Wellington, October 15, 2019
One thing I have learned in politics and public life is that a calm and rational approach supported by the facts is important, particularly if you are seeking change.
As Labour MPs, we listen closely to the feedback that we receive from all communities and take this into account as we develop new policy.
Mr McClymont’s hysterical commentary (see story under Homelink) does not assist with the development of new policy which might meet his concerns.
This is unfortunate and does not do his clients or the community much good.
His highly offensive claims of a ‘war’ on Indian migrants is also ironic given that a steady stream of his clients receive assistance from this Labour MP’s office after his firm has not been able to secure the visas that they seek.
There are a number of specific concerns raised in Mr McClymont’s article, some of which are quite reasonable and are currently being addressed by the government.
What is not reasonable is the suggestion that there is some kind of broader approach to slashing immigration numbers.
The figures simply do not bear this out.
New Zealand is a small country of around five million people, but over the past year around 250,000 people arrived into the country on work visas and around 34,000 became New Zealand residents.
While it is true that in a number of categories the total number of visas granted have reduced, it is also true that numbers have increased in other categories.
Overall, numbers are slightly down on the record levels seen in recent years but still above historical averages.
What the government has been focused on is ensuring that the system is fit for purpose, meeting the needs of both migrants and employers, and that we stamp out migrant exploitation.
Our recent announcement of changes to streamline work visas, and better match the skills of migrants with employer needs is an example of this.
We do acknowledge that significant delays in the processing of visas this year have caused problems for people. These delays have been caused by a range of factors including very high volumes, and changes to INZ’s processes.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has expressed a firm view that processing times must be improved, and additional resources have been provided to support this.
Across most categories, the processing times are now coming back down.
Processing time issue
The reality is that the processing of visas does require significant work by INZ staff and that a small number of applicants will try to cheat the system.
We are working hard to ensure that our immigration system is robust, while processing legitimate visas in a timely way.
In the case of concerns about the processing of culturally arranged marriages, the same principle applies. INZ recognises that culturally arranged marriages are a legitimate form of partnership, and continues to provide visas on this basis.
At the same time it is fair and reasonable that reasonable checks are made to ensure the legitimacy of the partnership.
Sadly, some people will claim try and use this category in an abusive way and we need to be on guard for this. Along with my Labour colleague (and MP) Priyanca Radhakrishnan we have received approaches from a number of community leaders recently expressing concern about the way that some applications in this category are being treated.
We have raised this directly with the Minister, and are working with INZ to ensure that there is good dialogue between them and the community.
Constructive feedback needed
Finally, I acknowledge some of the concerns that I am hearing about the re-opening of the parent category. While the income thresholds are higher than they have been in the past, it is important to note that the category is now at least opened after being closed by the previous National government – this represents progress.
Along with other Labour MPs, I am keen to hear constructive community feedback so that we can develop Labour policy to take into the 2020 election.
We will listen carefully to the vast majority of the community who engage in these issues in a calm and factual way.
Striking a balance
I am proud to represent Mount Roskill, which includes one of New Zealand’s largest Indian communities. New Zealand is a better place for our active and vibrant Indian community, and our immigration system will continue to facilitate this.
Immigration policy is always about striking a balance, and over the coming period I look forward to positive engagement with the range of views held within the community so that we can develop good policy that meets the needs of our country, and of people who wish to come here and contribute.
Michael Wood is elected Member of Parliament from Mount Roskill in Auckland and is the Chief Whip of the Parliamentary Labour Caucus. He has exercised his Right to Reply, in response to the comments of Immigration Lawyer Alastair McClymont posted first on our Web Edition and Social Media.