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Immigration Policy Is Disconnected From Infrastructure

The inability or unwillingness to build the infrastructure needed to support and settle people in the community suggests a return to pre-pandemic rates of immigration are unsustainable, says the Productivity Commission.

The Productivity Commission released the preliminary findings and recommendations from its immigration inquiry this month.

“Immigrants make an important contribution to New Zealand society,” says Commission Chair, Dr Ganesh Nana.

“Immigrants bring diversity and much-needed skills to workplaces across the country, and have supported the delivery of important public services either directly (through their work as teachers, nurses, doctors) or through their net contribution to the Government’s finances.”

“But New Zealand has struggled for a long time to absorb and accommodate more people well. Infrastructure and housing supply has not kept up with population growth, creating pressures that affect the wellbeing of both migrants and New Zealanders.”

“To ensure immigration contributes to the productivity and wellbeing of New Zealanders, governments need to build the assets and infrastructure needed to support a growing population, in preparation for the number of new residents, ahead of time,” Dr Nana says.

The Commission is recommending a number of changes to ensure that future immigration settings are better connected to other government objectives.

The law should be changed to require governments to explicitly consider how well New Zealand can support and settle more people. And the Government should be obliged to publicly state its objectives and priorities for immigration, and the steps it will take to ensure that public investment matches need.

A country that treats its guests well is more likely to attract migrants, retain their capabilities and enjoy their long-term contributions.

The Commission wants the Government to remove visa conditions that tie a migrant to a specific employer. “These conditions make migrants more vulnerable to exploitation and limit the ability of migrants to find jobs that best meet their skills and experience,” says Dr Nana.

The number of temporary migrant visas with pathways to residence should be linked to the number of residence visas on offer. Dr Nana says that “large queues for residency have left many migrants in flux and unable to settle. The mismatch between migrant expectations and the reality of residence falls well short of manaakitanga, and is not good for our international reputation as global competition for some skilled migrants intensifies”.

The Commission welcomes feedback on its proposals. Submissions are open until 24 December 2021 and can be made at www.productivity.govt.nz/have-your-say/make-a-submission/.

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