Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has labelled talk of an NZ First bill, which would force migrants and refugees to agree to New Zealand values, as "headline-grabbing nonsense".

And he is not the only one opposed, with both the Refugee Council of New Zealand and the Human Rights commission both opposing the proposed new legislation.

A draft bill drawn up by list MP Clayton Mitchell, Respecting New Zealand Values Bill, was discussed at the NZ First annual conference yesterday.

The bill would mean migrants and refugees would need to agree to a declaration to respect New Zealand values, or be sent back to "where they came from", Mitchell said.


"If you're coming to this country as a refugee, surely you respect the country you've come to," NZ First Leader Winston Peters said at the party's annual conference this weekend.

"In the case of some refugees, if you've gone past 42 other countries that have your religion for one that does not, why wouldn't you actually have some respect for the new country you've come to and their religions," Peters said.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks at his party's annual conference which was held in Tauranga this weekend. 30 September 2018 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Alan Gibson. RGP 01O
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks at his party's annual conference which was held in Tauranga this weekend. 30 September 2018 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Alan Gibson. RGP 01O

Australia already has something similar in place, whereby applicants for provisional, permanent and a small number of temporary visas are required to sign an "Australian values statement".

This states the applicant understands that the English language, as the national language, is "an important unifying element of Australian society", and "Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background".

The statement also said the applicant must understand Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good.

Young Hunter Lawyers Partner, and immigration expert, Simon Graham, said he is not aware of any similar declarations used in New Zealand.

Clayton Mitchell, the NZ First MP who drew up the bill on behalf of the party's Tauranga members, said both Germany and Canada have similar declarations as well.

But the bill, and Peters' comments, have drawn criticism.


"I think this is Winston looking for distractions. I think he knows that his party is in trouble; it's dysfunction junction in the Government," Bridges told Breakfast.

He called the idea "headline-grabbing nonsense".

"Immigrants I meet very quickly become patriotic, passionate New Zealanders and they don't need to go through some course or sign some document."

New Zealand Refugee Council President Arif Saeid does not support NZ First's proposal either.

He said it would be problematic for older refugees with poor English skills.

As for younger refugees, he said often it does not take them long to pick up Kiwi culture anyway.


Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero said it is hard to see how such a concept could be defined when it is doubtful that there is agreement within New Zealand on what constitutes these values.

"It is also difficult to see how an approach like this could be implemented in a manner that is fair, and which properly recognises important principles of diversity and inclusiveness."

The Greens do not sound too keen on the proposed bill either.

"The Greens don't think this kind of thing is a priority for Parliament to consider but we will assess the bill if and when it comes through the Parliament," the party's Immigration Spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said.

ACT Leader David Seymour, however, is likely to support the bill. He said he is likely to support the bill – but it first has to be approved by the New Zealand First caucus, put into the private members' bill ballot and then be drawn out.

Mitchell said he has a draft version of the bill, which is being assessed by the NZ First caucus.