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Woburn International: National/Labour’s Immigration Policies

Woburn International Compares National and Labour’s Immigration Policies

National and Labour have both published their immigration policies. After reading these policies, we have summarised each party’s policy in plain-English.


National will…

• Attract migrants that will bring the most ‘economic’ value to New Zealand.
• Continue to address the poor performance of Immigration New Zealand.
• Make it easier for business to gain access to skilled migrants.
• Improve the Business Migrant scheme.
• Support the Canterbury rebuild through targeted immigration.
• Get better outcomes for refugees.

Labour will…

• Address labour shortages and attract skilled migrants.
• Recognise New Zealand’s distinctive relationship with the Pacific Islands.
• Recognise the needs of migrants.
• Meet our international obligation to resettle refugees.
• Introduce a specialist Immigration Ombudsman.

What has National changed since 2008?

National’s policies have focused on attracting skilled migrants to work in high-growth industries such as IT, and migrants who are able to assist the rebuilding of Canterbury. They have also improved the business migration scheme and introduced the Silver Fern Visa. The business migrant scheme: made changes to the English language and investment requirements making it easier for skilled migrants to meet the visa requirements. The silver fern visa, introduced in April 2010, made it easier for young graduates to come to New Zealand for up to six months to look for work.

They have also allowed visitors who have come to New Zealand on visitor or work visas to participate in short courses, expanding the export education industry.

What will they do next?

National will proactively locate and recruit migrants with the skills required to grow the New Zealand economy. They have also identified a need to update and streamline immigration policy, and reduce compliance costs to enhance our ability to attract and retain skilled migrants.

National have a focus on attracting migrants that can assist with the Christchurch rebuild. There is a particular focus on recruiting engineering, trades and construction workers from Ireland.

What did Labour do last time they were in?

When labour was in power from 2002-2008 they employed the disgraced former Head of Immigration - Mary-Anne Thompson to run the department, and she helped to create the dysfunctional bureaucracy that we know today. Immigration procedures and policy became increasingly complex, and repelled the skilled migrants from New Zealand, that New Zealand was spending big money trying to attract.

What will they do if they get in?

Labour will reverse policy changes to entry visas for temporary entertainment industry workers. Labour speculates that these visas will cost local workers jobs.

Labour will review the Skilled Migrant category and work with the department of Immigration to market New Zealand as a desirable destination for skilled migrants. They recognise that New Zealand needs to improve its image to skilled migrants, in order to better compete with other countries trying to attract migrants with the same skill sets.

Labour will review the Pacific Access and Samoan Quota system to better align job offer requirements with the current market conditions. Labour believes that there are too many Pacific people living in New Zealand with irregular visa statuses, who are unable to regularize their visa status and are forced to live illegally.

Labour will improve the Seasonal Migrants scheme to make it easier for seasonal workers to access pastoral care and change employers during their stay. It will also put safeguards in place to ensure that seasonal workers receive at least the minimum wage and accommodation.

Labour believes that New Zealand needs to maintain its reputation as a country that is committed to looking after refugees. They support the National Refugee strategy that aims to create a consistency in the treatment of refugees throughout the country.

Areas of Disagreement

National is For, Labour is Against

• Policy changes making it easier for entertainers to attain temporary entertainment visas.
• Support Canterbury Rebuild
• Reducing the red tape in order to help skilled migrants move to New Zealand.

Labour is For, National is Against

• Increasing the services available to refugees.
• Supporting Overstayers in New Zealand
• Increasing the red tape in order manage risks associated with immigration.

What we think

After 8 years of Labour, and the disaster Mary-Anne Thompson created, the Department of Immigration grew into a bureaucratic behemoth. While National is shrinking and streamlining the Department, there is still a long way to go. It also is clear that the Department of Immigration is creating work to justify the excessive number of staff it employs.

National, whilst appearing to support Investment in NZ, have policies that remain too stringent to attract a significant amount of investment. They state that there is a 'potential' $700 million in foreign investment, but only a fraction of this has actually eventuated.

National also states 600 highly skilled young people have been given the opportunity to find jobs in New Zealand through their 'Silver Fern' visa. They do not however state how many have returned home unsuccessful, and have not managed to find jobs in their 'highly skilled' fields of expertise. These young people are welcomed into a tough job market and are competing with New Zealand graduates and International Students who have completed their degrees in New Zealand, contributing to the New Zealand education system.

It also does not take into account the long-term repercussions of expectations not being fulfilled. ‘Silver Fern’ entries failure to find work and return home and International students who have paid high fees for their NZ education with the expectation on attainment of degrees, of finding work in their chosen field of qualification in NZ. These International Students have to compete with foreign graduates entering NZ under the ‘Silver Fern’ Visa. Who is benefiting from this? Financially: The Universities and Immigration NZ

Labour is planning to review, review and review… Immigration policies, which indicates that for nine years in office they did not implement policies that could stand the test of time, (it has only been three years since they were in office).

Labour appears short on actual policy apart from supporting over stayers and refugees which will incur significant costs for the taxpayer.

The sourcing of skilled workers for Christchurch needs to be properly managed to ensure the supply of workers does not outweigh the work available. The rebuild will be a long process and is largely dependent on Insurance cover being provided. It appears the National Government is on a course to over supply the market with construction and trade workers, considering that with the Economic downturn, there is an oversupply or these workers in other parts of the country.

You can access the policies here:


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