Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Labour to further incentivise immigration to regional NZ

Immigration spokesman Trevor Mallard released the party's immigration policy in Wellington today at a multicultural conference. Photo / NZPA
Immigration spokesman Trevor Mallard released the party's immigration policy in Wellington today at a multicultural conference. Photo / NZPA

Labour want to increase incentives for immigrants to accept jobs or establish businesses in regional New Zealand to take the pressure off Auckland.

Under the points system at present, immigrants willing to go to regional New Zealand get more points.

Labour is proposing to give them more points in industries where there are labour shortages.

Immigration spokesman Trevor Mallard released the party's immigration policy in Wellington today at a multicultural conference.

He said the points would be adjusted as required to ensure migrants were directed to where they are most needed.

"To encourage them to remain we will make the residency process easier for those who have worked in struggling regions for a number of years."

Other features of Labour's policy include requiring employers in the Recognised Seasonal Employment Scheme to pay $1.25 on top of the minimum wage (at present $14.25) with accommodation provided.

The scheme would be extended to include industries with Labour shortages.Labour would make employers bringing in overseas workers to pay the so-called living wage ($18.80) after accommodation in cases where the job offer is one of the reasons a work visa is granted.

Labour would also increase the number of refugees taken under the United Nations system from 750 to 1,000.

The party has already announced it would review the Investor and Investor Plus visa categories.

In terms of Pacific island immigration policy, Mr Mallard said Labour would establish a Ministerial Advisory Group to examine the outstanding immigration issues with Pacific countries.

"Labour recognises the contribution Pacific quotas make to enabling migration from countries with long-established links with New Zealand, and welcomes the re-entry of Fiji back into the quota system.

"Labour also recognises that these quotas are often not related to the size of island populations, or the benefits mobility opportunities might bring to developing island states," Mr Mallard said.

The Government's recent changes to migration arrangements had made it disproportionately difficult for Pacific island families to be reunited in New Zealand, even when most of the family had been living and working here for long periods.

Changes could involve moving family reunification within the Pacific quota system with an appropriate adjustment or general changes to the rules.

Under the policy, Labour would also address the problem of immigrants having a temporary status for long periods. It says it would facilitate consideration of residence applications for people who have legally been in New Zealand on work visas since 2009.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has said the forecast 40,000 net migration this year is too high but will not put a figure on what it should be.

- Herald on Sunday

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