New Zealand First leader Winston Peters today released a media statement about the Herald's coverage of work visas and the top five source countries for work visas last year.

The statement's opening paragraph read:

"New Zealand Herald propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters stating the top five source nations for work visas are not Asian is completely wrong and based on flawed analysis, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters."

Here is the response from those reporters, Harkanwal Singh and Lincoln Tan.

Statistics New Zealand's release of permanent and long-term migration data today highlighted "record migration levels", as it has for the past six months.

This is the data mentioned by Labour leader Andrew Little when he discussed changes to immigration numbers and quoted by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse in his speech on changes to the work visa category.

It is also the data we used to show where people on work visas are coming from and how that compares to student visas.


Winston Peters doesn't think we should have used this data for analysing work visas because we did not mention students transitioning to visas.

In fact, we did. We highlighted that most Indian and Chinese students transition to graduate job search visas.

However, neither the Government nor Labour has proposed cutting down education visas. Their focus, repeatedly, has been on work visas.

In the context, our analysis focused on rule changes and Labour's policy proposals.

If the conversation is about cutting down immigration by "tens of thousands", or the quality of workers it will involve the permanent and long-term data published by New Zealand's statistical agency.

In one way, what Peters is saying is that it is fine for political parties to use this data to inform policy changes, but it is not the data that journalists should be analysing.

However, it is our job to provide context to numbers being used by politicians to inform policy.

The debate is about permanent and long-term migration and we shared the dataset with our readers.


Asian work visas tend to come through student visas or relationships and neither the Government nor the Labour party have sought to reform what kind of students are coming to New Zealand.

We are investigating the proportion of work visas issues through the student visa route in order to better understand the complicated issues, but this article/analysis was clearly focused on the PLT data which is the focus of current policy discussion.

Statistics NZ's press release accompanying the data released in February explicitly focused on rising work visas from the countries highlighted in our piece, countries such as the UK, Germany and Australia. It is available for anyone to see.

If, as his release says, Peters has a problem with collecting data from "arrival cards", that's something that should be taken up with Statistics NZ. Perhaps then political parties can stop using "record migration" figures which come from the same data.

The student to graduate job search transition happens after study. It is not something either Labour or the present government are proposing to change overnight.

It is easier for a politician to attack us based on our ethnicities than saying that immigration is a complex and nuanced issue which requires more evidence-based research and better use of data.

We used the same data that politicians have been quoting for months now, the same data that has allowed them to make "record migration" an issue for election year.

It is just that if you look deeply enough into the data, it shows that all policy proposals are more of a Band-Aid than genuine attempts at addressing the wider challenges posed by rising immigration numbers.

Also, perhaps it is data which creates too much complexity for Peters to be able to blame the Asians.

On one thing we can completely agree with Peters, it is an election year and facts are something the public has the right to expect. Not just from the media, but also from the politicians vying for power.

Our view: A statement from the Trump playbook

Winston Peters' statement - and in particular his aspersions on our journalists and their work - comes straight from the Donald Trump playbook.

His reference to "New Zealand Herald propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters" is a new low in political rhetoric in this election year. We condemn his comments.

For the record, the article and interactive is accurate and presented in proper context using official Statistics NZ data - context that is further expanded upon here by our two journalists, Harkanwal Singh and Lincoln Tan.

Peters would best be advised to try to grasp the complexity of the issues, and make a useful contribution to the immigration debate, rather than playing the race card or taking a wildly desperate swing at the media.

- Murray Kirkness, editor, NZ Herald (an immigrant to New Zealand)