The Government's lead economic advisor warns a new policy aimed at attracting more migrants to the regions would achieve nothing.
According to documents released under the Official Information Act, Treasury told Finance Minister Bill English on July 16 the new Government measures were unlikely to help regional development.
The measures went to Cabinet for approval on July 20 and the increased bonus points on residency requests was announced on July 26. Under the revised scheme, skilled workers who take jobs in the regions or set up businesses there will have their points to calculate whether residency requests should be approved increased.
However, the July Treasury briefing to Mr English had warned the policy changes were unlikely to have a consequential impact for regional development.
The Treasury briefing said most migrants currently didn't go to non-urban areas. Of the Skilled Migrant Category migrants that had jobs or a job offer in 2013/2014, 47 per cent were based in Auckland. Of the remainder, 18 per cent were in Canterbury, 11 per cent in Wellington and 5 per cent in Waikato.
The briefing said there was currently no mechanism to ensure migrants stayed in regions even if they claimed the bonus points.
"Once a migrant has a residence class visa they are free to move around the country as they choose."
The small number of extra bonus points was unlikely to push over the line many migrants who weren't currently meeting requirements.
It said a far greater amount of points could be claimed for meeting other criteria such as age, education, employment or capital investment.
"Against that context, we don't think it is likely that many regional migrants who currently don't meet requirements will be granted visas after this change."
Treasury team leader Hayden Fenwick noted the briefing was drafted in relation to an early version of the migration proposals. At that time, the Government proposed increasing points for settling in the regions from 10 to 20 under the Skilled Migrant Category. That had now been increased to 30. It had proposed an increase of 20 to 30 points for the Entrepreneur Work Visa. That had since been increased to 40.
About 20,000 migrants were approved each year under the Skilled Migrant Category and the vast majority settled in large urban areas.
Skilled migrants and Entrepreneur work migrants were not likely to compete with those at the lower-end of the New Zealand labour market, because the criteria rewarded those who were likely to be in high-skilled occupations or running businesses.
Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said regional migration measures had only been successful elsewhere when migrants were matched with labour shortages.
Those matching measures were already in place in New Zealand and the question now was whether the new points system would work in concert with the skills matching system.