Putting massive welcome mat out is not the answer
Federated Farmers is unimpressed with the Government’s latest adjustment to its immigration policy. In a backdown on an election hotbutton issue, and under pressure from rural New Zealand, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has made tweaks to the Government’s original immigration policy rolled out earlier this year.
On Thursday, Woodhouse announced he would ease visa restrictions, which will allow about 6000 low-skilled migrant workers to be able to stay in the country longer.
Previously, migrants earning less than the median income of $49,000 would not be classified as highly skilled, regardless of what industry they worked in.
Now that earning figure has been dropped to $41,500, but migrants would still have to stand down for a year after three years of working in NZ.
Federated Farmers immigration spokesman Chris Lewis says the minister’s changes haven’t gone far enough and will mean that migrants, who have been trained up on our farms, will have to leave, and other countries will benefit from their training.
Federated Farmers wants the families of migrants to be able to come to New Zealand too, maintaining that their presence would help prop up dwindling school rolls, and add value to regional communities.
The Government said it made the changes after a consultation period during which the National Party in election year would have been reminded loud and clear of its commitment to rural NZ, and the regions’ need for migrant workers.
However, Filipino immigrants working on Kiwi farms come from a country where it is the norm for 10 million OFS (Overseas Filipino Workers) to work abroad and not see their families sometimes for years. The pay-off for them is that they send most of their money home, rather than spend it in the country they work in.
This is not adding value to our economy. And it overlooks the unharnessed potential of 91,000 Kiwi youth currently not engaged in education, training or employment.
For too long we have been sold the pup of the desperate need for, and the benefits of, immigration and how good it has been for our enviable rock star economy.
But enough of the country across the political divide are now all too aware and have twigged to immigration having driven down wages, put a strain on infrastructure, increased housing shortages and caused a massive rise in house prices.
Some immigration is good, but we are a tiny country of not even 5 million, which is being swamped by the highest numbers of immigration in the world. I never thought I’d say this but, how many more can poor old Auckland take, let alone the rest of the country?
With immigration persisting at record levels, the Government’s latest backdown on immigration to appease one sector that failed to be impressed with the fiddlings, will be seen as weak and deaf to the concerns of the electorate.
And the policy adjustment was announced at the same time as the OECD reports that New Zealand has the highest rate of homelessness per head of population in the developed world.
The Government will be hoping that the deafening response to Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei’s mea culpa about her benefit fraud will keep the electorate focused on that continuing-to-unfold drama and not notice the immigration backdown.
But her noise works both ways. Turei has linked her story to a needs-must, keep-the-wolf-from-the-door narrative, which is getting traction with many Kiwis on struggle street, or struggle alley if they are homeless.
Not all have received her message well and there has been strong condemnation from other quarters.
Low-paid workers failing to keep warm in winter, unable to find the readies to pay the power bill, and trawling supermarket special bins to keep the family fed, are really connecting to the romance of Turei’s Robin Hood ‘‘steal from the rich, give to the poor’’ rallying cry.
Poverty sucks! The system is broken! Take back the power! might stir the stumps of a meek electorate that hasn’t fist-pumped the air since the 1981 Springbok tour.
The pollution of the Government’s one-idea immigration solution has spread too far.
All roads keep leading back to it and its widespread detrimental effects on a resident population who have felt sidelined by a Government obsessed with creating a fictional account of GDP to suit its own PR purposes.
Some immigration is good, but we are a tiny country of not even 5 million, which is being swamped by the highest rate of immigration in the world.