Today Immigration Minister Woods announced a further loosening of immigration criteria, even though immigration is already hitting record numbers. On 17 May 2021, then PM Ardern said the government was using Covid-19 as an opportunity to reconsider areas such as immigration. The Labour government’s immigration policy, after initially being elected to power in 2017, was to reduce net migration by about a third – cutting 20,000 to 30,000 migrants from the then total of about 73,000.
“When our borders fully open again, we can’t afford to simply turn on the tap to the previous immigration settings,” the Minister, Stuart Nash, said in May 2021, & signaled "sweeping changes" ahead for immigration. "The pressure we have seen on housing & infrastructure in recent years means we need to get ahead of population growth", he said.
This year net migration to NZ is projected to hit 100,000, exceeding the heights achieved under the previous National government. I'm absolutely in favor of immigration to fill skill-shortages in a country - which is part of "supply-side" economics. But that is not what is going on in NZ now. The government is terrified of a deep recession in this election year and is desperate for demand to surge - it has little to do with plugging skill gaps.
Wood's further loosening of immigration settings is a declaration by Labour that its dream of NZ being a high-wage, high skill economy is over. The party was unable to fix education. Our children's skills now languish, teachers are on strike and the tertiary sector is in retrenchment. Labour, with Chris Hipkins as education minister, never educated a new generation of Kiwis these past five years to plug skill gaps. Instead the Party sold out. It gave up. The game now is a desperate attempt to keep GDP going by importing people.
Many years ago Graeme Wheeler, when he was Reserve Bank Governor & Key was PM, came to speak to my economics class. He showed how the Kiwi economy was being driven by three things - immigration, tourism & construction. I can't speak for Wheeler, but I suspected he disapproved, as it made us dependent on the rest of the world.
So what has become Labour's economic "strategy"? Its now a carbon copy of John Key's. It is not about raising domestic skill & efficiency levels - it amounts to an abandonment of domestic structural reforms aimed at getting our children & nation working better. It is the Kiwi equivalent of an IMF bailout. It is the white flag of surrender. It is about begging tourists, migrants and a motley crew of property developers to save us since we can't save ourselves.