Editorial - Immigration disquiet

21:05, Mar 11 2012

Immigration New Zealand's Vision for 2015, a blueprint setting out how the department will continue to improve its operations over the next three years, has been welcomed in several quarters. Immigration Minister Nathan Guy said the department had put a lot of hard work into winning back the confidence and trust of the public and the Government and the plan is an important step towards building on these achievements. Education New Zealand welcomed the aim of doubling the economic value of international education to $5.5 billion over the next 15 years. Auckland Airport welcomed a commitment to a high-tech online immigration system.

The new systems will add an estimated $1.9 billion a year to the country's GDP . But immigration policy is being changed, too, and a "two-tier" system will favour wealthy immigrants over poor ones who speak little or no English. Tightened rules will make it harder for family members seeking New Zealand residency. Labour MP Su'a William Sio said a minimum income requirement in the new rules will disadvantage Pacific Islanders. Mr Guy makes no apologies. He says the changes are aimed at attracting migrants with the right skills who can support themselves and their children and are part of a plan to save $40 million in welfare benefits. Labour immigration spokeswoman Darien Fenton, however, said New Zealand is becoming a country where "only those with pot loads of money are welcome". She cited the "special treatment" accorded millionaires such as Kim Dotcom, the Auckland-based co-founder of the Megaupload file-sharing site who is on bail while American authorities seek extradition in connection with internet piracy allegations.

Dotcom was granted a conditional New Zealand residency in November 2010 under the investor-plus category (for people who invest $10 million in Government bonds) despite convictions in Germany. A month later, he was convicted on eight business charges in a Hong Kong court and fined HK$8000. Immigration New Zealand nevertheless stands by its decision to grant residency. The benefits of his financial investments – officials insist – outweigh his minor transgressions. But our immigration policy gives cause for disquiet if law-abiding but poor applicants are deemed less desirable than rich ones with stains on their record.