Is the government doing some serious thinking about immigration policy?

The general impression since the formation of the new government has been that this government –  like its National and Labour predecessors –  is largely a champion of the large-scale immigration programme New Zealand has run for decades.  That impression has only been reinforced by the way corporate interests –  probably especially the export education industry – appear to have persuaded them to back off, at least for now, from even the modest changes around student work visas that the Labour Party had campaigned on.  But then I noticed this advert in my in-box (and no, I am not looking for a job) from a firm that describes themselves as “public sector recruitment specialists” (emphasis added).

Principal Policy Advisors x 6

· Be involved in a new high profile programme of work
· Own and drive strategic policy and lead complex policy programmes
· Bring your fresh perspective and challenge the status quo

The Challenge
We are looking for six Principal Policy Advisors that are keen to take part in a unique government initiative, across five different policy domains.
As thought leaders, your work here is set to impact the New Zealand economy, its labour market, and immigration policies.
This is an opportunity to challenge your selves to put forward new ideas and bring a fresh perspective on managing one of New Zealand’s biggest and most complex issues.

Six Principal Advisors  – who don’t come cheap –  is a serious commitment of resource to whatever this “unique government initiative” is.

I don’t know what the project is –  perhaps someone could ask the Minister of Immigration or the Minister for Economic Development –  but in tight fiscal times, it certainly looks as though some agency has been found the money for something fairly significant on immigration policy.  If so, of course, it is not before time.

UPDATE (20/3):  A few days after this post this comment came in, and has been showing below.

Clive Horne

That seemed quite startlingly incompetent.

I had a further note from Mr Horne this noting that “unfortunately MBIE are still receiving enquiries around this. As mentioned the roles are around the teams involved in the labour market issues and are to fill existing vacancies not focused on a new initiative”.   At his request I have elevated his earlier comment into the body of this post.

And, as far we can now tell, there is no new thinking going on about immigration and economic performance, and MBIE has still not published the (well overdue) annual data on approvals etc under current policy (when I asked the other day, I was told it should be out by the end of April, six months late on the normal schedule.

43 thoughts on “Is the government doing some serious thinking about immigration policy?

  1. Iain Lees-Galloway MP for Palmerston North Immigration Spokesperson
    MEDIA STATEMENT 8 September 2016

    Migrant exploitation must be stamped out

    Migrant workers are being treated like slaves by rogue employers and the Government has failed to get on top of the issue, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway.

    “A report released by Caritas Aotearoa details ongoing exploitation of migrant workers such as employers failing to pay the minimum wage, paying less than was promised, failing to provide a written employment agreement and providing poor living conditions.

    “This is further evidence the immigration system is being abused to provide cheap, vulnerable labour rather than to provide the skills New Zealand needs.

    “It is no surprise that forestry, farming and fishing – the industries in which employers most often fail to provide a written employment agreement – are also the industries that complain that they can’t get New Zealanders to work for them and cry out for migrant workers.

    “It’s time for National to admit that they have broken the immigration system. Vulnerable migrants are being exploited and wages are being suppressed. Michael Woodhouse needs take swift action to crack down on exploitative employers by properly resourcing labour inspectors and reviewing the immigration settings.

    “Labour supports active management of immigration to make sure New Zealand gets the skills it needs and migrants are safe from exploitative employers,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

    I wrote to thank him for this poorly reported media release and had this reply 22 May 2017:-

    “”Thanks for your supportive words. I agree with you about the need to aggressively weed out exploitation in the international education sector. Our policy will be out soon and you’ll see this is an area where we will be quite firm. Cheers, Iain. “”

    Like you I am concerned about the delays in acting. And also worried about the influence of corporate interests with vested interests in a workforce they can exploit. While nothing happens the unemployed and the honest businesses struggle.

    At present I am just about willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a government that needs to remember they received crucial votes from Kiwi voters who believed their promise to bring sanity to NZ immigration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect they genuinely do care about the exploitation issue (real, and the headline pressure on them) but – equally – are true believers (from the PM down) in pretty open immigration, incl for poor people, and come under relentless business sector pressure (without a compelling alternative model in their own mind).

      So I suspect we’ll see a bit more enforcement/prosecution effort, but won’t see material changes in the underlying source of the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      • After posting my comment I wished I had written ‘morality’ instead of ‘sanity’. From a self-centred point of view NZ immigration policy has helped increase Auckland house prices which has made me and many others wealthier and it provides convenient inexpensive coffee shops and fast food through out every corner of Auckland – so if self-interest is sanity I shouldn’t be commenting.

