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Estimations: Vote Immigration

Estimations with Scoop's Kevin List

Vote Immigration Estimates Hearing July 1st 2004

Kicking off yesterday's Estimates for Vote Immigration was the news that we no longer have a New Zealand Immigration Service, instead we now have a new subsidiary of the Department of Labour (DOL) called Workforce. The idea behind this is to create a synergy between the labour market and immigration. According to the Minister of Immigration, Paul Swain, this will assist New Zealand to actively recruit for a skilled workforce.

Of most intrigue at a rather dull Vote Immigration was the discovery that Iraq may be safer than Zimbabwe. National’s Dr Wayne Mapp who recently had seen fit to warn against the dangers of taking nearly 20 people as refugees from Nauru seemed to have had a Road to Damascus conversion.

Mapp informed the Minister that there were 1358 people from Zimbabwe on work permits and another 304 on visitor’s permits. He then stated

“Let’s be honest none of those people have got a real option of returning.”

The Minister concurred with Mapp’s big hearted desire to allow the disadvantaged of South Eastern Africa to stay in New Zealand.

“We made a commitment to take those people at the time when obviously strife was there. There is clearly no ability for them to return. The normal conditions don’t quite apply, we’ve put them on those temporary arrangements while we have considered the policy option. But I can tell you [the policy option] is a matter of weeks away,” the Minister said.

Later in the Estimates hearing United Future’s Gordon Copeland raised the case of an Iraqi man facing an imminent return to his homeland and asked the Minister if Iraq was safe for this individual to return home.

Showing a mysterious lack of concern for this singular Iraqi in direct contrast to his compassion for the oppressed of South Eastern Africa the Minister suggested that, “you would expect over time the situation to improve.” He then stated that, “we are guided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at this time.”

The problem of getting skilled immigrants to come to New Zealand was also of concern to National’s Immigration spokesperson, Dr Wayne Mapp.

Mapp considered that the current system was dissuading (permanent) migrants from venturing to our shores, and he pointed to figures showing a decline in the number of applications over the last few months. The Minister was confident that New Zealand would meet its target of 45,000 migrants for the upcoming financial year, and explained that the points system used to classify potential migrants may be re-jigged should that prove necessary.

Whilst Mapp's approach to immigration seemed somewhat inconsistent, the questions put forward by New Zealand First's Winston Peters and the Greens Keith Locke were easily defined.

Peters maintained concern about anyone at all coming to New Zealand, whilst Locke seemed to think the NZIS would benefit from a 'the more the merrier' strategy..

Peters wished to know what the net immigration figure was per year. Whilst Peter’s question was clearly related to the 45,000 migrants mentioned in Swain's opening address to the committee, the question seemed to cause confusion among the Minister and his officials. After providing short term visitor statistics and residents departing and other information that somehow showed we’d suffered a net loss of 600 people in a recent month there was an offer to get back to Peters with the information at a later date.

Replacing Rod Donald (Greens) for the Immigration Estimates was Locke. Locke jovially toyed with the Minister expressing satisfaction that New Zealand’s targeted figure of 4500 (according to Locke) for refugees was encouraging. It appeared by Locke’s jaunty smile that he knew this wasn’t quite correct. The figure of 4500 included 750 UNHCR refugees and the majority of the 4500 figure related to Pacific Islands categories and various humanitarian schemes.

Locke pointed out that the targets for the Pacific Island Quotas had not been met, and suggested a number of ways of resolving this. In regard to some of Locke’s suggestions it was argued by the Minister, and various Labour colleagues, that rather than assisting the Pacific Countries involved, Locke’s schemes may have the eventual outcome of gutting them of their best and brightest.

Locke’s disgust at the practice of pregnancy testing females [particularly females from the Pacific Islands] met with greater consensus and the Minister informed all that the policy was being reviewed and there should be a report out relating to this contentious issue in September.

**** ENDS ****

Estimations will be an occasional news column by Scoop Chief Reporter Kevin List in which he relates events which occur during the annual round of Estimates Hearings in the NZ Parliament's Select Committees. Estimates Hearings are hearings of evidence from departmental and ministry officials relating to the annual estimates. The estimates form the greater part of the budget documentation, and outline what the various arms of Government plan to spend in the coming year.

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