Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Auckland gains 600 new migrants a week

Border control at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Doug Sherring
Border control at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Doug Sherring

Nearly 53,000 migrants indicated on their arrival cards they intended to settle in Auckland in the year to June.

The net arrivals after 21,156 departures meant the city increased by an average of more than 600 new settlers each week, new Immigration New Zealand (INZ) figures reveal.

A conference on Friday will discuss how much more immigration is sustainable as net migration to New Zealand hits a record 68,000.

"There is a tension between the skill requirements of employers and the gaps filled by immigrants in the labour market, and the pressure that these immigrants put on Auckland's infrastructure," said Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley.

"Housing and transport infrastructure are under a lot of pressure, especially as both reflect historical deficits in terms of accommodating population growth."

Professor Spoonley is a panelist at the NZ Association for Migration and Investment (NZAMI) conference for a session which would also discuss balancing immigration numbers and if it was good for New Zealand to be constantly changing due to immigration.

"In the future, there will be issues around providing enough places in schools, especially as the Ministry of Education is anticipating that a further 100,000 places will be required in coming decades," Spoonley said.

Stephen Dunstan, INZ general manager, said the agency was charged with attracting skills and investments NZ needs by working with employers in key sectors to attract skilled migrants.

But industry and business leaders said policies were flawed, and there was a disconnect between the agency and employers.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett said it was "not clear" if migrants were adding to the city's housing shortage.

"But what is clear is that we are not targeting skills where there are immediate and long-term shortages, especially construction - skills that could help Auckland gear up to build more houses," he said.

Immigration figures showed one in four new settlers included temporary work visa-holders and working holiday makers who originate mainly from the UK, France, Germany and Australia.

Another quarter were returning New Zealanders who had been overseas for more than a year and Australians.

Just under a quarter are foreign students, who were considered net migrants because they stayed here for one year or more.

Barnett said none of these categories addressed Auckland's persistent skill shortages, namely in engineering, health and social services, ICT and electronics and trades people.

"I strongly believe is that a closer relationship between businesses and immigration agencies needs to be forged if the skills shortage is to be dented in coming years," Barnett said.

June Ranson, NZAMI chairwoman, said there was a "lack of understanding" by Immigration New Zealand on the "chronic need" for skilled trades people.

"Immigration is seeking advice from within their own organisation and not listening to what business actually needs," Ranson said.

"It needs to understand that business is not a bureaucracy."

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse will deliver the keynote address at the conference and Nigel Bickle, the agency's deputy chief executive, will present where immigration will be at in 18 months.

When a city is no longer "liveable"

Population should not exceed 1.5 million and a city has to be easy to get around to become the world's most liveable, an expert says.

Australian RMIT environmental planning professor Michael Buxton is predicting Melbourne be stripped of it's "world's most liveable city" title this year.

Prof Buxton said in an interview with that he believed that once the population surpassed 1.5 million, difficulties could arise.

Auckland's population was now 1.57 million according to Auckland Council figures. "Smaller cities function best. You can get around easier and people tend to interact better and there's not massive pressures of huge population growth," he said.

Auckland was last year ranked the ninth most liveable city by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and it was the fifth year in a row that it had made the top 10.The new liveability ratings are expected to be released this month.

Prof Buxton said smaller cities like Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin and Helsinki and ones that provided a high standard public transport system could make this year's list.

Immigration by numbers

• 68,000 - Net migrants in year to June
• 52,932 - Long term migrants indicated they wanted to settle in Auckland
• 31,778 - Net arrivals in Auckland over the period
• 10,000 - More places for new migrants required in schools

(Source: Immigration NZ / Paul Spoonley)

- NZ Herald

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