        200 years ago the British government came under relentless business sector pressure to maintain slavery in the Caribbean. The argument based around the critical importance of the sugar trade to the UK economy. The subset with the right to vote were more interested in sugar in their tea than distinguishing right from wrong. Our new government runs a similar risk of putting self-interest ahead of stamping out exploitation and giving Kiwi workers and businesses a ‘fair go’.

        Giving Iain Lees-Galloway the last words “” ‘Wherever they’ve looked for exploitation, they’ve found it’ he says referring to (INZ) and (MBIE) officials. “”


      • I quite like that perspective, altho of course a profound difference from the slavery case is that many of those involved here entered these arrangements voluntarily, genuinely believing they would benefit in the longer-term. Many may in fact do so.

        In that sense, the issue to me is what standards we require to be observed in NZ. Some things are ruled out by law even if in some sense they might genuinely be mutually beneficial. We simply say we aren’t that sort of society, and we won’t accept those sorts of contracts here.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacinda Ardern has just opened up a can of worms by offering NZ Universal Super to the Islands even if they have never resided in NZ. Whats to stop Kiwis currently resident in NZ to move to the Islands and expect to be paid Universal super while residing somewhere else? Is this incompetence at the highest level of incompetence?


      • I guess it isn’t obviously much worse that (say) the reciprocal social security agreement with Australia which allows NZers – or Australians – to spend all their working lives in Aus, and then come to NZ at 65 and collect full NZS immediately. The latter is much the bigger fiscal risk (even though the new concession is also hard to defend).


      • From what I understand of NZ Super I believe, to be eligible for NZ Super a person must have lived in New Zealand for 10 years after the age of 20, with five of those years since the age of 50 to be eligible at 65.

        Jacinda Ardern looks like she has just tossed that criteria out of the window with her supreme incompetence.

        These rules are in place to make Universal super affordable otherwisewe would have 1 million kiwis living overseas demanding payments and have not paid any NZ taxes.


      • Under the Social Security Agreement, residency in Aus counts as residency in NZ for NZS eligibility purposes. We have such agreements with various other countries as well, and they are reciprocal, but it matters much more for Aus – both because there are lots of NZers there, and because of their private/public pension mix. One can work there for decades, cash in your compulsory private savings (which don’t come as a pension) and then come back here at 65 and get our NZS.


      • “” offering NZ Universal Super to the Islands even if they have never resided in NZ””. This subject deserves its own post. I can see great advantages to both the Islands and to NZ but we need the facts clearly laid out and it has little to do with ant potential immigration reforms.


      • Michael, Australia does have a compulsory superannuation scheme which would be required to be transferred to NZ which does reduce the risk to the NZ scheme. The NZ scheme does not need to fund Kiwis in Australia unless they return to NZ. Most of the islands do not have a equivalent scheme to transfer which would mean that New Zealanders are being forced to fund the retirements of islanders who do not even live in NZ or never have lived in NZ.

        Bob, the relevance to immigration is that Many New Zealanders prefer to live out their final years in a exotic location where costs are much lower and where the NZD can buy more luxuries. Being paid a NZ Pension in Thailand or the Phillipines mean that you could live in a luxurious retirement rather than in poverty in NZ.


      • Last September I met a Nuiean builder; he had been brought up in NZ and learned his craft here, then had moved to Australia to make more money but was currently working back home in Nuie where he was helping build 300 or 400 houses. Noting this was a house per four of the inhabitants he said the ability to transfer their pension to Nuie had caused a return to the island. Surely a benefit to both NZ and the elderly Nuieas with side-effects such as helping preserve their culture and tying Nuie even tighter to NZ. But this is a pointless exchange without the facts of the changes made by the nationals and now stated by Jacinda being laid out clearly. The number of houses did make me wonder if the current small drop in immigration figures was purely elderly PIs returning home.


      • Labour plans migrant abuse inquiry

        Immigration and Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told Parliament this week that the Government would soon initiate an inquiry into migrant exploitation. “And we are working on a number of fronts to stamp out the shameful exploitation of international students,” Lees-Galloway said. Labour included a promise to launch an inquiry into migrant abuse in its manifesto, but it received little profile through the election. New Zealand First has also highlighted the issue of migrant abuse in its campaign to reduce migration


    • No more immigration? Then who will clean up my mother who is 85 years old and bedridden? At the moment she gets the best of care from 8 part time migrants paid for by ACC. Will local kiwis clean up my 85 year old mothers poop?


      • Tell that to ACC a government department to send locals to clean poop. Can be done as easily by tommorrow by this government that overpromises and does backflips on every significant election promise they have made. But 6 months already in government I still get migrant cleaners.


