Treasury Secretary – ” the right place with immigration levels”

In an interview on The Nation the Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf said that “I think we’re probably in more or less the right place with immigration levels”.

Immigration levels are often talked about in relation to housing issues. The simple fact is that if as a country we want growth in New Zealand then we need immigration. And a growing population needs more housing.

But the thing is people see immigration at high levels, they see house prices going up, they see the need for more schools — those are the things that they see.
Sure, and we need immigration because we need the sort of— our businesses need particular types of skills that we haven’t got right now, so I think that plays a big part. We need immigration for just the generation of ideas. Don’t forget that currently some of the net immigration numbers are as much about New Zealanders not leaving the country and some of them returning from Australia.

So do we need to keep growing, then, do you think?
I think we absolutely need to keep growing as a country.

But more immigration?
Well, I think we need to— We’ve got currently— The OECD, when it last looked at our immigration settings said they were broadly right. We have to keep looking to make sure they’re actually meeting our needs, and I think it’s something you keep under constant review, because we also want to develop— we want our education system to be developing the skills that we feel we need for our people, so I think immigration meets a gap, but I mean we can, sort of, fill that gap ourselves by making sure the education system delivers.

So do you think we’re in a sweet spot with immigration levels, or can we and should we be bringing more people in?
No, no, I think we’re probably in more or less the right place with immigration levels. As I said, I mean, the current numbers are as much about people not leaving New Zealand or returning from Australia, and we need to take account of the impact of those numbers, so we do need to build new schools; we do need to critically build new houses.

A lot of those migrants come to Auckland, and you have said that you believe that Auckland should be the focus of growth, and you’re happy to see it get bigger, then?
Am I happy to see Auckland grow?

Yeah, see Auckland grow even more.
In general, I’m happy to see Auckland grow. I think what we’ve learnt from history, and certainly what we’re learning at the moment from around the world, is agglomeration — the bringing together of activities in a large urban area, like Auckland — makes a massive difference to the overall— ultimately the overall living standards of a country as a whole. It needs to be managed growth. It absolutely needs to be managed growth, but the trend — you know, over the last hundred years; New Zealand’s rural population has basically stayed stable. It’s the urban areas that have been growing, and that trend is going to continue.

Immigration is used as a political football, often with particular groups of immigrants getting the kicking.

The number of immigrants can’t just be turned off and on at the whim of opposition politicians. Rules and quotas are used and while they can be tweaked it would be poor practice to keep making major changes. If we want to encourage good immigrants we need to have clear and consistent rules and requirements.

And a major factor that can’t be controlled is New Zealanders leaving, and New Zealanders returning. We are free to come and go as we please.

There’s currently a surge in net migration into New Zealand because the flow to Australia has dropped significantly and the flow of returning Kiwis has increased significantly. That has changed in a relatively short time and will change again if the Australian economy picks up again.

If we want growth we need to maintain immigration numbers at approximately the current levels and increase housing to cater for them.

Video: Interview: Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf

Full transcript (Scoop): Lisa Owen interviews Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf

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  1. Treasury Secretary Gabriel “Turn The Whole Of NZ Into Auckland” Makhlouf


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