Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Govt downplaying suggestions immigration changes aimed at Auckland housing squeeze

Government is downplaying suggestions that the immigration changes announced yesterday are in response to the current pressures on the Auckland housing market. Photo / File
Government is downplaying suggestions that the immigration changes announced yesterday are in response to the current pressures on the Auckland housing market. Photo / File

The Government has cut immigration numbers but are downplaying any suggestion it will have an impact on pressure on Auckland's housing market.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse yesterday outlined changes to the residency programme, including a cut in overall numbers from 90,000 - 100,000 down to 85,000 - 95,000 year.

Other changes will require skilled migrants to get 160 "points" rather than 140 and cutting numbers allowed in under the family category, including a temporary halt to applications from parents of adult migrants.

Woodhouse signalled further changes were coming for those on temporary work visas, saying they too were under review and the outcome would be announced soon.

It comes after record net migration and months of pressure from opposition parties to cut migration to ease pressure on housing and infrastructure, especially in Auckland, while National has insisted immigration settings were fine.

June Ranson, the chair of the Association of Migration and Investment, said the changes would have a significant impact on skilled migrants hoping to settle in Auckland because they did not qualify for the 30 bonus points for settling in the regions. She said the new 160-point threshold meant it was now hard for anybody without qualifications to get in as well as tradespeople.

"This is seen as a move to take the pressure off the Auckland housing market."

Labour's housing spokesman Phil Twyford said it was a "mere tweaking" of current record high migration levels.

"In terms of the effect on the housing market, I would have thought on its own this will make very little difference. Given all the other factors like the effect of non-resident foreign buyers, the shortfall of 42,000 houses and very low interest rates, a mere tweaking of immigration levels is unlikely to make much difference."

Asked if the changes were because of the pressure on housing in Auckland, Prime Minister John Key said it was to address the "trajectory" of growing demand for residency.

"So we wouldn't want to overstate that. It's not a dramatic move, but it will have some impact."

Woodhouse was also reluctant to concede the pressure on Auckland's infrastructure from migration had influenced the decision to make the changes.

"I think that's a broader question." He said the main driver was ensuring New Zealand controlled migration numbers while continuing to attract the skilled workers it needed.

- NZ Herald

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