Export education is a business, valued for its earning potential. Migration and residency are policy strategies, managed in New Zealand's best interests. While there will always be some overlap between the two, they should not be confused.

Labour initiated the export education sector in the late 1980s and it has thrived.

In the past, some highly qualified students would go on to become New Zealand residents.

They studied here, adopted our values, obviously liked our country and settled here. That should be encouraged.


More recently, the Government's policy settings have encouraged the proliferation of low quality courses that have led to the exploitation of both the international students and our immigration system.

Kiwi kindness and the willingness to welcome international students has exposed weak points in our immigration system that provide not much more than a back door to New Zealand residence and citizenship.

Labour's policy is to target the low quality side of the private education sector and to strengthen the residence pathways provided by our immigration rules.

Labour's policy is fair to the students and is an economic necessity for the community. Quality education providers (and their agents) will like it and embrace it.

Our cities will be the better for it too as it allows us to take a breather and make the investments in infrastructure and housing we need to cater for the rapid increase in population.

As it has happened, an adult international student could come to New Zealand, enrol in a low quality course and acquire a certificate or diploma.

After graduation he or she is qualified to obtain a post-study open visa. They are then able to sponsor their spouse and their dependent children.

As holders of valid work visas, their children are entitled to enrol at our publicly funded school as domestic students.

It is a dumb policy and a "popular loophole" as some former students and others have called it.

The numbers spell it out. People granted a resident visa who previously held a student visa totalled 11,038 in 2013/14. This increased to 13,899 in 2015/16.

Those granted a work visa who previously held a student visa totalled 24,734 in 2013/14. This number jumped to 38,062 in 2015/16.

Labour's policy seeks to restore fairness and get the balance right.

New Zealand is one of the most sought after destinations in the world and as a country we should be looking for high quality migrants.

Many New Zealanders would be surprised to learn the jobs which comprise Immigration New Zealand's list of skilled occupations include cooks, hairdressers, hospitality workers, shelf stackers and call centre workers.

We need engineers and ophthalmologists, entrepreneurs and pharmacology researchers - but instead we're getting more car groomers and retail supervisors.

These occupations fulfil a useful role in the community but they could be undertaken by any of New Zealand's thousands of currently unemployed.

People who have more highly valued skills gained at bachelor level in the university system such as hospital nurses, computer programmers and horticultural scientists are at the skill level that I'd expect from a migrant.

No one should be alarmed by the pause we are proposing.

Right now immigration on a per capita basis is running at a rate twice that of Australia, even greater compared to the UK, USA, Canada and France.

Even with the changes, all else being equal, we will still be ahead of Australia.

We need to get the balance right, take a breather, and make sure immigration is once again a win-win for all of us.

On the other side of the coin, it is worth noting that cultural differences can change the way in which policy matters are perceived within migrant communities and equally, the way they attend issues can be different.

For example, some Asian community members said they would oppose Labour's immigration policy because of our undertaking to double the refugee quota.

They confused migrants (managed by Immigration New Zealand) and refugees (mandated by the United Nations).

Sadly, in some of the cases, they appeared to have likened refugees to terrorists.

While that is a different issue, it may serve as a good reminder: what kind of bipartisan approach do we need to take to ensure that we welcome high quality migrants and also assist them with becoming valued New Zealanders who share our Kiwi values and our Kiwi spirit?

• Raymond Huo is a Labour List MP. After serving two terms he was a partner in an Auckland-based law firm before his recent return to Parliament.