Twisted immigration policy has us in knots

Andrew Little

Wellington, Sunday, June 11, 2017

National has been caught asleep at the wheel by record immigration that has outstripped Budget forecasts.

New Zealand is a vibrant modern multicultural society and we have been made all the richer for immigration. But National has not kept up with the infrastructure, housing, and public services we need to handle the current record level of immigration.

We have always managed immigration to balance getting the skills we need with our capacity to cope with an increasing population – but National has taken its eye off the ball. It is time for a fresh approach; it is time to take a breather.

Four years ago, the Budget projected net immigration of 37,000 people from 2013 to 2016; the actual figure was 173,000. National had no plan in place for those extra 130,000 people – they were caught napping. Budget after Budget, they have just assumed that immigration would fall back to sustainable levels automatically. Instead, immigration has continued to break records month after month.

Inadequate infrastructure

National’s failure to plan for immigration means New Zealand has needed an extra 40,000 houses more than expected in the last four years. While National has been cutting back on funding for infrastructure and public services, there have been more cars on the roads, more kids in school, and more people going to the doctor or hospital than forecast.

The housing crisis, congestion, over-crowded schools and hospitals are all a result of a National Government that has cut back on investment while failing to prepare for record immigration. Labour’s fresh approach will increase investment in housing, infrastructure, and public services, while making moderate and sensible reforms to ease pressure from immigration.

Cumulative net immigration, 000s
June years Actual Budget 2013 forecast
2013 8 1
2014 46 13
2015 104 25
2016 173 37
Annual net immigration, 000s
June years Actual Budget 2013 Budget 2014 Budget 2015 Budget 2016 Budget 2017
2013 8 1 2
2014 38 12 31 31
2015 58 12 35 56 58
2016 69 12 17 37 68 69
2017 12 12 13 59 72
2018 12 12 25 67
2019 12 13 52

Sources: Statistics NZ, PTE Immigration and Treasury, BEFU 2013

Andrew Little is Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand Parliament.

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