Verve Article - November 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Managing immigration carefully

When I first stood for Parliament in 2005, the number one topic was the outflow of New Zealanders.  It was a cause of great concern for many people on the doorstep. 

It is a measure of our success as a country over these past few years that the net outflow has been transformed to an inflow, as fewer Kiwis leave and more return home after time away.  And why shouldn’t more New Zealanders stay home?  New Zealand’s prospects are good in a world where other countries are struggling to respond to all manner of intractable problems.

But all good things bring their challenges.  I’ve been holding a series of meetings with local residents and while the audiences themselves have often been half comprised of recent immigrants, there is natural concern about the pressures of rapid growth, in the housing market and on traffic congestion especially. 

Our Government is fully aware of those pressures. 
We are changing immigration settings to moderate the increasing numbers of migrants applying for residence. Migrants make a valuable contribution to New Zealand both culturally and economically, and the Government periodically reviews all our immigration settings to make sure they are working as intended.

While we are confident our immigration settings are working well, the New Zealand Residence Programme is reviewed every couple of years to ensure we have the right number and skill mix of people gaining residence.

Changes, which will lower the total number of people gaining residence, include:

o Changing the planning range for residence approvals for the next two years to 85,000 – 95,000 (down from 90,000 – 100,000).

o Raising the number of points required for residence from 140 to 160 points under the Skilled Migrant Category.

o Reducing the number of places for the capped family categories to 2000 a year (down from 5500).

For 10 years the New Zealand Residence Programme has been steady within or below the range of 45,000 – 50,000. However, demand for residence is currently high. Last year, the number of approvals comfortably exceeded 50,000 (52,000) and forecasts for the next two financial years indicate that approvals would be over 54,000 a year if no changes are made to policy.

Changes to the Family Category, including temporarily closing the Parent Category to new applications, will also reduce the total number of migrants being granted residence.  These changes demonstrate the Government is taking a responsible, pragmatic approach to managing immigration.