    • Not much point if all 6 get a high pay with zero contribution to policy or accept any responsibilities for poor performance. Is that not the make up of the RBNZ board?

      Or we get a poor senior policy analyst who can’t do her job very well(presiding over Tony Blairs and Helen Clarkes final days in their respective government) and she ends up being the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who eventually came up 2nd in an election campaign? Incompetence seems to be the key criteria to hold top positions in NZ.


      • Just checked my dictionary: Presiding => “to occupy the place of authority or control”. So Jacinda was responsible for the demise of both Blair’s and Clarke’s governments. Impressive; I wonder if they have a vacancy for her in the White house?


      • Bob, given her strength of personality and given that she is our Prime Minister and she was a SocialistYouth leader. It is clear that she does have the sort of push through personality that would have influenced Tony Blair or Helen Clarke’s governments. She was a Policy Advisor in both governments in their final terms suggesting that she was involved in both their demise by direct association in policy making decisions. You do not get to be Prime Minister without that ability to influence people in power.

        Her impromptu decision to call CGT in the middle of her early poll success led to a 3 party coalition government. She could have just rode the wave of popularity with all her election bribes and have a 2 party coalition government with the greens without a sudden captains call on CGT which National Party exploited fully.


      • GGS: well I did prefer Andrew Little and I reckon I still do but you are making me like Jacinda more and more. In some careers more is learned from failure than success (never ever trust a IT project leader who has never worked on a project that failed) and if Jacinda has seen failure at first hand she may be even wiser than I thought. It was failure that made Winston Churchill a great wartime leader.


  2. Posted this comment on 14 February 2018 regarding exploitation of migrant and seasonal labour

    The moral aspects are acknowledged. We know it goes on. We do not know how extensive it is. It seems to have become an inalienable right on the part of the dominant to grind the powerless into slavery. Yet the slave fodder keeps coming

    The main point of my post was to bring to your attention the knock-on effect across like-for-like businesses

    If one business exploits the weak while a competitor adopts a moral high ground and does the right kiwi thing an immediate effect id the profitability of the business doing the right thing the kiwi way is impacted and is forced to lower prices in order to maintain both market share and profitability. If they don’t they either contract, employ less people, or ultimately go out of business.

    In the long run the ripple effect drives down businesses and employment and the country loses its skill base

    I hope this message is getting through – it doesn’t to be

    Liked by 1 person

    • Article Link to Policy Network

      extract: “New Zealand is a remote island state whose closest neighbours, New Caledonia and Australia, are, respectively, 1200 and 2000 kilometres away. People smugglers who regularly move migrants by boat from Indonesia to Northern Australia have not, to date, seen the much longer and more perilous journey to New Zealand as a feasible alternative. New Zealand’s unusual capacity to control its borders has reduced the political salience of illegal immigration, as has the absence of a popular tabloid media with an anti-immigrant or anti-multicultural agenda”

      Head in the sand
      Nothing so blind as the blinded
      They just haven’t seen this – yet

      Blue Marlin

      MV Black Marlin
      – (remove the –)


      • wordpress doesn’t like Youtube links

        Blue Marlin


    • Article Link: “”Potential for Labour to be internally divided on immigration and its consequences was similarly minimised by the fact that for the most part its period in office was characterised by strong economic growth and low unemployment, and the skilled migrants who entered under the points system were not commonly seen as competing with working class New Zealanders for jobs.””

      It is the unskilled entering NZ that will damage Labour’s re-election unless they do something about our immigration policy. However the relentless business sector pressure is not for GPs, engineers, professors and journalists but for care-givers, restaurant workers, tourist guides. If he wants to remain a minister in three years time Mr Lees-Galloway will have to offend a few of those business sector spokesmen.


  3. I don’t know why someone hasn’t invented a smarter political system yet.
    1. Questions (question time) should not have to wait. Answers should be subject to academic (not humanities) rigour. These should be done on line with discussion from those who are qualified.

    2. The Government should elucidate a vision about what it plans to do. As the Savings Working Group asked Clearly, there are serious questions to be asked about New Zealand’s economic policy and how we got into this mess. Why was it not better designed and managed, and more focussed, coordinated and strategic? Did the electorate simply get what it voted for, without realising what was really happening, or have New Zealanders not been well served over the years?


  4. New Zealand is caught right in the middle of the modern slave trade. If this Labour government doesn’t have the guts to address this appalling legacy of the previous government’s slack immigration settings urgently then all Jacinda’s preening won’t save them in the end. The media have finally picked up on this scandal. Student work visas which have been utterly abused should be cancelled immediately and there must be a thorough investigation of education providers as well as the horticultural and construction industries. Days of shame for New Zealand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. All Robinson said on Q&A was that they are going to refocus on skills and training NZ’rs. He didn’t hint at anything rotten in the state of Denmark.

