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

Immigration: Four perspectives from the front

Lincoln Tan poses questions on the Immigration challenges facing NZ.

Jason Krupp (JK): Research Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative and author of The New New Zealanders - Why Migrants Make Good Kiwis report.

Paul Spoonley (PS): Massey University sociologist and lead researcher in the Capturing Diversity Dividend of Aotearoa NZ project.

David Wong (DW): President, Chinese New Zealand Oral History. 4th generation local born Chinese.

Susan Zhu (SZ): Vice-Chair, Whau Local Board. Migrant Chinese.

READ MORE: Beyond the fear factor: New Kiwis can be good for us all

Are migration numbers too high?

Jason Krupp: The numbers are certainly at record levels...but we need to be cautious in how we look at this number. About 30 per cent of these arrivals are returning New Zealanders and Australians, a further 60 per cent are here on a temporary visa, the majority will return home at some stage.

Only 10 per cent are made up of people settling here permanently. When you look at it this way, it makes the headline number look less scary.

Paul Spoonley: The numbers have hit historic highs since the end of the Global Financial Crisis, and we should acknowledge there are people who are very critical of immigration. Some because they regard it as having little economic benefit and some because they take a very nationalistic position.

David Wong: I don't know what the current figures are, but the way I see it is that it feels comfortable. I think a lot of that has to do with the average Kiwi and how well we welcome our guests to the country. Now that there's a wider spread of migration, I think new migrants welcoming the even newer migrants, they make them more welcomed.

Susan Zhu: We need to look at the numbers in more details, such as who are they, what they do in the country. So whether it is too high or higher than what New Zealand can take, we will need more details.

Is migration making NZ less safe?

JK: It is understandable that people are concerned about the links between crime and extremism, given what we have seen in the United States and Europe. But it is important to remember that these countries are grappling with uncontrolled migration. It is very different in New Zealand, where migrants are closely screened before coming here. And we see this in the local data to some extent, with migrants less likely to commit a crime than native-born New Zealanders.

PS: New Zealand is something of an outlier. When you go to Europe in particular, immigration is almost always associated with problems. New Zealand seems to have avoided having these immigrant-related problems. We are one of the few countries that carefully selects immigrants and those immigrants you would expect to do well. Terrorism, combined with nationalism has meant that many countries are looking to secure their borders, and Brexit and US President Donald Trump's moves are examples of that. New Zealand has not adopted that strict border approach.

DW: No I don't think so, but I think the number of incidents have hit the headlines much faster. When you look at the numbers there are relatively few incidents. I don't think the crime rate is too high.

SZ: Absolutely not. I don't think migration is the cause of an increase in crime, but rather poverty and inequality of income.

Jason Krupp (JK): Research Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative and author of The New New Zealanders - Why Migrants Make Good Kiwis report. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Jason Krupp (JK): Research Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative and author of The New New Zealanders - Why Migrants Make Good Kiwis report. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Are migrants causing property prices and rents to rise?

JK: There is no denying that migration adds pressure to the housing market. Immigrants, like everyone, have to live somewhere. But this still needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Their influence is more likely to be felt on the rental side of the market; most migrants are here on a temporary basis. When it comes to house prices, research by two of New Zealand's most respected economists concluded that it is returning Kiwis, confident in the economy, that are actually bidding up house prices. It is also important to remember why we have a housing crisis: we simply do not build enough houses.

PS: I'm probably not the best person to answer this, I don't have the answer to that.

DW: Property prices seem to reflect what people want at the time and now the prices of everything are higher. I don't think the new migrants, or Chinese migrants, are pushing the prices up. I think it's merely reflecting the demand of everybody, which is for more housing, which ultimately pushes the price up.

SZ: High increase in population does put pressure on housing and infrastructure, and this increase in population does drive the price up.

Paul Spoonley (PS): Massey University sociologist and lead researcher in the Capturing Diversity Dividend of Aotearoa NZ project. Photo / Dean Purcell
Paul Spoonley (PS): Massey University sociologist and lead researcher in the Capturing Diversity Dividend of Aotearoa NZ project. Photo / Dean Purcell

Are migrants taking jobs from New Zealanders?

JK: This is a widely held belief, but one that doesn't hold water because it relies on the notion that there are a fixed number of jobs in the economy. This is not true. As long as there is demand for goods and services, there will be firms looking to meet that demand, and they will need workers to do it. Immigrants add to that demand, because they are not only workers, but consumers too. Furthermore, immigrants can create jobs by starting businesses. According to Treasury figures, business investor migrants have invested almost $5 billion in the economy since 2009.

