Residence pathway for established migrant workers, families, welcome in south
EDITORIAL: Whether or not the Government's changes to immigration settings are on the whole too delicate and insufficiently emphatic, the south should applaud at least one aspect of them good and hard.
About 4000 South Island migrants who been putting in years of good, honest work in the dairy, meat and tourist/hospitality industries are now being offered a one-off pathway to residence.
They have been filling jobs in which local labour hasn't been showing an interest, particularly in the south with its relatively high employment.
These workers have been in a near-constant state of application to renew their work visas. As years pass they have been quietly paying taxes, keeping the economy moving, pretty reliably keeping out of trouble, keeping up numbers in schools and churches, and building lives here in a manner that deserves more security than the perpetual purgatory in which they've found themselves.
Under the new policy, this group will be offered Work to Residence visa, becoming eligible for residence in two or more years if they stay in the same industry and region. Among the requirements is that they have already been here five years or more, and are holding fulltime jobs that meet market rates, with employers who aren't on the labour inspectorate's bad books.
As lobbyists on their behalf, southern MPs Todd Barclay and Sarah Dowie can take credit.
Apart from this already-established group, the changed settings for immigration rules announced his week aren't without steel, including new stand-down-and-reapply rules for lower-skilled migrants after a maximum of three years.
As for migrants seeking to qualify for residence on the basis of their higher skills, the points system is changed to lessen the focus on whether the job is on a Government list, and more on what the market is prepared to pay. No points for you if you're pulling down less than the national median wage, even if you've been on the "skilled" list, but you will now get points if you're not on the list but your employer is prepared to pay you one and a half times the median.
None of this will remotely satisfy the controversy over whether far too many low-skilled migrants are putting too much pressure on infrastructure for too little benefit nationwide.
Remember though, that while Auckland chokes on newcomers, we gasp for them. And the latest the changes dovetail with Government moves to give give weight to migrants who move to areas outside Auckland.
A more effective system for the regional dispersal of well-chosen migrants remains an imperative for the south's regional development.