National’s visionless immigration policy

National’s recent immigration announcement is a continuation of the visionless approach to government that it has displayed in the last three terms.

Rather than using the levers of government to implement a sustainable immigration policy that benefits new and current New Zealanders, it has lurched from one extreme to another. First with a laissez-faire approach that prioritises quantity of numbers over quality of support, and now with this cynical announcement to reduce the entirely predictable bulge in permanent residence applications.

The most baffling immigration change is the closure of the parent family category. This means that permanent residents or citizens won’t be able to sponsor their parents. This makes the pathway for them to come to New Zealand prohibitively difficult, to the point where it’s nearly impossible. The move has been widely condemned by the migrant community. For example,  the Indian Weekender denounced it as a ‘hit on the very essence of Indian culture.’


Many migrants bring their parents here to help look after their kids, to act as family support and to prevent their parents from becoming socially isolated in their home country. If the Government thinks that parents aren’t being properly cared for by their families, there are many other ways to make sure that doesn’t keep happening.

This is a kneejerk response which avoids dealing with real issues in favour of scapegoating a vulnerable group in the community. We need to have an honest conversation about how the use of temporary work visas and international students in industries like farming, retail, and fast food has led to many vulnerable migrants being abused and exploited.

This government’s approach has encouraged the reliance on temporary work visas and international students as a mechanism to keep wages low and increase the profits in the private education sector. They don’t seem particularly interested in addressing migrants’ experiences of abuse and exploitation or planning for their impact on infrastructure.

It’s disappointing that National has missed an opportunity to address the very real issues of migrant labour abuse and international student exploitation in favour of taking cheap shots.  It seems like they are pandering to the same forces that have propelled the rise of demagogues like Trump in the United States.  We could do so much better for migrants and for New Zealand.