PS: There is no evidence that immigrants are taking New Zealanders' jobs. If anything, immigrants are creating new jobs, with the possible exception being temporary work.

DW: I don't think they are. I think there's a far wider range of jobs and some of these jobs are very specialised and they cater for that community. New Zealanders don't have some of these skills, such as networking with their friends overseas or connections with business firms overseas. I think migrants add to the job pool, not take it away.

SZ: In this we also have to look at greater details, such as what types of jobs are migrants taking up after they arrive in the country? For example, my husband works in the high tech industry, and his company employs over 300 employees in Auckland. Kiwis are actually the minority to be honest. But those are the people we need.

David Wong (DW): President, Chinese New Zealand Oral History. 4th generation local born Chinese. Photo / Dean Purcell
David Wong (DW): President, Chinese New Zealand Oral History. 4th generation local born Chinese. Photo / Dean Purcell

Are migrants integrating well?

JK: A key determinant of whether migrants integrate well or not is whether the host culture welcomes them, and on this measure New Zealand does very well. Kiwis say they value the economic and social contribution that migrants make to New Zealand. So it is hardly a surprise to see that migrants do in fact integrate well. They have good employment outcomes, low welfare dependency, and tend to educate their children to a very high level - higher than native-born New Zealanders even. What is remarkable in New Zealand is the degree to which migrants integrate. According to one survey, almost 90 per cent of migrants said they felt part of New Zealand. Essentially, what we are seeing is that these people come here as migrants but over time become Kiwis.

PS: We have one of the most relaxed citizenship regimes anywhere in the world. You do not need to be a citizen to get access to services or rights, it's perfectly okay if you're a permanent resident. I think it gives immigrants a sense that they are welcome and that they don't need to sign up to everything that New Zealand is to be a New Zealander.

DW: I think the new migrants are integrating well because now there are so many more avenues for them to get comfortable with and integrate. Some of these things are very specialised and are not available to non-Chinese speaking communities, but I think the migrants are trying their best to integrate and given them, I think they will be excellent citizens.

SZ: I do believe most migrants are integrating well; you can ask people in Auckland and it'll be hard to find anyone who doesn't know anyone from outside of New Zealand. They have neighbours, friends or children's classmates who are from different countries originally, and they all live in Auckland as one big neighbourhood.

Susan Zhu (SZ): Vice-Chair, Whau Local Board. Migrant Chinese. Photo / Michael Craig
Susan Zhu (SZ): Vice-Chair, Whau Local Board. Migrant Chinese. Photo / Michael Craig

What is the best way forward?

JK: Broadly speaking, we think the current immigration settings are fit for purpose. Many of the problems blamed on immigration don't really hold up under close scrutiny and analysis. We acknowledge that high immigration is putting a strain on local infrastructure, particularly in Auckland. But where this is a concern, policymakers could consider a levy, payable to local government, to offset this pressure. We already recover the administrative costs of the immigration process from migrants, why not their impact on local infrastructure too? We also want to make it easier for skilled people to move here. We think that the salary being offered to a migrant should count towards their immigration points. There will also be cases where businesses need specific skilled workers, but government may be reluctant to allow these workers into the country because of the risk they pose - say if the job doesn't work out and that migrant then has an expectation that he or she will be able to claim welfare. Right now, government just declines the visa application. We propose getting around this hurdle by getting business to put up a bond of some sort to reduce the risk to the taxpayer. If businesses are so confident that they need these skills, let them put their money where their mouth is. Lastly, there is an opportunity to extend the bilateral agreement we have with Australia on the movement of people with other countries. Events like Brexit give us a unique opportunity to sign these deals with the UK, and we encourage the government to do so.

PS: New Zealand is absolutely better off with immigration, it's connecting us with parts of the world that are important to us for economic reasons and also making us a more diverse society. Can you say that diversity is of benefit to New Zealand? No, probably not. But in terms of innovation, in terms of skilled labour and in terms of making us a more exciting, dynamic place, I think you can say immigration is definitely making New Zealand better off.

DW: The older Chinese do feel a little left out because we have a language difference, we old Chinese speak Cantonese and the newer migrants speak Mandarin. New Kiwis are an ever changing dimension. New migrants themselves bring a different dimension and they make New Zealand a more unique place. I think it is a two-way communication and both [locals and migrants] will benefit.

SZ: New Zealand is a young country, its policies including immigration are ever changing. The main thing is to get policies that suit our needs, bring people in who can fill the skills shortage and contribute to society, which is good for all.

- NZ Herald

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