Government has reneged on immigration ‘promises’

It seemed fairly clear before last year’s election that NZ First wanted to slash immigration numbers, and Labour wanted to cut them significantly.

But that hasn’t happened.

Winston Peters now says he ‘lost that argument’ after being asked about a small drop only in net immigration numbers, but Labour also seem to have given up on their campaign arguments on immigration.

Despite assurances in mid October last year Jacinda Ardern seemed to have backed right off Labour’s immigration policy by early November.

Last year (April)Andrew Little had aimed for high (low): Andrew Little’s big call to cut 50,000 immigrants

“We have typically had inward migration, net migration of 20 to 25,000 – you want to target that sort of level,” Little says.

Labour’s immigration policy

Labour will invest in housing, infrastructure, public services, and in training New Zealanders to fill skills shortages. At the same time, we will take a breather on immigration.

Estimated reduction:  20,000-30,000
(student visas 6-10,000, post-study work visas 9-12,000, work visas 5-8,000)

After the election (20 October) Jacinda Ardern indicates big immigration cuts coming

Speaking to Newshub, she said the immigration policy Labour took to the election would continue. Under that policy Labour estimates net migration will fall by 20,000-30,000 a year. In the year to August net migration was 72,100.

During last year’s campaign from where do the parties stand on immigration?

NZ First leader Winston Peters has vowed to drastically reduce net immigration well below what Labour wants, to a net migration level of around 10,000 a year.

His message to voters who want a big drop in immigration levels is that Labour can’t be trusted, given they had only recently called for sizeable cuts, and National will continue the “economic treason” of “mass immigration”.

Peters kept using the blatantly incorrect term “mass immigration”.

Greens had a very waffly immigration policy.

Our immigration policy is based on our principles of nonviolence, ecological wisdom, appropriate decision-making, and social responsibility.

The first principle of the Green Party calls for us to recognise the limitations of our natural environment, and that “unlimited material growth is impossible. Ecological sustainability is paramount.”

Take all reasonable steps to prevent immigration numbers, and the sale of land to rich immigrants, from having an adverse impact on Taonga.

From where do the parties stand on immigration?

The Green Party had proposed capping migration at 1 per cent of population growth, but later abandoned that policy, with leader James Shaw apologising for focusing on numbers, saying he was “mortified” at accusations by migrant groups that the Greens had pandered to anti-immigrant rhetoric.

So what happened when the Government was negotiated?

There is no mention of it in the Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement.

It was included in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement:


As per Labour’s policy, pursue Labour and New Zealand First’s shared priorities to:

  • Ensure work visas issued reflect genuine skills shortages and cut down on low
    quality international education courses.
  • Take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students.

That was surprisingly non-specific.

By 7 November New Zealand PM says no immediate cut to immigration

Newly-elected Ardern said the minister for immigration was currently working through various proposals but she did not expect any announcement soon.

“That was never within our 100 day plan, there were other priorities around housing, around health, around incomes that we were much more focussed on,” she said.

Ardern’s plans to reduce immigration led some international media to make parallels between her and U.S. President Donald Trump, who came into office on a pledge to toughen immigration policies and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

She said the misrepresentation of her government’s immigration policy “absolutely bothered” her.

So it looks like NZ First did not insist on immigration cuts, apparently deferring to Labour’s policy.

And Labour backed off their pre-election (and post-election) policy position significantly.

That looks amazingly soft from Peters given his campaign rhetoric in immigration. I suspect that some of those who voted for NZ First will be very disappointed in this apparent capitulation, especially given Ardern’s rapid backing off from Labour’s campaign commitments and post election assurance.

On Q+A in Sunday:

Corrin Dann: One thing you could do, again which I don’t understand, you campaigned on cutting migration, Labour campaigned on turning off the tap, and correct me if I’m wrong, but immigration at the moment is still running at sixty five thousand net.

Winston Peters: It was seventy two thousand net, remember.

Corrin Dann: So it’s dribbled back a tiny little bit.

Winston Peters: Well yes, but it’s a start in the right direction…

Corrin Dann: Can you show me one thing you’ve done that’s made that drop?

Winston Peters: Well I’ve just proved it to you, down eight thousand for a kick off.

He hasn’t proven that he has done anything except subtract incorrectly.

Corrin Dann: What policy change?

Winston Peters: Well we said that certain type of people who are coming here would not be welcome because they weren’t bringing the skills we needed. And it’s skills we need now, so we’re far more cautious as to who’s coming, and we’re far more focused on the regional economy and the provincial economies as to their needs.

So many more will be going to the provinces and the regions where they are needed. Not all screaming to Auckland

He avoided answering. And he is quite inaccurate implying that all were ‘screaming to Auckland’.

