Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Labour looks at reuniting Pacific families

Trevor Mallard says immigration proposals not a bid for Island vote during run-up to election.

Labour Party MP Trevor Mallard said the policies targeted at Pacific groups were unlikely to increase the total number of migrants coming to New Zealand. Photo / NZPA
Labour Party MP Trevor Mallard said the policies targeted at Pacific groups were unlikely to increase the total number of migrants coming to New Zealand. Photo / NZPA

Labour wants to end the dislocation of Pacific Island families who are split apart for years by New Zealand's immigration rules.

A number of measures in Labour's new immigration policy were targeted at Pacific groups, including proposals to speed up family reunification and raise the pay of seasonal workers - many of whom come from the islands.

Labour Party immigration spokesman Trevor Mallard said the proposals were not an election-year bid for the Pacific vote but would simply honour New Zealand's historical relationships with its neighbouring countries.

National's changes to migration rules had made it "disproportionately difficult" for Pacific migrant families to be reunited in New Zealand, even when most of the family had been living and working here for long periods.

Labour would try to resolve this through adjustments to the Pacific quota system - in which people get residency through a ballot - or by making other changes in immigration rules.

The Minister of Immigration, Michael Woodhouse, was sceptical about the proposals.

"I think it's fair to say that those who come into New Zealand as adults should not come with the expectation that they're able to bring their adult siblings or other family members with them."

Mr Mallard said the policies targeted at Pacific groups were unlikely to increase the total number of migrants coming to New Zealand, and would not come at the expense of any other ethnic group.

Labour would also crack down on migrant exploitation. The new immigration policy would require employers to pay migrant workers a living wage ($18.80 an hour) and seasonal workers $1.50 more than the minimum wage, which is currently $14.25 an hour.

Labour's immigration policy
*Make residency process easier for highly skilled migrants who accept jobs in regional centres.
*Use the immigration points system to manage number of migrants entering the country on work visas.
*Form ministerial group to review Pacific Island immigration issues, review Pacific quotas and improve family reunification.
*Progressively increase refugee quota from 750 to 1000.
*Reduce the number of migrants on temporary working visas for long periods.
*Require employers to pay migrant workers a living wage ($18.80/hour), after accommodation deductions.
*Ensure seasonal workers are paid at least $15.75 an hour, not including accommodation benefits.

- NZ Herald

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