The government has overhauled its temporary migrant worker visa scheme. If you cast your mind back 2 years, Labour and NZ First both campaigned on significantly reducing immigration, from around 70,000 migrants a year down to about 30,000. NZ First actually went further and wanted to reduce immigration to 10,000 each year. Although hell would have frozen over before I would have voted for this government, the one thing I was pleased about was that they would now do something to curb the rampant immigration that had caused so much pressure on housing, schooling, the health service and infrastructure. I believed that we needed to get some breathing space to allow infrastructure to catch up.
Well guess what?
There are many changes in the newly announced temporary migrant work visa process which are arguably positive, including a focus on the regions and further steps to stamp out migrant worker exploitation.
But it’s not what the Government promised, and the ultimate goal can at times be confusing. Especially for those waiting months on end for visas, who suspect the system is deliberately clogged to keep them out.
The temporary migrant work visa scheme currently affects more than 25,000 employers, and about 55,000 workers.
The changes, announced on Tuesday after nine months of consultation and system design, are billed as targeting genuine skills shortages, focusing on the regions, reducing exploitation, and addressing workforce planning.
The process has been streamlined to replace six categories with a single temporary work visa.
The onus will be on the employer to prove they are trustworthy and will pay a decent wage. After passing that test, they will be able to more readily employ foreign workers, especially if they are outside the five big cities.
Other major shifts include doing away with the existing skills bands in favour of remuneration thresholds, which will be aligned with the median wage.
Some sectors of business, such as Federated Farmers, NZ Horticulture and the NZ Aged Care Association like the announcement, but it is worth pointing out that all of those will be looking to employ people on relatively low wages. As employers are not required to provide places for their employees to live, housing is not an issue for them, but it will be for the new migrants, even in the regions. Lots of small towns still have no rental accommodation available, and what there is to be found is expensive. This will do nothing to help with the housing crisis. It will just make things much worse.
The problem is, this policy wasn’t what coalition partners Labour and New Zealand First campaigned on.
It’s a significant softening of pre-election policies, to the point where it is widely seen as pro-migration, and even has National’s tick of approval.
Ahead of the 2017 election, Labour’s policy promises were supposed to cut annual net migration by 30,000. And New Zealand First committed to a massive reduction to an annual net migration figure of 10,000.
That softened to broad focus areas in the coalition agreement, with the parties agreeing to address genuine skills shortages and exploitation.
Yes, we certainly do have a skills shortage in some areas, but I do not believe we should be bringing people in here when there is nowhere for them to live. The housing shortage, traffic gridlock and pressure on the health service are not going to go away with this policy.
But the removal from the policies the two parties were in-part elected on, is stark, and needs to be discussed as a country. This needs to be supported by robust population data and projections.
The lack of a national conversation thus far may well be due to concerns about it descending into one with xenophobic undertones, or differences of opinion between Labour and New Zealand First.
But with New Zealand’s ageing workforce, low unemployment and poor productivity, it’s one that can only be avoided for so long.
The discussion needs to start from the basis that migrants don’t cause housing and infrastructure crises, poor planning and policy design do.NEWSROOM.
I have no argument with that, but this government has the worst possible record when it comes to planning and policy design. Think Kiwibuild, which was going to build 100,000 houses (in 10 years) and has built just over 200 in 2 years. There are now more than 12,000 people on state housing waiting lists, with less and less private rentals available, partly because of government policy towards landlords. There is no quick fix to the housing shortage, and another 70,000 people coming into the country each year will make the situation much worse. This whole policy is complete madness.
Instead, why does the government not provide some people with a little incentive to get off the ‘Jobseeker’ benefit and into paid work? The numbers on unemployment benefits are rising too, which might seem strange under the circumstances, but not once you realise that the government has adopted policies that actually encourage people to stay on the dole, by reducing the need for people to show any responsibility to the taxpayers who are funding their lifestyles.
This government will bankrupt our country. In the meantime, Shane Jones’s ‘nephs’ and their ilk will still be allowed to stay on the couch as long as they like. It is insulting and undignified to make people actually have to do something for the funding they receive from the taxpayer. Did you not realise that?