Labour will introduce moderate, sensible reforms to immigration to reduce the pressure on our cities, while ensuring we get the skilled workers our country needs.
New Zealand is a country built on immigration. When new migrants come here, they enrich our country and make New Zealand a better place. We have always welcomed migrants to our country, and will continue to do so.
In recent years, our population has been growing rapidly as record numbers of migrants arrive here. National did not foresee this and has not planned for the impact t is having on our country.
Since 2013, immigration has been more than four times what was forecast – 130,000 more people than expected have settled here, equivalent to the population of Tauranga.
After nine years, National has failed to make the necessary investments in housing, infrastructure, and public services that are needed to cope with this rapid population growth. It has contributed to the housing crisis, put pressure on hospitals and schools, and added to congestion on roads.
Immigration needs to be sustainable. We have always sought to manage immigration to match our economic needs with our capacity to cope with population growth.
Overhauling the System
We reviewed the system from top to bottom and found that several areas were being abused and not delivering the results Kiwis expect.
National has taken its eye off the ball; Labour will get the balance right. It is time for a fresh approach. Labour will make changes to immigration settings that will reduce net immigration by 20,000-30,000 a year.
This will ease the pressures on New Zealand, and on Auckland, in particular. Without these changes, up to 10,000 more houses would be needed each year and up to 20,000 more cars would be on our roads each year.
National’s policies have created a backdoor to residency via low-level study and low-skill work. These have had the perverse effect that a 23-year-old with a New Zealand diploma and three years’ experience in retail can get more points towards residency than a 45-year-old Oncologist who wants to migrate here.
A third of international students studying at PTEs say they plan to work or seek residency here after study.
Ending exploitation, corruption
Closing off the ability to work during and after study for people who do low-level courses will stop backdoor immigration. We will end the culture of exploitation and corruption that’s grown up to prey on people using this route to come to New Zealand.
Our changes will ensure New Zealand gets the skills it needs and we continue to grow the high-quality education sector.
As part of this we will better target skills shortages to regions. Improved regionalisation of skills shortage lists and better enforcement of the Labour Market Test will make it easier for regions with genuine skills shortages to get the migrant workers they need.
Exceptional Skills Visa
At the same, time Labour will make it easier for people with exceptional skills and talents to come to New Zealand with a new Exceptional Skills Visa.
We will also create a KiwiBuild Visa specifically targeted at building tradespeople.
The KiwiBuild Visa will allow building firms to bring in skilled workers as long as they also train the same number of New Zealanders and will be additional to construction work visas issued under existing rules.
New Zealand is rightly proud of its immigrant communities and the contribution they make to our country. But we need to take a breather and get the balance right. Labour’s fresh approach will ensure the immigration system works for everyone.
Andrew Little is the Leader of the Labour Party of New Zealand and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. In the picture here, he is seen announcing his Party’s new immigration policy at a press conference held at the ANZ Events Centre in Auckland’s Viaduct at 230 pm today. Along with him is Ian Lees-Galloway. We will analyse the Policy and offer our commentary shortly.