Clean, Green New Zealand – Can We Keep It
Rt Hon Winston Peters - address to 44th Annual Conference NZ Water and Wastes Association at 10am 25 September 2002 at the James Hay Theatre, Christchurch Town Hall
“Clean, Green New Zealand - Can We Keep It?”
The background information for this Conference notes your Association’s Mission Statement:
“The advancement and application of fundamental and practical knowledge to natural resources, water use and wastes.”
That is a clear and uncontaminated statement - like the water your industry provides to New Zealand communities every day.
You serve an essential industry.
Water and Wastes - What is more fundamental? - More basic?
The basics matter - as any community discovers if your industry fails to perform.
There are some other basics - key issues that are fundamental to New Zealand’s future - environmental sustainability and immigration.
Although the Government treats these issues as islands, they are closely connected.
The aim today is to outline those connections.
First I want to set out where New Zealand First stands on environmental sustainability
And by sustainable we mean development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the legacy we leave our children.
Our Founding Principle in relation to the environment states:
“Wise Governments view the preservation and enhancement of the environment as sound economics. All environmental policies will be proactive with a view to creating employment and sustainable wealth whilst improving one of our few competitive advantages.”
This principle reflects New Zealand First’s pragmatic approach to environmental sustainability.
That term “pragmatic” tends to be scorned by the environmental Taleban - the fundamentalists.
But a pragmatic approach to the environment does not imply being cavalier, haphazard or feckless.
For New Zealand First it means the absence of dogma and ideology.
Pragmatism is about striking a balance between economic progress and appropriate environmental and conservation goals.
This can only be achieved through a partnership between government, industry, and community groups.
We see resolving the dilemmas that arise over environment issues - difficult as they often are - as the essence of democratic politics.
All of us recognise that New Zealand has precious environmental assets.
We still retain an enviable international reputation as an unspoilt clean and green land
Two million people visited New Zealand in the year ended June 2002.
Those people did not come here for medieval cathedrals, castles or art galleries full of old masters.
They came here mainly to experience the New Zealand’s unique and special environment and your organisation is especially charged with the responsibility to ensure it stays that way.
However, we simply cannot lock up all New Zealand’s resources
in some great national asset park and throw away the key.
On the other hand, we do not want to open the national parks and send in the chainsaws and bulldozers.
Sometimes there have to be compromises - when we have to ask ourselves which competing interest merits a favourable decision.
Government at all levels in New Zealand has to make these difficult decisions.
They have to make them amid the clamour of media campaigns by pressure groups on both sides of the fence and then stick with them.
Unfortunately the decision making process has become an industry in itself.
Administering the Resource Management Act is now an integral part of the Gross Domestic Product and it keeps thousands of people in employment.
There is some validity in the argument from some quarters that the RMA is stifling development and that it creates a bureaucratic nightmare.
It appears that the biggest problem is in the interpretation of the RMA, with some councils dealing with land and water use applications promptly while others go the long slow road.
So, consistency and efficiency has to be added to the pragmatism of the decision making process.
Those sitting in judgement need the wisdom of Solomon, but those making or opposing the applications need the patience of Job!
Immigration and the Environment
Whilst your industry is about flows - water and wastes - there is another flow that will determine the future of New Zealand and have enormous impact on the environment.
That flow is immigration. A flow of more than a thousand newcomers a week.
One of the curious features of the election was that only one party, New Zealand First, made a connection between the environment and the extent of immigration into New Zealand.
What was extraordinary was the spectacle of the Greens, who purport to be passionate about the environment, ignoring immigration throughout the election except to castigate New Zealand First for daring to raise the issue
But likewise, all the other parties put forward environmental policies that implied the number of people in New Zealand had no impact on the environment.
This is an absurd proposition.
Population - and the contribution immigration makes to population growth - has a major impact on the environment.
For the year to the end of June 2002, 53,000 people were approved for residence in New Zealand.
On average, more than a 1000 people a week!
At over 50,000 people a year the immigration influx is equal to the New Zealand birthrate.
In the year to June 2002, of New Zealand’s population growth, natural increase only accounted for 44 percent, while net migration accounted for 56 percent.
