Spreading Like Wildfire: The Impact of Australia’s Bushfires on New Zealand

The catastrophic bushfires in Australia have made the news almost every day for the past month.

By Katharina Schneebauer 

January 30, 2020

However, there have been many impacts in neighboring New Zealand that have not been reported. As the threat of the bushfires and overall climate change rears over Australia, there are many issues facing New Zealand. Recently, there has been a great migration of Australians towards the East and into New Zealand, causing housing prices to rise and infrastructure deficit to grow. Many believe this problem will only be exasperated by worsening conditions in Australia. 

Not only New Zealand’s housing crisis will worsen, though. The country’s famous glaciers are also in peril as smoke from bushfires in Australia drifts over them, turning them brown. Rey, an Australian woman living in Wellington, New Zealand, who did not want to share her full name, told CNN that she “took a flight up over Fox and Franz Josef glaciers and landed on a flat surface not too far from the glaciers. The pilot said he had been up the day before and the snow was white.” This caramel dust coating on the glaciers may cause them to melt earlier this year, environmentalists fear. After the forest fires in the Amazon, the glaciers in the Andes mountains melted faster. This was due to dust and black carbon, which was stuck in the ice and lessened the glacier’s ability to reflect sunlight and therefore melt. Although it is not confirmed that the same will occur in New Zealand, former prime minister Helen Clark tweeted that the ash “is likely to accelerate melting.”

Since the two neighboring countries New Zealand and Australia are close both physically and culturally, their residents have lived and worked in each other’s countries interchangeably. In the past, New Zealanders tended to move west to pursue better career opportunities, but due to intensifying climate change and the Australian bushfires, the roles seem to reverse. In the future, New Zealand could look at migration from Australia increasing, worsening the problem of the housing crisis. 

Migration to New Zealand will not necessarily be an unwelcome concept for the country, provided the housing crisis can be brought under control within a reasonable period of time. New Zealand will get more workers, giving it the chance to boost its economy. Additionally, as more people are dissuaded from visiting Australia, New Zealand’s tourism industry could see a boom. As ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner says, “New Zealand will be less worse off because of climate change than many other countries, which makes it a more desirable place to live.”

Works Cited


WeatherWatch.co.nz. “#Smoke from #Australia Is Thinning out Further Today as It Now Moves over the North Island of #NewZealand (Combined with Cloud Too).The Main Plume Lies over the North Island for Thursday. A Secondary Weaker Plume Is Covering a Few Parts of the South Island.10:50am NZDT Jan 2: Pic.twitter.com/LiUayB0qM2.” Twitter, Twitter, 1 Jan. 2020, twitter.com/WeatherWatchNZ/status/1212491582504460289.


Klobus, Zoë. “Bushfires in Australia Continue to Devastate New Zealand Glaciers.” State of the Planet, Columbia University, 7 Jan. 2020, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2020/01/07/australia-bushfires-new-zealand-glaciers/.

Black, Joanne. “The Economic Effect of Australia’s Bushfires on New Zealand Could Be Enormous.” Noted, Noted, 26 Jan. 2020, http://www.noted.co.nz/money/money-economy/australia-bushfires-economic-effect-on-new-zealand-could-be-enormous.

Mezzofiore, Gianluca. “New Zealand Glaciers Turn Brown and ‘Could Melt Faster Because of Australia’s Bushfires’.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 Jan. 2020, edition.cnn.com/2020/01/02/australia/new-zealand-glaciers-australia-bushfire-intl-scli/index.html.

Salinger, Jim. “Australia’s Bushfires Mean New Zealand Has Become the Land of the Long Pink Cloud | Jim Salinger.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Jan. 2020, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/08/australia-bushfires-aotearoa-new-zealand-has-become-kikorangi-mawhero-land-of-the-long-pink-cloud.

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