OPINION: The latest census reveals that Southland now boasts a diverse mix of people from around the world, enriching and enhancing our communities.
Figures show a huge increase in the Asian population, up 147 per cent in Southland since 1996, while ethnic populations in both Central Otago and Queenstown have also risen. According to the Ministry of Education there are now 503 students of Asian ethnicity enrolled at Southland schools, an increase of 76 per cent since 2009.
The Primary ITO, an organisation charged with providing agricultural qualifications, has also reported an increase in dairy trainee numbers in Southland, much of that led by migrant workers wanting to upskill.
This cultural diversity brings a richness to people's lives, but there's more to it than that.
Many of these immigrants bring a wealth of skills. They are hard- working and show a commitment that only those who are prepared to leave their homeland behind can demonstrate.
The Government has a clear policy that New Zealanders should be given first priority for jobs, but our labour market has always relied on overseas workers to fill certain gaps and in areas of particular skill shortages.
New research from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has found that temporary migration is having a positive impact on the employment and earnings of New Zealanders overall, particularly in dairy farming, the horticulture and wine industries, and the hospitality sector.
The research concludes that temporary migrants and New Zealanders are complementary sources of labour - in other words, migrant workers are helping create an economy with more jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders.
The Immigration Advisers Licensing Act is now more than five years old and it's now time to ensure it's working effectively.
Requiring immigration advisers to be licensed and sign up to a code of conduct has seen a significant improvement in the quality of immigration advice.
Meanwhile, a bill to crack down on employers who exploit migrant workers has recently passed its first reading in Parliament. The Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2) is part of a package of actions by the Government to address exploitation of migrants.
As the face of our country changes, our policies and philosophies must also adjust.
» Bill English (National) is the electorate MP for Clutha-Southland.
- The Southland Times