Jacinda Ardern breaks key election pledge to cut immigration

By Leith van Onselen

In the September 2017 general election, the New Zealand Labour Party launched a plan to reduce immigration by around a third in a bid to relieve chronic housing and infrastructure pressures (especially around Auckland):

…in recent years our population has been growing rapidly as record numbers of migrants arrive here. This has happened without the Government planning for the impact immigration is having on our country… This has contributed to the housing crisis, put pressure on hospitals and schools, and added to the congestion on roads…

Labour will… take a breather on immigration… In total, these changes are estimated to reduce net migration by 20,000-30,000. Without these changes there would be up to 10,000 more houses needed and up to 20,000 more vehicles on our roads annually.

Last month, Statistics New Zealand released its immigration estimates for the month of February, which reported a massive 19% year-on-year increase to a near record high:

“Provisional annual net migration of 61,600 in the year ended February 2019 is near the highest reported under the new outcomes-based measure,” population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said…

Instead of fulfilling its promise to cut immigration, the Labour-led Government has instead launched a ‘smoke and mirrors’ inquiry into rorting of the temporary migration program:

The Government is sticking to its word and making moves to prevent migrant workers from being exploited.

However it isn’t any closer to reducing annual net migration by 20,000 to 30,000 people a year, as it estimated it would before the 2017 election.

The Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has directed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to set up a working group to research temporary migrant worker exploitation.

Such a review was already completed in 2016 by Auckland University, entitled “Worker Exploitation in New Zealand: A Troubling Landscape”. At the time, Iain Lees-Galloway scolded the National Government for ignoring the issue:

“…exploitation of migrant workers is pervasive in New Zealand… migrant workers continue to report high levels of abuse, intimidation, underpayment, debt bondage, and a host of other exploitative employment practices… it is the same industries—dairy farming, fishing, hospitality, horticulture, construction, and international education—that keep coming up as the most exploitative… migrant exploitation has a chilling effect on wages and conditions for all workers in those sectors… too many employers rely on exploiting migrant workers so that they can avoid paying decent wages and meeting basic employment standards”…

Yesterday, Iain Lees-Galloway announced an expansion of skills shortage lists enabling employers ton recruit more migrant labour:

The Government has announced a series of changes to immigration settings it says will address skills shortages in the country’s regions…

Under the changes three occupations will be added to the Regional Skill Shortage List (RSSL). They are early childhood, primary school and secondary school teachers…

While the Long Term Skill Shortage List (LTSSL) identifies occupations where there is a sustained shortage of highly skilled workers throughout New Zealand. It will include aged care nurses.

If a migrant worker is qualified for the job and meets the requirements specified for that occupation, they may be granted either an Essential Skills Work Visa or a LTSSL Work Visa. If they apply for a Work to Residence visa, they can apply for residency after two years.

While the Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List (CISSL) outlines where there are immediate short-term skill shortages in the New Zealand’s construction labour market. If a business is seeking someone in one of the listed occupations a migrant worker may be granted an Essential Skills Work Visa…

No matter which way Labour tries to spin this, it has broken a core election commitment to cut immigration.

Prime Minister Jacinda Adern needs to be held to account on this issue.

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