Immigration – a key election issue?

Immigration – a key election issue?

Immigration looks like it is going to be a key debate in New Zealand and its forthcoming elections. 

Statistics New Zealand puts the net migration gain at 71,900 to March 2017.

The late Sir Robert Muldoon (Prime Minister from 1975 to 1984) when questioned about our high migration to Australia, famously said that when New Zealanders moved to Australia it “raised the IQ of both countries”.  At the same time Australians would joke “that the last person to leave New Zealand should turn off the lights”. 

National and Labour both seem to agree that the country is struggling to cope with a continuous increase in population.  Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First are all calling for cuts in immigration numbers whereas National is more inclined to allow international market forces to play out.  Although they have introduced new rules on minimum pay levels for skilled migrant categories and limiting short term migrant farm workers to just three years.

ASB are predicting the net gain to remain around 70,000 for another 12 months, dropping to 55,000 the following year by then New Zealand will have reached the 5 million mark.  ASB’s economist Daniel Snowden notes that only approx. one third of arrivals have the skill set targeted by the Government[1].  A recent MYOB survey found that of 1,000 SME’s surveyed 43% wanted tighter immigration policies, surely a sign that local business confidence is waning in many areas.  Yet migration growth is a sign of confidence in the country and the economy. 

The problem is of course infrastructure, housing, jobs, pressure on social agencies and government bodies such as schools and hospitals, as well as placing pressure on government funding of these and social support (subsidised doctors’ visits, family assistance and benefits).  With an estimated half of new migrants living in Auckland the pressure is on our largest city which is struggling to cope.

We have other migrant issues to consider as well.  Attracting foreign students may create a large education sector but at what cost?  If we dumb down the qualifications offered by private providers and our own universities it does not support New Zealand and does a disservice to the students.  If migrant students come to New Zealand to study, as a perceived route to permanent residency, we are dishonest to the student, their families if that doesn’t happen.  And have we had a debate on whether it should or not? 

Should we allow people to buy their way into New Zealand citizenship, when they have no intention of residing here, raising their children here or paying their taxes here?  Xero Chief Executive Rod Drury says that we should.  In defending granting of citizenship to Peter Thiels he was reported by Radio New Zealand as stating “We should be asking Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, or Bill Gates - those are the people we should be targeting." 

Do we have a moral and social obligation to refugees to increase our annual intake, to increase family reunification and to help and support refugees to become part of our active communities?  In the “good old days” refugees were seen in two clear groups.  “Political” (good people who lived in bad countries who needed a safe home) and “economic” (bad people who wanted to take our jobs).  What wonderful and innocent days they were when everything was so simple.  Such differentials just aren’t true anymore, if they ever were.

Should non-citizens be allowed to retain their residency status when they have been convicted of serious criminal offences?  At what point does a person lose their right to stay and whose rights are more important, the public or the perpetrator?

Finally, tourism is growing so rapidly that we are endanger of being overcrowded and under resourced.  Recently it was reported that on the West Coast (of the South Island) with 30,000 residents there could be on any given day 15,000 international tourists (that’s 50% of the population)!

But New Zealand is not alone in its concerns.  Australia has announced changes to its immigration and citizenship policy. 

The United States are building a wall (assuming Congress approves the cost).

The United Kingdom vote to leave the EU is surely based on increasing concerns on uncontrolled immigration.

Parts of Europe are engulfed in uncontrolled and uncontrollable migrants from Africa and the Middle East.

New Zealand is unfortunately in the position of being an attractive destination because of our economic growth, our perceived financial, social and political stability and the fact that, given we are all immigrants (either ourselves or our ancestors), we tend to be open to new arrivals.  The answer is not to close the door, but to prepare for growth, grow ourselves and decide what kind of New Zealand we want. 

If you or your clients are moving to New Zealand Shellock Consulting Ltd can advise you of the income tax implications, the exemptions available and the traps to avoid.  Contact us here for more information.

Want to read more from the main political parties in New Zealand?

Greens “We support an appropriate and sustainable flow of migrants, including skilled migrants and those accepted for humanitarian and family reasons.
New migrants need increased support such as better funded settlement services and English language training.
We need to ensure that temporary migrants have decent working conditions and pathways to residency appropriate to their skills.”

Labour “New Zealand needs immigrants and is all the better for the skills and rich culture they bring. But now, more than ever, we need to pause and rethink our current settings. We need to ensure the people arriving have the skills we need and that our cities can cope with any increase in numbers.” Andrew Little


New Zealand First “Now, ordinary Kiwis are starting to wake up; they’re getting fed up with it.  They are realising thousands of migrants, many of whom are low-skilled and desperate to get here, artificially pump up the economy and help create a bogus surplus.  They understand that we cannot go on accepting new record numbers of migrants year-on-year.”

National Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse in announcing increases in income bands to attract higher-skilled and higher-paid migrants would control the "number and quality" of people coming to New Zealand.


[1] The Press, 26 April 2017 pA10.

Posted: Monday 1 May 2017