Assalam Alaikum to all Muslim friends as we approach the important celebration of Eid Al Fitr on or about June 27, 2017.
I am extremely proud to represent the most multicultural electorate in New Zealand.
Around half of the people who live in Mt Roskill were born overseas, and we are a richer community for the fact that people from all parts of the world and many cultures have made their home here.
Recently however, I have observed a concerning phenomenon. I first became aware of it when a close supporter in Mt Roskill told me that she was leaving the area. She had migrated from India and settled in Roskill twenty-five years ago, has a good middle-class job, and has put down roots in our community. But, as she explained, the cost of housing in Mt Roskill is now simply too high for her to stay.
Since then, I have heard many other such stories from migrant communities in Mt Roskill. At the same time, young people are locked out of home ownership here with average house prices around $1 million, and a desperate queue of low income families come to my office with literally nowhere to go. This is all happening in Mt Roskill, a place that was once a community where low and middle-income families came to get a start in life with a decent house.
We need urgent action on housing, tackling the problem from all angles.
There is a massive mismatch between supply and demand. Under National, we are only building around 7000 houses in Auckland per year when we need 13,000. Few of those built are affordable, and speculators are running rampant.
Labour’s KiwiBuild Programme will start to make housing more affordable by building 10,000 affordable homes per year.
We will keep the cost down by building at scale and selling at cost to first home buyers.
We will also crack down on speculators by banning off-shore speculation and making the tax rules fairer.
We also believe that while we face a housing crisis, it does not benefit New Zealand to be running immigration at record levels. The long run average has been around 30,000 net arrivals per year. Over the past few years however, this has jumped to over 70,000 net arrivals. This added population pressure makes it harder for us to get on top of major infrastructure challenges such as housing and transport.
As such, Labour believes that we need to take a breather on immigration and ease the total numbers downwards. Our plan is moderate and balanced. We still need and want immigration to New Zealand, and the total effect of our plans will be to bring net arrivals down to around 40,000-50,000 per year. Still a little above the long-term average, but creating fewer pressures than the current record levels.
We’ll make immigration work for New Zealand by ending abuses in the system and focussing on the skills that our country needs.
Regional Skills Lists will be set up in close consultation with employers so that we get exactly the people we need to support our economy.
We will also have a special ‘KiwiBuild Visa’ to bring in people to build houses.
We will encourage employers to do a better job of training people up locally. For example, under the ‘KiwiBuild Visa,’ employers must train one apprentice for every visa issued.
Student Visa changes
Change is needed with student visas. Export education is an important industry, but too often unscrupulous agents are exploiting students and low-quality courses simply funnel vulnerable students into the exploitative end of the labour market.
Labour will support high quality export education by re-focusing the system on Level 7 and above qualifications. Student visas for courses below Level 7 will only be issued where the course is independently accredited as high quality, and serves a genuine need.
Overall, our changes will make immigration work for New Zealand.
We will still have a flow of people coming to New Zealand bringing their skills, investment, and culture.
By easing the numbers down, we will ensure that we can build the infrastructure that Kiwis new and old need to live good lives.
Michael Wood is elected Member of Parliament from Mt Roskill and Labour Party’s Spokesman for Ethnic Communities, Consumer Affairs and Revenue.