NZ Government opens visa sluice gates

In the lead-up to 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, the Labour Government reneged on its election commitment, dramatically expanding access to lower-wage temporary migrant workers for New Zealand businesses:

The Government has announced plans to make it easier for employers to bring temporary workers into the country.

And it has also announced a reversal of the previous clampdown by the National Government in 2017 on families of lower paid temporary workers being allowed to also come into New Zealand…

There will be a phased introduction, with the new rules fully taking effect in 2021.

The Government hasn’t put any numbers around how many workers will be allowed in under the new rules.

A feature of the new plan is that it will include “sector agreements” with various targeted industries that have a high reliance on migrant workers. Sectors identified for initial negotiations include: residential care (including aged care), meat processing, dairy, forestry, road freight transport, and tourism and hospitality. The construction and horticulture and viticulture sectors are also potential candidates…

Lees-Galloway says the new rules “will assist around 25-30,000 businesses get the workers they need to fill skills shortages”. He says currently there are over 54,000 workers on the main employer assisted work visa – the essential skills visa…

“For jobs with very high pay (200% or twice the median wage) there will be no labour market test requirement (that is, a check as to whether there are New Zealanders available).”

And additionally, the document also says: “For those paid above the median wage and in the parts of the country where there are fewer New Zealanders available there will be no labour market test.”

The median wage is given as $52,000…

The Government will reinstate the ability for lower-paid foreign workers to support their partner and children to come to New Zealand for the length of their visa. This was restricted in 2017…

Dependent children of a lower-paid worker will have access to primary and secondary education as subsidised domestic students.

The Government also announced that it would increase foreign seasonal workers by over 3,000 to 16,000:

The Government says it will provide more support for the country’s horticulture and viticulture sectors with an increase in the quota for seasonal workers.

“For the first time we are announcing a two-year increase to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) quota. This will help address industry concerns that a lack of certainty on RSE numbers makes it hard for them to plan for labour needs and accommodation requirements,” Iain Lees-Galloway says.

He says it will see the cap on the number of temporary visas that can be granted for foreign seasonal workers rise by 3,150 over two years to 16,000.

Accordingly, broad sectors of New Zealand’s economy will be given easy access to low-paid migrant workers. Migrants paid below the median $52,000 wage will also be permitted to bring their partners and children along for the ride, with taxpayers subsidising their children’s education.

The loosening in visa requirements comes despite Iain Lees-Galloway in 2016 scolding the National Government for ignoring systemic exploitation of migrant workers, which he claimed is eroding New Zealand wages:

“…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”…

Over the weekend, the Labour Government announced that it would also allow 1,000 skilled migrants to bring their elderly parents into New Zealand:

The Labour-led coalition Government has reversed another of the previous Government’s clamp-downs on immigration by saying it will allow parents of skilled migrants to settle in New Zealand.

This follows a recent similar reversal on the National Government’s restrictions placed on family members of temporary visa holders being allowed to come here…

As part of its work to ensure businesses can get the skilled workers they need, the Coalition Government is re-opening and re-setting the Parent Category visa programme, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says.

The move will… support skilled migrants who help fill New Zealand’s skills gaps by providing a pathway for their parents to join them… [and] help New Zealand businesses find the skilled labour they need…

“This Coalition Government is committed to attracting and retaining highly-skilled migrants by providing a pathway for their parents to join them in New Zealand, while ensuring they will be supported by their children when they get here”…

In announcing this policy, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway lied by claiming that Labour had not set any immigration targets, which contradicts its explicit election commitment to “reduce net migration by 20,000-30,000”:

[Lees-Galloway] said he was working in a government made up of three different parties and in adherence to the Coalition Agreement and Confidence and Supply Agreement.

“This government has never had a target for immigration numbers.”

Regardless, the Productivity Commission’s (PC) 2016 Migrant Intake into Australia report shows that the estimated lifetime fiscal cost of migrants grows rapidly with age:

Although the numbers are for Australia, they would apply similarly to New Zealand.

While the above chart cuts off at 60, given the steepness of the curve, it is fair to draw the conclusion that each elderly arrival under NZ Labour’s policy could have a negative fiscal impact of at least $300,000 if they stay permanently.

The PC also notes that these costs are likely to be underestimated, since “immigrants can also affect government budgets in ways that are more difficult to directly attribute. For instance, immigration can affect congestible public infrastructure which requires further government spending”.

Regardless, having thousands of elderly migrants inundate New Zealand, with most settling in crush-loaded Auckland, is unambiguously poor policy that will impose a significant burden on incumbent Kiwis.

Jacinda Adern has unambiguously broken her key election commitment to reduce immigration, while effectively declaring war on Labour’s traditional working class base and New Zealand taxpayers.

Leith van Onselen


  1. Can we take this as an indication of what our “beloved” ALP would do when next elected to run the country? I think so.

    We get what we deserve. There was a choice to vote strongly for ON at the last election but people are still tethered to their long held views that the ALP or the Libs, or Greens care about Oz and its people.

    Our only hope is a mighty political flush from really dire economic conditions. But that is still 18 months away (or 18 years).

    • ALP along with Libs know that the only way they will stimulate GDP growth is with ponzi immigration growth. This is the problem with GDP being the only measuring stick they have or want to use. Not GDP growth per head of population and not some quality of life index .
      The thing the ALP dont seem to realise is that much of the immigration is not from Europe but from Asia and people who are on the whole use materialism as a marker for their position within their own society, eg My house, My car, My kids at private school and so on. These people dont vote Labor.
      a decade ago I lived in a part of outer London which was considered to be the most green-garden suburb but over 3 decades was taken over by similar immigrants as Aus is now taking in in great numbers with the same family material ambitions. The vast majority of front gardens there have been concreted over in order to park their pride and joy in front of their pecking order, status house with no interest in the environment or other people beyond family. I got on fine with them as people and worked with a lot of them but the underlying outlook is focused entirely on family wealth before all else, hence many conservative voters regardless of the racist nature of the tory party. Before anyone shouts ‘rasist’ most of my friends in London were of one foreign decent or other and of all ethic groups including African, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and of course Europeans. I found genuine refugees tended to vote Labour as opposed to modern economic migrants from middle class backgrounds.

      • Those are interesting observations.

        The ALP used to rail against the migrants from the Baltic states back in the pre-1980s days as being supporters of conservative Oz governments despite the ALP trying to woo migrants and having opened up Australia to them in the 1940s. To some extent that was because these people came from countries occupied by the USSR, I suppose.

  2. the population ponzi is real, forget about negative interest rates and all the other traditional economic indicators, if you really want to know where the economy is going just review the immigration figures.

  3. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
    George Orwell, Animal Farm

  4. Anyone got any tips on how to Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Immigration?

    I think the best tip is to become a parent, after which you will become a Quiet Australian who is concerned with absolutely nothing outside of your family unit.

  5. Many thanks Leith !

    The next TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll sure is going to be interesting.

    One senses this is a ‘one term’ government … on the Opposition benches around October next year.

  6. Even StevenMEMBER

    The broken promises are disgraceful. And politicians wonder why the public doesn’t trust them. Geez… I dunno why might that be?

  7. You didn’t reference the income limits on the parental visa. Certainly some outrage in the NZ press today on the limits, so it can only be a good thing.