The Government's plans to trim the number of migrants getting residency could hinder growth in regions such as Bay of Plenty, says a Tauranga immigration expert.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced major changes to the Government's New Zealand Residence Programme for the next two years, including the number of residency places.

The changes demonstrated the Government was taking "a responsible, pragmatic approach" to managing immigration, Mr Woodhouse said.

The changes included raising the number of points required for residence from 140 to 160 under the Skilled Migrant Category, and reducing the number of places for the capped family categories to 2000 a year, down from 5500.


Harris Tate Lawyers Associate Michelle Carabine said she believed plans to trim residency numbers would hinder regions such as the Bay of Plenty which relied on migrant workers to fill gaps in the work force. This included less skilled employees to fill job positions for which Kiwis were unavailable, she said.

Mrs Carabine, who holds a graduate certificate in NZ Immigration Advice, said the changes may also cause many migrants to reconsider New Zealand as a place to settle.

Sharp Tudhope lawyer Michelle Urquhart, who practices in immigration law, said she did not share Ms Carabine's views.

There has been no change to the seasonal worker rules and the change of points was a good thing as NZ needs to ensure it maintains a highly skilled work force, Ms Urquhart said.

Ms Urquhart said migrants made their emigration decisions after considering far more than the immigration rules of a particular country.

"At the end of the day, the changes were needed to ensure the right people with the right skills come here," she said.

Johnny Calley, Master Builders Tauranga president and director of Calley Homes, said bringing in migrant workers was a double-edged sword as they can assist to fill in labour force gaps but at the same time put pressure on the region's housing stock.

"Skilled migrants certainly do assist the labour force during the boom times, but at the same time it's important we continue to upskill our own people to meet future needs."

NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell said the cutbacks directly related to the Government bowing to public pressure from those directly affected by the Government's migrant saturation programme.

"However, the effect on the Bay of Plenty, particularly our horticulture sector will be inconsequential as this announcement only relates to around 5000 parent reunification visas," he said.

"New Zealand First is not against immigration but we are against this government's open-door immigration policy which needs to be urgently rectified," he said.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the changes were only to the Skilled Migrants Programme.

"While the Skilled Migrant Category will continue to make up around 60 per cent of all residence approvals, the change in the number of points required means it may be harder for some temporary migrants to gain residence.

"However, migrants are still able to apply for work visas to work in the regions in areas where there are skill shortages. And the changes do not make a difference to the ability for employers to support work visas where there are no Kiwis available to do the job."

In the year ended March 31

More than 124,000 migrants entered NZ

56,450 emigrated, with net gain overall of 67,619 people

Highest net gain figure in at least 26 years.

Source: Statistics New Zealand