with him half a million of personal assets to New Zealand does not count at all.
John has glued in an extra page in his New Zealand passport. In several languages it asks that he is not to be given any life prolonging medical treatment if he gets sick, when he passes away his few remaining belongings to be given to the nearest school, his body is to be cremated and the ashes scattered in the nearest river. “That will bring me back to where I really belong, the oceans” he says.
I am sure New Zealand will gladly welcome more people like John.
Is it not time to update the laws of New Zealand? In the “good old days” when a woman got married she could be called to the boss and asked to resign her job so it could be given to a man who better needed it to support his family. Time have changed, but the New Zealand law has not.