    Josie Pagani is an advocate of globalism yet she is giving advice to Labour (as a panelist).

    Josie Pagani
    But I also believe that the free movement of working people across borders is a progressive principle.


    • Thanks for the link. But in defence of this lady who I have never heard of before in the paragraph before the remark you quote about “… progressive principle” she wrote “”We need to look at immigration – talk about how much is too much. But also how we compete with other countries for the best migrants and investors who want to come and live here.”” and that I would totally agree with.
      Maybe Ms Pagani has a higher figure than I have but we do need to talk about it. Her post is 3 years old – I’ve heard very little conversation from the media or our politicians. “Fewer and better” – that would make a great slogan.


      • Just read more of that old post. Loved Katherine Moody’s comments. As ever intelligent and well written. Does anyone know where she has gone? I always enjoyed her comments.


      • WInston Peters did indicate that 125,000 arrivals a year was too many and he wanted that number down to 15,000 and then realised that actual gross residency migrant arrivals was only 15,000 a year already. Andrew Little wanted to cut 30,000 out of Foreign Workers and then realised he did not have a job anymore because he got the numbers wrong. He actually needed more workers for Kiwibuild and the existing ones are in jobs which if vacated means there is no one to do those jobs. Now you have to add midwifery to the list of labour shortages. This morning in RNZ 101.4, discussions around an official shortage of 78 unfilled vacancies and 200 is the unofficial but reliable professional estimates of a shortage with current staff overworked. Now they are asking for pay increments. I have seen private self employed midwifery financial accounts and they show earnings between $130k to $180k. I think DHB midwives will be expecting big pay increments from a Jacinda Ardern government seen to be soft on wage increments.

        Jacinda Ardern wants to cut 30,000 out of International students instead which does mean a loss around $1.2 billion in GDP spending. Ooops there goes her budget surplus which she has already spent. Also the total entire new intake a year of international students for an entire year for every university , polytechnic and private providers only total 25,000 a year, 30,000 is another one of Jacinda’s way out of the ballpark aspirational goals.

        So what numbers are Ms Pagani talking about?

        Again another so called smart person has got the wrong end of stick. You can’t talk numbers until you first decide what type of industry. If all we can do is Tourism and International students then we need to know that 4 million tourists and 125,000 international students needs hundreds of thousand of workers in cleaning, cooking, serving and servicing. I can’t understand how smart people can be so dumb?


      • “”actual gross residency migrant arrivals was only 15,000 a year “”. But permanent residency visas have consistently been between 40,000 and 55,000 for the last decade. It is very unlikely anyone would go through the cost and hassle of applying for permanent residency and then not take it up. The missing 25,000 are already here in NZ on other visas when they apply.
        Sitting behind me as I write is a man on a 9 month visitors visa who has been told by INZ that they are likely to convert this to a pathway to permanent residency (just so long as he doesn’t work for 9 months, commits no criminal act or develop a serious medical condition). This time next year with luck he will be a resident but never appear on the arrivals data.
        Jacinda’s cut of 30,000 (if she keeps her word!) students is achievable by reducing a smaller annual figure starting multiple year course. So removing the students arriving to study at some of our very dodgy PTEs and removing their right to stay a year after completing their pseudo course might achieve her goal. Students doing degrees and PhDs at Auckland University would not be affected.


  6. Writing from the agency that placed this advertisement I must apologise as it is a little misleading. The roles we are assisting them with are all existing vacancies and not centred around a new initiative. There are 5 in total and this is an ongoing recruitment initiative that has been running for a while. Apologies for the misdirection but this was down to a little misunderstanding within our own marketing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Here is my dream team for you. I am sure you would agree that they meet your criteria of “”Bring your fresh perspective and challenge the status quo”” and as a group no particular bias pro or con immigration.

      1. GGS – most definitely someone with a mind of his own, a breath of fresh air
      2. Mai Chen – legal knowledge, espousal of diversity, has the ability to admit that other cultures are different and may on occasion think the laws of NZ are optional (which it is bad etiquette for the rest of us to mention)
      3. Katherine Moody – brainy, experience of NZ bureaucracy
      4. Shane Cowlishaw – knowledge of how the system is exploited see
      5. Alistair McClymont – Immigration lawyer – see

      as reserves:
      6a. Myself – love databases and converting their data into information, [incidentally would love to meet the people mentioned above].
      6b. Prof Christina Stringer – combines a knowledge of how our badly chosen policies inevitably lead to ‘modern slavery’ with an objective analytic brain.


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