Jane Bowron: Sometimes immigration cuts are good and sensible
OPINION: To anyone who thinks Labour's new immigration policy goes too far and is xenophobic, compare the number of migrants pouring into New Zealand with Australia and Britain.
New Zealand took in on average 14.7 people for every 1000 in our population during the year to June 30, 2016, and Australia took in the next largest figure at a rate of 7.5 per 1000 population. In 2015 the UK took in 5.1 people per 1000 population.
The data demonstrates that New Zealand's rate of migration is triple that of the UK. With the Government's heavy reliance on unprecedented levels of net migration to deliver the broken record of a rock star economy, the strain on infrastructure is set to continue.
Labour's policy is to curb migration by up to 30,000, and raise the calibre of long-term migrants allowed to enter New Zealand. It also wants to crack down on poor-quality education courses, which can provide a back door to residency. This is long overdue.
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Immigration encouraged to grow like Topsy has put the country out of whack. Current migration levels have created a housing shortage, put a strain on infrastructure, and created transport congestion on roads, especially in Auckland.
What's the point of living in a city that can't get its workers to work on time, or get them home to spend quality time with family and friends? Kiwis are spending more time in cars as they inch 'one mile a peanut' along congested roads, or, pushed out of the housing market, are forced to live in their vehicles for shelter.
Former transport and now Infrastructure Minister Steven Joyce's insistence on 'my way and the high way' of roads rather than rail has left the country log-jammed on motorways and any alternative route. Add the massive increase in tourism numbers with visitors sharing the road with heavy trucks and Auckland is a no-go, go-slow area.
It's all very well having an 'if we build it they will come' welcome-mat strategy for immigrants, but if you can't build it fast enough, you're in trouble. The new build relies heavily on immigrant labour with any slight fiddling of immigration numbers putting a spoke in the construction wheel.
It's the same with private training colleges, which allege that 70 per cent of them would collapse if Labour's proposed policy of 'taking a breather' in immigration were implemented.
Hospitality and horticulture industries reliant on workers with student visas are alarmed about Labour's immigration policy. However, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman, with reservations, has warmed to Labour's idea of a visa system to help people get more jobs in the regions.
While the present Government seems determined to break the Guinness Book of World Records on immigration, what is being done to help young Kiwis into work?
In the latest Unicef report, out of the developed nations, once again New Zealand is worst for adolescent suicide rates. We also come 34th out of 41 OECD and European Union countries in creating work opportunities, with far too many young people not in work or training.
If we can't protect and nurture our young into employment, increases in immigration levels only worsen the plight of our intergenerational unemployed. And we all know how that horror story works out if an underbelly of underprivileged is left to fend for itself.
Prime Minister Bill English has brutally written off a section of young Kiwi workers as too stoned for work, favouring immigrant workers instead to keep his bogus economic miracle working. If the prime minister opts for an alternative economy reliant on influxes of an alternative workforce, then the underclass will opt for their alternative economy, too.
Labour's immigration policy has the beginnings of a circuit breaker, but is being viewed as xenophobic trash talk by ACT and UnitedFuture. ACT leader David Seymour said it was a sad day when "the major opposition party starts beating the race drum".
UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne echoed that sentiment, criticising Labour's immigration plan as "really all about race and pandering to a certain section of the vote".
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith said the Opposition policy was "reckless" and put the economy at risk.
But surely it is more reckless for the Government to continue on in the same vein, welcoming foreign students and workers willy-nilly while it is New Zealanders whose livelihoods are at risk?
Taking a cup of tea and pausing to strategise a controlled and careful immigration policy that will contribute to our already rich Treaty of Waitangi tapestry is responsible rather than risky. Accusations of racism and xenophobia are convenient for a Government which can't think its way out of the corner it has painted itself into.
- The Dominion Post