Woodhouse on Immigration

Michael Woodhouse, Minister of both Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety, was interviewed on Q & A yesterday.

He explained how New Zealand’s immigration policies and practices actually work.

Video: Immigration and Workplace Safety – Minister (11:12)

Transcript (Immigration segment):

PARKIN Welcome back. And let’s go to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, who joins me from Dunedin. Minister, that target of 60,000 – or that new record that we’ve hit now of 60,000 in net migration – are you comfortable with that? Or do you need to take steps to restrict that to get within your 45,000-55,000?

WOODHOUSE Well, look, I think the discussion you’ve just had shows quite how complex and how many moving parts there are to the immigration story. For me, I think, the popular perception is of 60,000 people coming and staying, and that’s simply not true. We have a residency programme that targets between 45,000 and 50,000 permanent residency places every year. And that hasn’t changed in the last 10 years or so.

PARKIN So being over that doesn’t concern you at all?

WOODHOUSE Well, it’s not over that. That’s the point I’m making. Permanent residency peaked at 52,000 about 10 years ago, and then dropped by 20%. Now, it’s going up now. It’s probably around 45,000 or 46,000. That’s the permanent residencies. What’s creating the volatility as was described by your panel is the temporary migration – those labour-market tested work visas we need to rebuild Canterbury, the extra working holidaymakers that are coming, and the quite strong growth in tertiary education.

PARKIN And if they are pushing up interest rates, exchange rates, house prices, I mean, is that really good for anybody?

WOODHOUSE Well, I think what you heard is there’s some contest about whether or not those things are occurring.

PARKIN Do you believe they’re occurring?

WOODHOUSE I think there are a number of factors at play in both the interest rates and the housing story, and the government has a number of measures to address, particularly, the Auckland housing market. But I think what we’ve got is two things going on in immigration. Firstly, we have a skills requirement, and also we have a labour requirement.

PARKIN Let’s talk about that skills requirement, because the 149 checkout operators, 227 shelf fillers– I mean, are those settings really right for an essential skills visa?

WOODHOUSE Well, you’ve described them as essential skills, but actually they are what’s known as labour market-tested work visas. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve had a look at the checkout operators, but when I last did, there was one visa of that group that had been awarded in Auckland. The overwhelming majority of them are going to the South Island in places like Queenstown and Wanaka where there is virtually zero unemployment. And, indeed, we have quite a strong mismatch between where the labour need is and where the people are. And one of the things I would say is that anybody who wants to seek work should head south. There’s plenty of it.

Preceding this there was a panel discussion on Immigration. It also pointed out the realities of our immigration, making it clear that immigration of permanent residents is steady and most of the fluctuations are due to temporary workers, foreign students and returning New Zealanders (who are returning from Australia in particular).

Immigration: Are we benefiting? (Part 1) (10:31)

Part 1 of our debate on the economic benefits of immigration – Michael Parkin hosts Dr Don Brash, Shamubeel Eaqub and Professor Paul Spoonley

Immigration: Are we benefiting? (Part 2) (8:09) 

Part 2 of our debate on the economic benefits of immigration 

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