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Immigration Dip Confirms Consultants' Warnings

Immigration Dip Confirms Consultants' Warnings

Rapidly falling immigrant numbers pose a significant threat to New Zealand's economy and point to the perils of reactive and draconian policy change, according to the New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment. Statistics New Zealand this week revealed that the net inflow figure for permanent and long-term migrants dropped to 2,460 during August 2003 . Prior to May 2003, the average net inflow of migrants to New Zealand was around 3,500 per month.

"These figures confirm the anecdotal evidence we receive constantly from our members, concerning a dangerous dip in immigrant numbers. The dip has been hugely accentuated by the rushed revamp of immigration policy announced in July. This has both discouraged would-be New Zealanders from seeking to come here and has made it virtually impossible for many skilled, capable and useful migrants to navigate what is now a complex and prohibitive application process," says the NZAMI's Chairman, Bill Milnes.

"If this trend continues, almost all New Zealanders will start feeling the pinch. We can expect the property market bubble to burst, retail sales to drop-off significantly, essential skills to be in short supply and the labour market to tighten. These factors are bound to affect the general health of our economy, jeopardising the increased prosperity that many Kiwis have experienced over recent years," he says. The July policy revamp abolished the "General Skills" immigration category and required skilled migrants to first obtain a relevant offer of employment, then to register their interest in relocating to New Zealand and then to wait a period of months for an invitation to apply.

"Ever since the revamp was announced, we have been extremely sceptical of the government's claim that its previously stated goal of a net 45,000 new immigrants was still achievable. From the date of announcement onwards, our members have experienced a fall-off both in new business and in interest in moving to New Zealand, on the part of people who could have made a valuable contribution to our country. How could it be otherwise when the new system is so complex, time-consuming and, for most people, so unwelcoming and forbidding?" says Bill Milnes.

"The impact of the policy revamp has been all the more damaging, given the slow and restrictive approach taken by the New Zealand Immigration Service in processing its backload of Business Migration applications. Up to 98 per cent of business migration applications from some nationalities are now being declined. At the same time, the global economic recovery is making other migration destinations more attractive, both to New Zealanders and to would-be immigrants to New Zealand. "Unless we take a more consistent, planned and long-term approach to immigration policy, we will eventually find ourselves with a declining population and its natural corollary, a declining economy" he says

Mr Milnes adds that the NZAMI has consistently warned Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel and her officials of the likely impact of sudden and draconian policy changes, such as the July policy revamp and an earlier restrictive policy package introduced in November 2002. "For far too long, immigration policy has been governed by short term considerations, with the agenda all too often driven by a desire to win votes by appeasing ingrained prejudices against newcomers. Frankly, that's no way to run an economy or a country," he says. The NZAMI represents approximately 150 immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisers. The Association advocates consistent, fair, reliable immigration policies of long-term benefit to New Zealand.

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