Corrin Dann: How is it fair, for those struggling to get into houses in Auckland,  that you are continuing, your Government, to run a policy of record migration levels, a boom that is continuing?

Winston Peters: You can’t get away with that. The record was seventy two thousand eight hundred.

Corrin Dann: And now it’s sixty five.

Winston Peters: Sixty five and falling, yes, And it’ll be far more focussed now, and it will possibly focus come all the way down another thirty, in all about between twenty five and thirty thousand, somewhere in that region. But we’ve also got to watch the employment market to ensure that none of our export product is being hindered by a lack of staff.

That’s likely to be acknowledging the need for dairy farm workers, vineyard workers, fruit pickers.

Corrin Dann: You told your supporters you wanted it at ten thousand.

Winston Peters: Yeah well I lost the argument because I didn’t get enough votes because people like you said it wouldn’t work. Now you say it will.

His smirk after that comment as if he thought he was a clever bugger.

Blaming it on the media.

But Peters has just virtually said it wouldn’t work, that workers were needed for export industries, and now he says immigration is necessary to sustain exports. Either he didn’t recognise that obvious need before the election, or he was duping voters.

“His message to voters who want a big drop in immigration levels is that Labour can’t be trusted”.

Neither can Peters be trusted by the look of this. That won’t be a surprise to many, but a significant number of those who voted for NZ First expecting big things may justifiably feel shafted.

Labour have also not delivered on their promises, despite this claim after the coalition negotiations: Labour wins on immigration

Peters’ demurring to Labour’s more modest immigration policy was done with barely a murmur.

Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern was firm last week in stating Labour would be sticking with its own immigration plan of reducing net migration by 20,000 to 30,000, and repeated it in the announcement of Labour’s deal with New Zealand First.

“We had a conversation which demonstrated we shared the concern of exploitation, particularly in our export education sector, the need to strengthen those labour market tests, we’ve referenced that policy in the agreement, and of course that policy came with an estimate of the reduction of net migration would bring so that’s entirely consistent with our policy and nothing in that regard has changed.”

It looks like it has changed significantly.

In a rare moment, Peters then accepted that he had not gotten exactly what he wanted, but was not too fussed.

“We’re happy to accept that resolution in the way the Labour party has framed it, and it just so happens there’s an enormous amount of public controversy about those two issues right now carried by you in the media and carried by experts, so maybe it will work out.”

Peters may not have got exactly what he wanted, but immigration numbers are still set to drop.

But there has been no significant drop. Trust in political promises may drop, if that is possible.


  1. David

     /  July 31, 2018

    We have found things very strange but all the changes were put in place by National and the coalition has done absolutely nothing, they clearly enjoy the economic boost of immigration.
    This week we lost an English brickie who had been here for 4 years and they wouldnt renew his visa (National policy)and we brought in 2 Filipino,s on temporary work permits (Labour relaxed policy for guys we previously couldnt bring in) and our guys continue to be able to bring their wives over in some circumstances.
    Hard to make any sense of what is going on but the Indian education rort needs stopping completely, its nothing more than a scam and both NZ First and Labour campaigned on that one.

    • Gezza

       /  July 31, 2018

      What are the two Filipinos’ jobs?

      • David

         /  July 31, 2018

        Air con, fabricator and a painter, both commercial not residential.

        • Gezza

           /  July 31, 2018

          These are just questions – I’m not having a go – because I think your comment above is right & this Labour-led government’s pre-election rhetoric once again is not matching its deeds.

          You might not know thie, but I’m curious whether accompanying wives still get open work visas – meaning they can work in any job without any kind of labour market test first required to see if there are kiwis available?

          How long are the Filipinos work permits for & are they extendable, and / or convertible into residence visas at some point? Did their wives come too? Did you have to find or provide accommodation to get them over here?

          What are you paying them & what’s the NZ usual market rate?

          • Gezza

             /  July 31, 2018

            *thie = this. Soz.

          • David

             /  July 31, 2018

            It varies with wives but some of them are able to be wholly supported by a skilled and high paid husband and some come in as caregivers.
            It’s been about 50% accepted for residency historically but its tighter now in Christchurch as the rebuild winds down.
            We pay rates, the guys can work for anyone now in the same role so you to pay them well, we always have anyway as it cost a fortune to bring them in. Also the companies we supply to have very tight criteria for immigrants..which they dont have for their kiwis workers.

          • David

             /  July 31, 2018

            Yes we provide accommodation. Been doing it for 6 years now and it’s been fascinating

            • Gezza

               /  July 31, 2018

              Thanks for this info. There were several filipinas looking after dad in his last year in a rest home with severe dementia that eventually killed him. They were all lovely & spoke good English. But I think all of those I spoke to were recent immigrants but permanent residents.

