Immigration wasn't the issue it could have been during the election. Jacinda Ardern didn't make it central to her campaign, though Labour's policy to reduce numbers remained.

Winston Peters denounced immigration, as he usually does, but because he didn't get much minor party coverage, the message went largely missing.

Perhaps we can be thankful for that. We need only look at the recent German election to see where things could end up if popular sentiment against immigration takes hold.

The story of the German election was the 12.8 per cent vote received by Alternative for Germany (AfD).


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This party is a motley coalition of anti-immigration nationalists, outright racists and, most worryingly, fascists.

For the first time since World War II, the German Parliament will have MPs who openly sympathise with the Nazis. Scary stuff.

There are two main factors in the big vote for AfD. One is the austerity imposed in Germany after the Global Financial Crisis.

Austerity, a term less known to New Zealanders, has been central to the political debates and antagonisms dividing people in Britain and Europe.

In essence, it's about the continued cuts to government spending that followed the bailout of the banking sector.

Understandably many people aren't happy, and there's been a backlash against the major parties.

In Germany, the Christian Democrats, led by Angela Merkel, and the Social Democrats.

The other factor is the rising migrant population in Germany, from Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East.

Because the ethnic German population is ageing and in decline, there's been a strategy by mainstream politicians and German business to encourage migrant workers.

Some Germans, however, are struggling with the new cultural reality.

On top of this, over one million refugees have entered the country over the past few years, mainly fleeing the civil war in Syria. This influx has added to the challenges.

Unfortunately, the dissatisfaction and anger that many Germans feel towards politicians who've pushed austerity has seen some of them embrace a right-wing populism which blames immigrants and refugees for their slipping standard of living.

It's the same political trend seen in Britain and America.

And this is what we in New Zealand should be mindful of. If current levels of inequality persist, or indeed get worse, then the danger of an anti-immigration backlash taking an overtly racist turn is high.

Even if, discounting returning New Zealand citizens and less of us leaving for other countries, the numbers currently arriving here are hardly extreme.

It would be more productive politically to do something about inequality and the housing problem rather than railing against, for instance, "Chinese" immigrants.

Far more native-born New Zealanders own multiple homes than recent migrants. And are using tax loopholes and trusts to avoid paying tax on their incomes from rent and capital gain.

We've got issues to sort out, certainly, and how we plan for a rising population is one of them, but I want my children to be able to live and work anywhere in the world and feel welcome and safe.

I'm prepared to extend the same courtesy to anyone who wants to come here.