Immigration is once again in the news, with NZ First leader Winston Peters engaging in some furious dog-whistling to gain attention.
I fear that his antics give the small, but vocal, portion of New Zealanders who hold racist beliefs an avenue for expressing their destructive opinions. At the very least it makes newcomers feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
New Zealand is an increasingly multicultural country. Those of us who do not whakapapa Maori have a migrant somewhere in our background – even if it was four or five generations ago. Migrants enhance our country economically and our multicultural communities provide us all with a greater understanding of our world and our place in it.
The current high levels of immigration quoted by NZ First are misleading. For a start, the figures include higher numbers of returning New Zealanders, as well as students on study visas and young travelers from South American countries on their big OE (the same scheme NZ has with the UK). It also includes those applying to live here under the skilled migrant category. We need their talents if we are to be innovative and diversify our economy.
There are also a number of migrants who enter under the ‘investor’ category. Those who are wealthy who are supposed to create jobs, but there isn’t a lot of information about how effective this system is. We believe that this sector needs to be monitored closely to make sure it achieves its stated goals of job creation and entrepreneurship.
The Greens believe that we have to ensure that our environment and our infrastructure can cope with our population. The best way to do this is to have a robust and transparent monitoring of immigration numbers, and a political commitment to honest conversations about how to manage the balance.
We are fundamentally opposed to NZ First blaming new migrants for the housing crisis in Auckland and the congested roads there. The real culprit is the government’s lack of action in implementing an effective capital gains tax and restrictions on the sale of properties to non-residents.
Outside of Auckland our regions need talented people to help build the economy, and we could be doing more to incentivise new migrants to settle there. The government could certainly help by providing real regional economic development strategies and making sure all people in the regions can access our public services.
We believe new New Zealanders need help to settle here. The migrant levy that is collected for this purpose has been under-spent over the last few years, while not-for-profit migrant support services have endured funding cuts or freezes.
We could also crack down on dodgy employers taking advantage of vulnerable migrants by investing in labour inspectors to educate employers and monitor employment standards.