Putting mas­sive wel­come mat out is not the an­swer

The Press - - Perspective - JANE BOWRON

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.

PHOTO: STUFF

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.

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