Immigration is doubling New Zealand’s population growth
What cloud cuckoo land are the other parties living in?
They pretend there is no environmental impact of adding - through immigration - the population of a city the size of Napier or Invercargill, mainly to Auckland, in a single year?
The Immigration Service post election briefing papers admit that immigration flows are putting pressure on infrastructure and services and include the following statement:
“..... high immigration flows are having a disproportionate impact on Auckland. Of migrants who arrived in the last five years, 57% settled in the Auckland region......”
Where has this Government been?
Do they not know that two-thirds of people of Asian ethnicity live in the Auckland region and that two-thirds of Pacific peoples also live in the Auckland region.
We now have a situation in the Auckland region where one in three people were born overseas.
We had a Minister with special responsibility for Auckland - alleged to be someone called Judith Tizard.
Yet that Minister has said not a single word about the adverse impact on the Auckland region of massive immigration inflows.
Auckland is bursting at the seams - schools are overflowing and housing prices are escalating. Interest rates increase because of this.
Auckland’s traffic congestion alone is reputed to be costing the country $1 billion a year.
Immigration and Economic Growth
Now I want to turn to the connection between immigration and economic growth.
New Zealanders have been repeatedly told that unprecedented immigration levels are imperative to economic growth.
- That immigrants bring in the skills and talents critical for economic growth
However, when you look below the surface of such bold assertions it is clear something else is going on.
Because a large proportion of migrants do not bring skills
In fact, a very high proportion of migrants are not selected on the basis of employability or other human capacity.
Of the 53,000 who settled in the past year - a third of that total - about 17,000 people - came in under categories other than on the basis of skills - for example family ties or other reasons such as refugee status.
This is an alarming statistic.
A third of those we granted residence status to did not contribute to our celebrated skill shortage
So, for every two migrants who were selected on skills - and that is highly debatable - we added another migrant on some other basis
What sort of a rational immigration policy is that?
It is no reflection on those people who entered New Zealand on a basis other than their skills to ask what is happening here?
What contribution to growth are these people supposed to make?
Because the reality is that such people make an immediate demand on housing, health and other services and infrastructure.
Let me give you one simple example.
At the weekend the Waitemata District Health Board in Auckland announced a new set of health initiatives to target Asians.
These initiatives include translation services, a volunteer programme and an agency for Chinese clients who have special needs or disabilities.
This health board’s area stretches from West Auckland to the North Shore and there are about 45,000 Asian people in that region and according to the board itself this number is rapidly increasing.
This new health initiative is costing half a million dollars and the board is stretched for money.
This begs the question about what is happening across the bridge in Auckland city - or in South Auckland.
They also have large and expanding immigrant populations.
What is happening to health services there?
The answer is obvious. The immigration explosion in the Auckland area is causing major problems.
When we raise these issues we are immediately accused of being racists!
It is also disturbing to note that a situation has developed in which we appear to have lost the ability to choose who should become a citizen of New Zealand.
The Immigration Service post-election briefing papers concede: (excuse the bureaucratic language)
“Focusing on quality of outcome would require more rigorous selection criteria and possibly an acceptance of lower flows.”
“A move to quality of outcome could also imply shifting the focus to one where New Zealand’s right to select the migrant is paramount, instead of prospective migrants effectively selecting us (perhaps as their third or fourth choice of destination.)”
In the context of economic growth it is important to realise that just having education and skills does not immediately transform a person into being part of a productive workforce.
According to the Department of Labour the rate at which new migrants are employed is relatively poor.
The Department describes the recent rise to a rate of 50% employment as an improvement. In other words 50% of recent migrants are unemployed!
But there is good news.
We are informed that after a period of about 10 years the outcomes of new migrants begin to converge with those of New Zealand residents.
The Immigration Service for its part informs us that:
“New Zealand’s current language standard is set at an inadequate level for a skilled migrant”
“Research has shown that although migrants who arrived in the 1980’s and 1990’s were on average more highly educated and younger than working-age New Zealanders it was difficult for many of them to adjust to the New Zealand labour market.”
