Immigration policy and wellbeing: Part 2 (aggregate economic outcomes)

Last week I wrote some brief introductory remarks about the new book by economists Julie Fry and Peter Wilson, Better Lives: Migration, Wellbeing and New Zealand.  

Unfortunately, like so much of the current bureaucratic and political enthusiasm in New Zealand for focusing on “wellbeing”, the book seems to be built on a straw man.   To listen to Treasury’s champions of the “living standards framework”, or Cabinet minister championing the proposed “wellbeing” framework for the Budget, you would suppose that all key decisions in the past have only ever been made on the basis of the impact on GDP (per capita) or some similar national accounts indicator.   That that notion is just nonsense takes no time at all to demonstrate: no one seriously supposes that we have a huge welfare system because governments have believed that by doing so GDP per capita will be maximised.   Raising the NZS eligibility age would most likely increase GDP per capita (and maybe even GDP per hour worked) but as a society we’ve chosen to leave it at 65.  And so on.   Advocates of almost any policy will try to argue for some material economic benefits (or to minimise the costs), but public support for this, that or the other policy is only occasionally directly dependent on expected real GDP per capita gains.

It is the same straw man that suffuses the Fry/Wilson book (and the various associated articles or interviews I’ve seen).    Their claim is that immigration policy has been driven by a near-exclusive focus on boosting real GDP per capita (or, again, some variant –  eg real net national income (NNI) per capita) –  economic considerations, and that they are preparing the way for something richer and better.  Here is the last two sentences of the book.

We are confident that using a wellbeing approach is the right way to think about migration.  It enables us to consider important broader issues that a simple focus on per capita GDP allows us to ignore.  The result should be a more effective and more sustainable immigration policy for New Zealand.

But in the entire book, not once did they seek to demonstrate that anyone individually (or New Zealand governments as a whole) has been driven solely by a focus on something like real GDP per capita.  That isn’t surprising.   Here is a summary table of residence visa approvals in 2016/17.

Category Number
Skilled Migrant         24,140
Residence from Work           2,353
Investor           1,418
Entrepreneur              594
Business Immigration Policy – Other*              141
Subtotal  (Skilled/Business)         28,646
Partner         10,914
Parent           1,820
Dependant Child           1,937
Sibling and Adult Child              346
Subtotal  (Family)         15,017
Refugee Quota           1,218
Samoa Quota           1,121
Pacific Access Category              655
Convention Refugees and Protected Persons              236
Refugee Family Support              302
Other special residence policies              489
Subtotal (International/humanitarian)           4,021
Total        47,684

I’m sure that in the first category (the Skilled/Busines sub-total) policy is driven primarily by economic considerations, perhaps encapsulated in a goal of lifting productivity and real GDP per capita.   But nobody supposes that parent or sibling visa policies were motivated by national economic considerations, let alone the two Pacific quotas or the refugee and related policies.  We take refugees because it is the sort of people that we are, and doing so captures or reflects things we care about, without too much consideration for economics.

Even in respect of the people here with short-term work rights, national economic benefit has never been the only consideration.  We didn’t enter a plethora of new Working Holiday visa schemes to maximise the GDP per capita of New Zealand, but through some mix of benevolence (its good for young people to see the world) and (so it seems) a pursuit of other countries’ votes for a Security Council place for New Zealand.  Even the recognised seasonal employer (RSE) scheme bringing temporary workers from the Pacific, is as much about aid to those countries and their people, and boosting political relationships with those countries, as it is about possible economic gains to New Zealanders.

And yet the authors claim that they are offering a whole new way of seeing immigration policy issues, thinking of dimensions other than the economic implications.    They know it isn’t so –  I heard one of the authors interviewed on Newshub Nation explicitly note that “of course politicians look at many of these things now” –  in which case you have to wonder what the fuss is about.  They seem to be arguing that if it were developed their framework (which is really no more than a concept at present –  a bid for consultancy contracts from government departments to flesh it out?) might enable a greater degree of transparency around the considerations guiding immigration policy decisions.  But you can’t help wondering what they have to offer that the release of Cabinet papers and regulatory impact statements, and the availability of speeches/interviews of relevant ministers does not already provide.   There is, perhaps, a bureaucrat’s appetite (and both authors are former bureaucrats) for tidiness –  boxes to tick, and perhaps a common agreed evaluation framework –  but not much of life is like that.

