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Don't Blame Migrants For Economic Woes


For release: 26 July 2007

Don't Blame Migrants For House Prices And Economic Woes

Parties urged not to make immigration a political football!


Immigrants should not be blamed for high house prices or related economic woes, according to the New Zealand Institute for Migration & Investment (NZAMI).

The migration advisers' representative body, which holds its Annual Conference tomorrow (Friday), has also warned against immigration becoming a political football in the lead up to next year's general election.

"Along with all thinking New Zealanders, we're concerned both about high house prices and about a range of associated issues, including inflation, high interest rates and the high New Zealand dollar. But there's no reason to think that immigration is playing a material role in keeping house prices high or in generating these other problems," says the NZAMI's Chairman, Bernard Walsh.

"Just how small a part immigration has in fuelling housing demand can be gauged from the fact that, in April this year, the number of permanent and long term arrivals entering New Zealand exceeded departures by just 100 people.

"Even assuming that all the new arrivals purchased real estate, this would hardly account for the ongoing surge in house prices. But, the truth is that many newcomers prefer to rent, particularly if they come from countries where home ownership is comparatively rare. And, of course, 100 individuals does not mean 100 households. The figure includes parents and children who typically live under the same roof.

"The bigger picture is not all that different. In the year to June 2007, our net gain in long term arrivals was only 2,600, a figure which includes international students and young people from the United Kingdom, here on working holidays.

"All the signs are that house price inflation is being fuelled not by migrants but by New Zealanders' own inveterate preference for putting their money into real estate and by the perception of overseas fund managers that, for the moment at least, New Zealand is a good place to make property investments," he says.

Mr Walsh adds that, in the long term, the only way New Zealand can escape from the grim choice of rising inflation or punitively high interest rates is to raise productivity and gear our economy for exporting.

"We can't achieve these goals without skilled migrants. Not only do we have chronic skills shortages in many crucial areas. It's a fact of life in a small, well-educated, English-speaking country such as ours, that our brightest and best will be easily lured away by enhanced opportunities and higher salaries elsewhere in the world.

"Whilst every effort should be made to train and retain skilled New Zealanders and to attract them back from overseas, it's flying in the face of reality to imagine that we can fill all the gaps without a substantial infusion of new Kiwis, keen to build decent lives here for themselves and their families.

"Given our skills deficit, it's certainly hard to see the economic logic behind the reduction of immigration targets from 47,000-52,000 to 45,000-50,000 for the current year, as announced by Immigration Minster David Cunliffe earlier this month.

"We do hope that this tightening of targets, however slight, is not politically motivated. It would be tragic if immigration policy were to become a political football in the run-up to next year's general election, with the parties in parliament seeking to outdo each other in advocating obstacles to migration," says Mr Walsh.

"It's our firm conviction that New Zealand needs stable, long-term population and immigration policies, which will help us achieve the reserves of skill and ability needed for sustained economic success in a fiercely competitive world.

"Short term political considerations or mistaken fears about the relationship between immigration and the housing market should not be allowed to jeopardise this goal," he adds.

Tomorrow' s NZAMI Conference, at Auckland's 'Sorrento in the Park', will hear presentations from Immigration Minister, the Hon. David Cunliffe, Opposition Spokesman for Immigration, Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith and the National Party's Associate Spokeswoman for Immigration, Pansy Wong.

Other speakers are to include Mary Anne Thompson, Deputy Secretary, Workforce, at the Department of Labour and Bernie Waters, Chief Executive of the Migration Institute of Australia and the Migration Agents Registration Authority.


WHAT: The New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment Conference THEME: 'Setting the Standards' WHERE: Sorrento in the Park, One Tree Hill Domain, Auckland WHEN: Friday 27th July 2007, 9.00 am - 3.00 pm

KEY SPEAKERS: The Hon. David Cunliffe, Minster of Immigration (9.30 am - 10.15 am)

Mary Anne Thompson, Deputy Secretary, Workforce, Department of Labour (10.45 am - 11.25 am)

Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith, Opposition Spokesman for Immigration (11.30 am - 12.10 pm)

Pansy Wong, National Party Associate Spokeswoman for Immigration (12.15pm - 12.45 pm)

Bernie Waters, Chief Executive Officer, Migration Institute of Australia ( 2.15 pm - 2.45 pm)


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