Lincoln Tan

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

Immigration policies on debate agenda

File photo / Chris Skelton
File photo / Chris Skelton

Whether migrants are responsible for Auckland's high house prices and if immigration numbers should be cut back will be debated by political parties today.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will join Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, Labour's Trevor Mallard, Internet-Mana's Hone Harawira and Green's Jan Logie to debate immigration policies at the annual New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment conference.

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"Migration is being used as a political football," said association chairwoman, June Ranson.

"While we know that the policies of National and other right wing parties are...we have no idea what any of the other parties propose, other than their indication that they intend to cut numbers."

New Zealand had its highest net gain since 2003 last month, when there were 4500 more people arrived in New Zealand than left.

Called the "great immigration debate", the politicians will also state where their party's stand on whether migrants with poor English should be allowed in and if current policies need to be changed.

Mr Mallard, Labour's immigration spokesman, said the current level of net migration was "unsustainably high".

The party is proposing to use the points system and other tools to cut back the number of immigrants entering the country.

National, on the other hand, say the migration boom is a good thing - both for the country and the economy.

"National has always advocated for stable and demand driven numbers," a spokesman for Mr Woodhouse said.

"It's for the opposition to explain where they would cut migrants from, particularly if it's from the skilled migrant categories that provide the skills our economy needs."

Figures released last week for the year ended July showed net migration was 41,000, close to the record of 42,500 in 2003.

The gains were mainly from India, China and the United Kingdom, but there had also been a significant drop in people leaving for Australia.

Prime Minister John Key joked last week that he probably knew the names of those who crossed the Tasman in June.

Mr Peters will argue that it made "no economic or social sense" to keep bringing new migrants when there are unemployed New Zealanders.

"Of course new record levels of immigration are going to increase house prices...this is especially true in Auckland, where about half of all new migrants choose to live," he said.

Mr Peters said New Zealand First will push to pare back immigration "to those we need, not those who need us".

The Internet-Mana movement wants people from the Pacific Island nations to be allowed to enter New Zealand on the same basis as Australians.

Ms Logie, immigration spokeswoman for the Greens, will argue for the need to have a proper population policy.

"Given the vast number of complex issues, such as increased warfare and increasing climate pressures...there is real possibility that immigration flows can change drastically very quickly," said Ms Logie.

The debate will be the highlight at the association's 25th anniversary conference at Eden Park.

At the meeting, Dr Ganesh Nana, chief economist at Business and Economic Research Limited, will also be releasing a paper on immigration's impact on the New Zealand Economy.

- NZ Herald

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