“Those migrants who integrated most readily had high education levels and came from an English speaking background. Even then, they took five to 10 years to achieve employment rates and incomes equivalent to those of comparable New Zealanders”
“For migrants who integrated less readily (typically those with lower education or less skill with English) average convergence times were in the range of 25-40 years.
Let me repeat, “convergence times were in the range of 25 - 40 years.”
Those are not words New Zealand First has invented, they are from the official briefing papers.
While the Government is quick to talk up the alleged benefits of immigration without ever substantiating or quantifying these benefits, it is much more coy about the costs.
However some of those costs and problems did emerge from the Immigration Services’ post election briefing papers including.
“A major challenge is that more migrant communities are establishing vertically integrated business and community structures, with a tendency to work to the standards of the “home’ country rather than New Zealand law.
( In other words sweatshops)
“The NZ Immigration Service is faced with increasingly sophisticated fraudulent documents in respect of job offers, English language test certificates, work experience, family relationships, and other evidential requirements.”
You in the Water and Wastes industry understand that when you are grappling with a leaky pipe you first turn off the flow.
The Immigration Service has admitted that the immigration pipeline has sprung multiple leaks - in fact the pipe has ruptured!
Yet the Government continues to treat immigration as an act of God.
While the flood continues the Government dithers and prevaricates - and refuses to turn off the tap!
The Government has propagated the myth that immigration is the solution to New Zealand’s growth problems
Immigration is portrayed as the panacea - the vital factor that will transform New Zealand into an innovative and high growth economy.
The reasoning behind this view is dead wrong.
The real solution to our poor economic performance is to get New Zealand back on an export led growth track.
When that happens the outflow of New Zealanders will fall - and expatriate Kiwis will return.
What has actually been happening is that New Zealand is engaging in a massive - and undeclared - population replacement programme.
It is systematic social and political engineering.
On the North Shore, Labour’s candidate openly admitted that she targeted the new ethnic groups for votes - and got re-elected.
Put simply, it means importing votes.
Today almost 20% of the total New Zealand population is foreign born.
This is among the highest rates of foreign born among OECD countries - and far above the OECD average of 8%.
We tend to regard the USA as an immigrant nation but with 10% of its population being foreign born it is still only half New Zealand’s rate.
The fact is that immigration is not the magic wand. It’s a way of trying to disguise economic failure by thinking that a glut of cheap labour and consumerism make up the recipe for success.
If immigration really were the engine of growth that the Government claims, given the massive influx that has happened, New Zealand should have the highest per capita income in the OECD.
You will have noticed in recent weeks that after our election campaign and the clear public support we received for action on immigration, the media are now discussing the subject.
The challenge is to report on immigration without using the words “racist’ or “racism.”
The real issues are not racist.
And the real immigration issues facing New Zealand are:
- A Government unwilling to face the new realities of global migration and people flows - a flow that includes legal, illegal migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
- A Government in denial about the huge environmental, social and economic consequences of mass immigration.
- A Government unwilling to act in the face of out of control immigration.
Globally, people are on the move. The only rational response is to put in place a sensible immigration policy based on New Zealand’s small capacity to absorb migrants - and then underpin that policy with effective administrative and enforcement machinery.
At the moment we have neither. Immigration policy is an incoherent mess and the Immigration Service an ineffectual shambles.
It is time for some honesty and some guts to grapple with this issue. It affects every man, woman and child in New Zealand.
In 1972 the Values party campaigned on zero population growth in this country. Where are the Greens? They have been cowered into silence.
Where is the Council of Trade Unions when the issue of immigrant sweatshops with low wages and appalling working conditions arises.
They are too busy in bed with Labour to fight these injustices.
Where are the teacher unions? The NZEI and PPTA. They know about the problems in schools caused by the influx of immigrants.
They are cowered by political correctness - and also sharing the bed with Labour.
There is a deafening silence from the people who should be shouting about these problems from the rooftops.
Well, if they don’t have the stomach for confronting the tough issues, we have and we will continue to do so.
The future of New Zealand as we know it is at stake.