New Zealanders' wages could have gone up by more had immigration levels been lower - but record arrival numbers will naturally drop, Finance Minister Bill English says.

"If there are less people that show up, it is possible that wages might have been a bit higher, but we have had plenty of work, we have had a lot of job creation but now we are moving into a part of the cycle where?that inward migration must flatten out some time," Mr English said.

"We are not considering that [toughening criteria]. It will be self-balancing. As the economy is a bit softer you are going to get less opportunities and less of them turn up."

The Reserve Bank's latest monetary statement stated that strong net immigration was one of the factors that helped to support growth.


Net migration has been at record-high levels, and the Bank's view was that it has peaked.

Fewer Kiwis leaving, more expats coming home and new migrants arriving has increased the amount of slack in the labour market, making wage growth weaker than the Reserve Bank expected.

Only 10 per cent of private sector salaries and wage rates increased in the March quarter, and while it is a seasonally weak quarter for pay rises, that is the smallest proportion for five years; 43 per cent of pay rates have not increased at all over the past year.

However, Mr English said there had been growth in real wages in New Zealand, something that was not common in the developed world.

"We are getting wage growth, relative to inflation it is pretty good, actually. Total wages have been growing 4 to 5 per cent, that is certainly faster than inflation, hourly rates have been growing a bit slower than that.

"The question is what is going to happen over the next two or three years, and the outlook for wage growth is still reasonably positive."