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Immigration tweaks Wednesday, Cabinet reshuffle next week

Tuesday 18 April 2017 05:42 PM

Immigration tweaks tomorrow, Cabinet reshuffle next week

By Pattrick Smellie

April 18 (BusinessDesk) - Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse will announce “tweaks” to the immigration system, Prime Minister Bill English told his post-Cabinet media conference.

The move comes as immigration and the cost and lack of housing supply, especially in Auckland, converge to become one of the biggest election year issues.

Net immigration to New Zealand has been historically high at above 70,000 a year for several months in a row, with a record 128,800 new migrants arriving in the year to the end of February.

English said the changes were agreed some time ago. Wednesday’s announcement in Queenstown by Woodhouse follows commitments by the Labour and New Zealand First parties to curb migration, which they say is adding to housing and infrastructure pressures and stoking low-value economic growth.

Responding to Labour on Radio New Zealand on April 9, Woodhouse said labour market tested work visas and skilled migrant visas were “very carefully calibrated to identify shortages”.

English indicated this week’s announcements were intended to recalibrate such categories, with similar changes made late last year, although he also indicated the changes would be “pretty similar” to Australian temporary work visa changes announced today, which include more stringent English language tests.

Tighter language testing has already contributed to a fall in the very large number of Indian students arriving on study visas, who have often come to New Zealand primarily to seek work and, ultimately, residence.

“We need to be able to control the flows and get a good match between the skills we need and to make sure we get the right mix of people coming in,” said English.

He also confirmed that next Monday’s Cabinet would be the last for retiring Foreign Affairs and Education ministers Murray McCully and Hekia Parata.

The resulting reshuffle would be “narrowly focused, not broad,” English said.

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye is expected to be named Education Minister. She already holds the associate portfolio.

Less clear is McCully’s replacement. Among those subject to speculation are Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and the chair of Parliament’s foreign affairs and defence select committee, Mark Mitchell.


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