Labour would not cut new immigration numbers to zero when there was a strong flow of Kiwis coming home, party leader David Cunliffe says.
That could lead to net immigration going as high as 20,000 a year, he said.
Cunliffe has previously said Labour would aim to manage migrant flows at about 5000-15,000 a year and wanted "a positive steady flow" of new migrants.
But it was "like a yo-yo under this Government and at the moment it is out of control".
Returning New Zealanders were always welcome and they would come in without question.
"What we have to do is manage the new arrivals at a steady predictable level so that the total can be absorbed within our property market," Cunliffe said.
The flow of migrants over and above the number of returning Kiwis should be managed.
"You flex the new migrants down when the Kiwis flex up – that's just an offset.
"So the 5000-15,000 target may change when, as now, a lot of Kiwis were coming back.
"At the moment perhaps you are more likely to be around 20,000."
Treasury predicted in the Budget that net migration would reach 40,000 this year.
Cunliffe said there was no point in having such levels that took up 80 per cent of all new homes in the Auckland market.
"You just can't function when the migrant flow is that high."
However, there had to be an allowance for specialist skills so the number over and above those returning home would never be turned down to zero – a point made to Cunliffe by Advantage4me founder Rob Neru during a visit to Porirua today.
Neru said finding staff within New Zealand with the right skills for his specialist sport-video business was hard, although he aimed to employ locals where possible.
Government agencies such as immigration and trade and enterprise did not always understand the specialist nature of the cloud-based business he ran.
Cunliffe told reporters more houses were needed to address the current shortage and Labour's policies would start taking effect immediately.
Labour would give first-home buyers an exemption from the Reserve Bank's loan-to-value ratios, which were unfair outside hot property markets like Auckland.
"There's no point in a place like Whanganui, which has static or declining house prices, to be paying an LVR rate the same as Auckland."
Labour would "consider" National's Budget policy to dump tariffs on imported building products but it did not solve the problem, he said.
Labour would have a close look at competitive conditions in the building products industry to ensure margins were not too high.
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