'Callous attempt to hold power': Winston Peters calls Government's immigration crackdown a con
Planned changes to New Zealand's immigration settings are "tinkering" that will not ease the pressure on the country's infrastructure, Labour says.
Opposition parties have attacked the Government's immigration package, aimed at managing the quality and number of migrants coming to New Zealand.
Earlier on Wednesday, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced migrants earning less than the median New Zealand income of $49,000 would not be classified as highly skilled, regardless of what industry they work in.
Woodhouse also revealed a new higher pay threshold of $73,000 - one and a half times the median income - above which any migrant will be classed as highly skilled.
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Speaking in Queenstown, he said the Government would introduce a new three-year limit for workers in New Zealand on temporary visas, followed by a minimum stand-down period before they could apply again.
Workers in seasonal industries would also have their visas shortened to the length of their work.
Woodhouse said the changes were about "attracting migrants who bring the most economic benefits to New Zealand" and managing the number and quality of new arrivals.
The Government took a "Kiwis first" approach to immigration, but wanted to ensure employers could fill genuine labour or skills shortages with overseas workers.
Woodhouse also announced a one-off "pathway to residence" for about 4000 long-term, temporary migrant workers and their families living in the South Island.
The workers had filled genuine shortages and become well-settled, but had no pathway to residence under current migration settings.
Eligible migrants could receive an initial Work to Residence temporary visa, and could apply for residence two years later provided they stayed in the same industry and region.
"Many of these migrants are already well settled in New Zealand and make a valuable contribution to their communities. The requirement to remain in the same region for a further two years after being granted residence ensures that commitment to the region continues," Woodhouse said.
IMMIGRATION CHANGES 'TINKERING'
Labour leader Andrew Little dismissed the changes as "tinkering" that would not make a meaningful difference to the number of low-skilled migrants entering the country.
"National's changes don't address the huge numbers of people coming here to do low level qualifications or low skill work, then using those visas as a stepping-stone to residency.
"National's announcement won't change the fact we are issuing over 6000 work visas for labourers a year when we have thousands of unemployed labourers in this country already."
Little said the changes could also make it harder to bring in people for areas of absolute skills shortages, rather than allowing skilled migrants in to help the economy grow.
NZ First leader Winston Peters described the changes as a "con" and "a callous attempt to hold onto power" without addressing the real issue.
"They are fiddling with the issue while the plain fact is foreign workers will still be able to come here when employers claim they can't get Kiwis."