Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Govt considered doubling quota

Minister of Immigration, Veterans' Affairs and Land Information, Michael Woodhouse. Photo / Getty
Minister of Immigration, Veterans' Affairs and Land Information, Michael Woodhouse. Photo / Getty

The Government considered doubling New Zealand's annual refugee quota but decided against it because of the cost and concerns about resettlement, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says.

Speaking to reporters at Parliament this morning, Mr Woodhouse said raising the quota from 750 to 1500 places was one of three options presented to Cabinet as part of its regular review of the quota.

The other options were raising it to 1000 places - which the Cabinet supported - or not changing it at all.

"We've landed in the right place in my view," Mr Woodhouse said.

Asked why he did not opt for 1500, the minister said: "Cost, logistics, the ability to ensure that we settle them all well."

He also wanted to leave capacity for "another emergency like Syria" and for the potential growth of a scheme which allows non-government groups to resettle refugees at their own cost.

Modelled on a Canadian programme, the scheme will begin with 25 refugees next year but could be expanded if it is successful.

New Zealand church leaders say they have capacity for an additional 1000 refugees a year.

A refugee quota of 1500 places has broad support in Parliament.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said this morning he would seek an urgent debate in Parliament this afternoon on the decision not to double the quota.

The Act Party also supports a higher quota, though leader David Seymour suggested yesterday that new arrivals should be required to sign a statement which said they would respect New Zealand's values and traditions.

Prime Minister John Key ruled out that proposal this morning.

"My experience of migrants when they come to this country is they become very patriotic Kiwis and so I don't know if they need a Charter for that, but certainly people who take this as their home it's great to encourage them to embrace what it means to be a New Zealander."

Asked what he thought "New Zealand values" were, Mr Key said: "I think it's a number of things, it's understanding the history of New Zealand and the place of the Treaty, it's understanding New Zealand has always been a tolerant society where there is freedom of the press, freedom of the individual, I think it's about the way we treat other people, our place in the world."

Mr Woodhouse said Mr Seymour should pay a visit to the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

"I've been to many welcomes and it's quite extraordinary to see the enthusiasm for embracing New Zealand's culture and values.

"For people who can't speak English to stand up and sing a waiata in response, in Maori, to our welcome is quite moving and speaks volumes to their willingness to embrace New Zealand values."

- NZ Herald

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