              Sounds like you do a good job looking after your overseas employees, so good on you for that.

              Re their accommodation: Fascinating how?

            • Gezza

               /  July 31, 2018

              And why after 9 years have we got a shortage of kiwis with the skills you need – do you think? Is it just the scale of the rebuild or has it been a long-term chronic problem? Who usually trains kiwis for this sort of work?

            • Gezza

               /  July 31, 2018

              Sorry – one more question occurred on a drive up to Porirua this morning.

              What are the normal market hourly rates for:
              1. Commercial Painters
              2. “Air con, fabricators” (or are they 2 separate occupations?)

              The reason I ask is dad, my late F-I-L, was a fully apprenticed painter, paperhanger & decorator. He was a highly skilled tradesman – could paint a perfectly straight line 2 metres long by hand alone with a 1″ brush. But he was always paid shit wages because unskilled or semi-skilled ‘brush hands’ (as he called them), like uni students or – unemployed guys not wanting to live on a benefit between jobs – were 2 a penny.

        • NOEL

           /  July 31, 2018

          Painter is on the skills shortage list

          Bricklayer is not on the long term skills list.

          • Gezza

             /  July 31, 2018

            I’ve just noticed this. I’ve just asked David above if he can tell me what the market hourly rate for commercial painters is.

            • David

               /  July 31, 2018

              Commercially sensitive but no one is under 28 an hour and some earn over 50
              They live as frugally as possible and while we dont allow it they offer to sleep 3 to a room for a rent discount. Out of hundreds we have had through we have only ever had one incident and they are just the nicest people you could ever meet, great company and they love to laugh. They drive us a bit nuts in the middle of winter wandering around in flip flops and shorts and I think we paid around 4.5k in power bills last month, we have to make sure there is plenty of internet bandwith as they like to sit with their laptops skyping family and will eat together with their wives and kids.
              We have guys who have worked in Russia, Japan, all over the middle east and can spend most of their lives away but sometimes it strikes you that there are young people in areas of the country collecting the benefit when there are so many opportunities, there is great dignity in work and providing for your family and when you look at the hugging of millions of migrants coming in to Europe the flip side is the countries they are leaving are being hollowed out of their most productive people.
              I know its not popular to think about these things let alone articulate them but there are costs to migration, as well as benefits, to both countries.

            • Gezza

               /  July 31, 2018

              Ta. How’s the accomodation organised? Like – do you have company flats, or converted containers, or an arrangement with, say, a letting agency?

            • Gezza

               /  July 31, 2018

              Just on the willingness to move to where the work is – yes it is a bit of a puzzle. I followed my girlfriend to Wellington because I was bored with my low paid government job & it was exciting to get away from home & have a go at living on my own resources. Four of us including her & I got flats.

              The relationship didn’t last because I was a selfish little bugger back then, but it was a good way to learn that I was & fix that when she left me for some other guy who treated her with more consideration.

              But I stayed in Wellington because there were better prospects for developing a career & working my way up over time to better paying roles that weren’t available in New Plymouth. And I liked being independent.

            • David

               /  July 31, 2018

              We have houses for the guys so its normal communal living just like a flatting situation except we provide everything for them and pay power, internet and have the houses cleaned weekly..they all get their own rice cooker.
              In Christchurch every able bodied person is in a job and there is more work than can possibly done by the locals. The bigger projects, infrastructure and hospitals etc need people skilled in these large projects and with Auckland having a boom as well you need those trades who specialize in big projects, NZ will never have enough of these people. But we needed to bring in people to get on the end of a barrow and it just amazed me someone from Manila could make it to Christchurch but someone from Northland/Gisborne couldnt or wouldnt. They missed out on 7 years of steady work and a 1000 a week in their back pocket and I spend a fair bit of my time selling houses to first home buyers who have set themselves up thanks to the re part of my work always makes me happy.
              The 600 buck thing Bennett did was actually a really good idea and had some good results but the level of vitriol was so crazy from Labour and the media everyone just steered away from it in the end as it was politically toxic. Had a few firms wanting to get involved and help get a kiwi youth focused on grafting for a living but everyone knew these guys can be hard work when they first start and no one wanted to be on the front page of the newspaper or pilloried by Twyford for turfing some yoof out of bed and giving them a shovel.

