Australia is to extend access to student loans to New Zealanders who live across the Tasman.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed the government will extend access to student loans to long-term New Zealand residents living in Australia.

The loans will be issued as part of the Higher Education Loans Program under terms announced last year.

“We welcome Australia’s decision to ensure that some young Australians who are born to parents who are not citizens here in Australia will now have access to higher education and student loans,” NZ Prime Minister John Key told journalists at a joint press conference in Sydney on Friday.

“It’s a very progressive step.”

Mr Abbott and Mr Key welcomed progress on work to set up a mechanism to share data to assist New Zealand to recoup unpaid student loans in Australia.

New Zealand will have the option to provide reciprocal assistance should Australia adopt an overseas-based borrower regime in the future.

Mr Abbott committed to expand Australia’s SmartGate network for New Zealand arrivals, and the trial of automated departure gates at Brisbane Airport.

The trial will commence in July 2014 focusing on trans-Tasman flights.