Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Immigration level gets pass mark but voters split on party lines

Photo / File
Photo / File

Only a third of New Zealanders feel immigration levels are too high, according to a Herald-DigiPoll survey, while a majority feel the flow of migrants into the country is "about right".

Labour and New Zealand First have promised to curb net migration levels if they are elected, saying that Treasury forecasts show a worrying increase which will put further pressure on housing and jobs.

But the new poll showed 50.1 per cent of respondents were mostly unconcerned, saying immigration levels were "about right". Just over 35 per cent said they were too high.

Labour voters were more likely to be concerned about immigration levels than National voters - nearly 40 per cent of Labour supporters said immigration levels were too high, compared to 30 per cent of National voters. Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was surprised opposition to migrant numbers wasn't higher in the poll, given the "unfortunate rhetoric" used by Labour and New Zealand First about the increasing inflow of immigrants.

He said increases in net migration were the result of higher student numbers and temporary workers, and neither of these categories put serious pressure on house prices or the jobs market.

Labour's immigration spokesman Trevor Mallard disputed this, saying the number of New Zealanders returning home - in particular from Australia - was driving net migration increases. He said the survey indicated most New Zealanders understood that getting skilled migrants into the country was important and could create jobs for people.

Labour's immigration reforms would target visa categories for low-skilled, low-pay jobs which did not boost New Zealand's economy and undercut the local workforce.

The party has said it would place further controls on immigration after Treasury predicted net migration would soon increase to almost 40,000 a year.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he was surprised a third of respondents felt immigration levels were too high given the lack of attention to immigration issues.

He said the figure would be higher still if the Government measured the number of foreigners purchasing houses or if media focused more closely on the negative impacts of higher immigration levels.

"Given how little is disclosed as to house ownership, land ownership, to job occupation, to ease of entry, to superannuation accessibility ... that figure of just 35 per cent is staggeringly high, and it will only get higher as people learn more about the truth of the matter."

- NZ Herald

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