National calls business migrant policy a failure

By Lincoln Tan

The business migration policy is a "total failure", says National's immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith, who wants a new management culture to restore credibility at Immigration New Zealand.

He was speaking at an immigration law conference yesterday, shortly after Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove addressed changes to the Immigration Bill, which was reported back to Parliament this week.

"Change is required to both immigration policy ... and to the very culture within Immigration New Zealand itself," Dr Smith said. "It is also no state secret that the business migrant policy has been a total failure."

He said National was finalising its immigration policy, which would aim to attract expatriates home, better match immigrants' skills with employment needs and restore confidence in the integrity of Immigration New Zealand.

Dr Smith said the continuing exodus was one of the biggest worries for this country.

"More than 80,000 New Zealanders headed overseas permanently in the last 12 months - the second highest ever. The loss to Australia was the highest on record.

An estimated 800,000 Kiwis live abroad and it's been reckoned that we lose 32 per cent of our tertiary-trained workforce."

He also hinted that the Department of Labour might not oversee immigration under a National-led government.

"A new management culture is required, and I question whether that can be achieved while the immigration service is just a section of the Department of Labour.

"Recently, we've seen some of the problems that have in part resulted from the fact that the head of Immigration New Zealand is not at chief executive level in our public service system."

The two-day conference at the SkyCity Convention Centre is chaired by immigration expert Rodger Haines. Participants have been given insights into an update of the skilled migrant policy, classified information and the immigration profiling group.

Mr Cosgrove, in his ministerial address, said the reporting back of the Immigration Bill by the transport and industrial relations committee marked "the biggest rewrite of immigration law for two decades".

As global competition for skilled migrants heated up it was important for New Zealand to have systems in place to attract "the people we want and need".

"Skill shortages are a concern and if left unchecked, this shortage can threaten economic growth. Immigration is a vital ingredient in New Zealand's ongoing economic development. Migrants drive innovation, give our businesses international connections, and provide a range of skills to transform our economic landscape."

Mr Cosgrove said migrants made up 60 per cent of the workforce growth in the past five years, and tourists contributed $18.6 billion to the economy in 2006.

He also said more immigrants on temporary permits were wanting to stay permanently.

- NZ Herald

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