NZ tax rates are actually pretty low - you are essentially paying just 14% on the first $40,000. Bear in mind that you are also paying 12% on most consumption (Goods & services tax), though at least that is consumption. If your perception is that NZ is a poor man's country, you might find support for your hypothesis in the average income statistics as well as the tax rates.
The flipside is that NZ makes less sense if you are on a high income. That might explain as much as anything why New Zealanders move to Australia - not just for higher incomes, but being aspirational, they might be moving there for tax relief.Individual marginal tax rates as at 1 October 2008 [applicable to net taxable income]
a. 0 – 14,000 12.5%
b. 14,001 – 40,000 15%
c. 40,001 – 70,000 33%
d. 70,001+ 39%
One of the big disadvantages in NZ is the inability to split income between spouses. So if your husband earns $100,000, and your a housewife earning nothing, you are a tax burden in NZ. In Australia and some other countries you can split your income so your wife can get a credit for what she is not earning. This seems fairer. mind you these is PLENTY of unfairness in the Australian tax system. And it would also have to be the most complicated tax system in the world. Australia basically plays favourites. The government gives concessions for political reasons, eg. Baby bonuses of $5K, $21K first home owners grant. This might seems like 'lovely lever pulling' government policy to some. To me its smacks of the worst aspects of Indian-style fascism with government directing human action. There is little difference between price controls and baby bonuses. We should not be incentivised to consume so governments can attempt to reach full employment. If you ever wondered why we never get there - its because governments exist for self service. See my tax blog.