  2. PartisanZ

     /  July 31, 2018

    Immigration is woven into the very fabric of neoliberalism … in sweatshops across Asia and the Indian subcontinent …

    The reverse side of the $1 global ‘free market’ T-shirt we depend upon so much to cover our economic nakedness …

    To expect any vaguely centrist government to genuinely reduce immigration is to defy the entire paradigm …

    None of the Labour-led coalition partners campaigned on doing that. I seem to recall Little mentioned the failure of neoliberalism and … Voila! …. Gone …

    False promises are what our so-called ‘democratic’ politics are made of.

    • Gezza

       /  July 31, 2018

      I can’t make up my mind Parti whether Labour’s broken promises are lies from the outset or just the result of sheer bloody incompetence. A case of meaning it when they say it – pre-election – & then discovering they can’t do it because they haven’t had any kind of credible analysis of the implications & any actual coherent implementation plan to do it without an explosion of unforeseen negative economic impacts they can’t afford to let happen.

      • PartisanZ

         /  July 31, 2018

        Ditto National …

        The only party that offered evidence-informed policy was TOP …

        Had they miraculously held power I dunno what would have happened about immigration – they were talking ‘appropriateness’ rather than reduction or increase – but the cannabis issue would be over and done with … legal and regulated …

        • PDB

           /  July 31, 2018

          TOP’s comprehensive “evidence-informed policy” was a myth, though to be fair any evidence was better than many of Labour’s policies which clearly would/ could not work.

          From the TOP website: “Sometimes an idea is new or novel, and hasn’t been tried elsewhere. As a result, sometimes there isn’t much evidence around on a particular topic. However, lack of high quality evidence shouldn’t always be a barrier to action. Overall, we have to make a judgement based on the best available evidence at the time, which is where values come into play.”

          So lack of ‘high quality’ evidence wasn’t always a barrier to the policies they chose and the decision to include such policies was purely subjective, especially when they are also making a personal ‘values’ call.

          • Gezza

             /  July 31, 2018

            The other factor to consider is that National, in government, DID have access to (supposedly) high quality advice & impact assessments because relevant government departments, thru their own advisers AND Treasury & as well as in other affected departments are required to cover such matters in Cabinet papers.

      • NOEL

         /  July 31, 2018

        I’m not going to defend Labour because I didn’t vote for them. But I have learn’t over many elections that what is promised, regardless of the party, rarely lives up to the electioneering hype.

        • PDB

           /  July 31, 2018

          The issue here is that heavily reducing immigration was one of the key policies of the two largest parties in the new govt but now in power it seems to largely have been forgotten about. Similarly post election all we heard was how run down the public service is but again it hasn’t been prioritised whilst more important issues like first year students, diplomats, new planes, Shane’s slush fund, destroying the Taranaki economy etc have. As far as I’m aware NZL First’s big spend up to fight the Chinese in the Pacific came out of nowhere.

          I doubt we have seen such a difference in what the govt parties promised its voters pre-election and actually what got delivered post-election since the Lange/Douglas Labour govt.

          • High Flying Duck

             /  July 31, 2018

            Their policy was always predicated on not having to actually change any policies because high immigration numbers were not sustainable and natural market cycles & an improving Australian economy would take care of it.
            They’ve been busted because it hasn’t tapered off as fast they hoped.

          • Blazer

             /  July 31, 2018

            they have been in power five minutes….do behave.

            • Gezza

               /  July 31, 2018

              They’ve been in power for 8 months. If they’d campaigned on how long it would be before they MIGHT deliver on their immigration policy & how long it would be before there were any different results – how many people would’ve believed they intended to do anything different than National?

      • sorethumb

         /  August 1, 2018

        I would have thought that Labour are Janis faced. My friend asked Megan Woods whether she thought we had too many migrants and she said “no” (campaigning in Spreydon).
        Winston missed his moment when the Sikh boy asked why he was against migrants (or immigration). He could have said “it’s our country; we can choose who we want”.Instead he went PC.

        • Gezza

           /  August 1, 2018

          Eh? Which one looks like Joplin? Or are you thinking of another Janis?

  3. Jacinda Ardern should learn not to absolutely deny having said things that are on video.

  4. sorethumb

     /  August 1, 2018

    Yesterday I drove through the back of Wigram (suburb starts with A). I was reminded of Richard Heinburg’s “Geography of nowhere”. Land + houses + nothing. Compare to somewhere where the neighbourhood has a bit of history. I can’t help looking and thinking: what happens if immigration stops and building stops and there is a flow on back down the line? We have been told that when we get a larger population we will be richer; that immigrants are rain makers. One foot for the jetty and one for the boat. These are the sort of questions the politicians should have to answer?

  1. Justice committee fails to report back on waka jumping bill | Your NZ
  2. Government has reneged on immigration ‘promises’ — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition