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Immigration Forum To Address Policy Changes


For release: 23 July 2003


Changes in immigration policy are expected to loom large when investment and immigration specialists meet in Auckland next month.

The New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment is to hold its annual conference at the Ellerslie Convention Centre on Thursday and Friday, the 7th and 8th of August.

The NZAMI represents approximately 200 immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisers from throughout New Zealand. The Association advocates consistent, fair, reliable immigration policies of long-term benefit to New Zealand.

The conference is to be addressed by Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel. Also scheduled is a question and answer session with Andrew Lockhart, General Manager of the New Zealand Immigration Service.

Amongst other speakers will be Air New Zealand's Airport Support Manager, Gary Bennett, who will describe how illegal refugees and human smugglers are profiled. In addition, a series of workshops is planned on the impact of policy change and on the integration of immigrants into the New Zealand workplace and business scene.

"The last year has been a dramatic and traumatic time, not just for thousands of would-be New Zealanders caught in the backwash of retrospective policy change but for all those who recognize the huge contribution made to our economy by consistent and foreseeable levels of immigration," says the NZAMI's Chairman, Bill Milnes.

"The total revamp of skills-based immigration policy, introduced without warning on 1st July this year, came hard on the heels of a High Court ruling against retrospective application of tough regulations introduced, equally hurriedly, last November.

"Inevitably, such rapid-fire policy changes will dominate much of the discussion at our conference and we will certainly be interested to hear what the minister and Mr Lockhart have to say about them," he says.

Mr Milnes adds that many NZAMI members will take some convincing that the government's stated goal of 45,000 per annum is still achievable, following the July changes, which require skilled migrants to first obtain a relevant offer of employment, then to register their interest in relocating here and then wait months for an invitation to apply.

"The new system will be inherently complex, time-consuming and, for most people, unwelcoming and forbidding. It's hard to see why large numbers of worthwhile immigrants would wish to subject themselves to the uncertainties of a system which leaves a vast amount to the discretion and the prejudices of often junior immigration officials," he says.

"We are concerned that the change in immigration policies, coming on top of last year's tightening of requirements for business migration and investment, will effectively shut-down skills-based and business immigration. This has happened too often in the past; in 1986, 1991 and 1996, with predictable economic consequences.

"Immigration has in recent years become one of the main engines of growth for our country. New arrivals have helped mitigate shortages of skill and investment capital and have also bolstered consumer demand whilst offsetting the population deficit caused by our aging population, declining fertility rates and the tendency for our brightest and best to leave our shores when prospects brighten overseas," Mr Milnes adds..

"It's not our impression that the minister shares our perception of the likely consequences of her latest round of rule changes. Indeed, she appears to believe that current immigration targets are still achievable. We certainly welcome the opportunity provided by our conference to exchange views with her and with representatives of the Immigration Service over this vitally important topic," he says.

Mr Milnes describes the minister's decision to attend the conference as indicating a willingness to take NZAMI's members seriously as informed and experienced contributors to the debate on immigration.

"Whatever system we have in place, we need to ensure that it performs with optimum transparency, fairness and consistency, both on behalf of New Zealand and on behalf of skilled people who have much to contribute and who have made a serious commitment to building new lives here," he adds.


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