The authors adopt a list of 12 other considerations that they think immigration policy should take into account –  11 from the OECD, plus a Treaty of Waitangi dimension.  One could debate the relevance or role of many of them, but equally I could throw in five quite different factors.  No doubt, at one extreme, the National Front, and at the other extreme open borders globalists could throw in their own five distinctive angles.  There is no aggregation framework, no way for officials or “expert” advisers to decide which factors should count and to what extent.  What there is is the political process, messy as it often (perhaps inevitably) is.  As it is, Fry’s and Wilson’s own political worldviews –  if rarely directly stated –  suffuse the book (although they might be hard for many bureaucratic and political readers to recognise, since so many of them share that sort of worldview).

Perhaps all the Fry/Wilson (conceptual)framework might be useful for is reminding fellow economists on the odd occasion when some might be tempted to think that immigration policy is, or should be, only about aggregate economics (GDP and all that).  If some economists ever fall into that trap –  and I doubt many do –  few others do.

In some ways, the most interesting part of the book is an attempt to suggest thinking about New Zealand immigration policy through a Treaty of Waitangi lens.  I’m sceptical –  and think they avoid most of the hard issues – but want to come back and devote a separate post to that material.

Today I wanted to focus on the bit of the book that bugged me, and puzzled me, most.

There are repeated claims –  in the book text itself, and in associated articles/interviews – that New Zealand’s immigration policy has produced good economic outcomes for New Zealanders (at least in aggregate).    One chapter starts this way

“Migration is good for economies.  But is it good for people?”.

The final chapter beings

“But despite its economic benefits, migration remains a controversial topic”

In their presentation at Treasury a couple of weeks ago, Fry asserted that

“Immigration is economically beneficial, but the public is not fully comfortable”

And in a Newsroom column the other day they note that

“justifying high levels of migration by the fact that it boosts GDP or even GDP per capita has done little to resolve debates about migration”

To be clear, the authors aren’t championing a claim that there are large economic benefits (and they are focused on per capita gains, or lifts to productivity, not headline GDP effects).  In fact, they explicitly claim that

“The available evidence suggests that in modern times, the economic effects of immigration to New Zealand are likely to be positive but modest at best.”

But, remarkably, they offer no evidence for the claim that the effects have been positive at all (lifting economywide productivity –  and as they note, our productivity record has been pretty woeful –  of lifting the per capita incomes of New Zealanders (as distinct from the gains, reflected in average GDP, to the migrants themselves.     They make no attempt to engage with the stylised facts of New Zealand’s economic performance –  or even the huge scale (relative to most other countries) of our migration programme (permanent and temporary).

For “evidence” they seem to refer readers on several occasions to Julie Fry’s previous book (with Hayden Glass) Going Places: Migration, Economics and the Future of New Zealand.  In that book (which does touch on some of my arguments about rather worse results –  described as “a plausible idea but difficult to prove or disprove”) the authors have no sustained discussion of the New Zealand experience – poor productivity growth, despite huge immigration inflows, weak tradable sectors, limitations of geography –  and also adduce no empirical evidence of the economic benefits of large scale immigration (as it has actually been run) for New Zealanders.    That latter omission isn’t surprising as –  as even advocates of high immigration acknowledge –  there are no such papers.  But, if anything, in Going Places Fry and Glass seemed more cautious  –  noting the importance of the quality of the migrants, and doubts about how well New Zealand has been doing on that score –  than Fry and Wilson are in Better Lives.

It is all doubly perplexing because on the one hand they repeat standard lines about how immigration, even of the unskilled, probably hasn’t made much differences to wages, while at the same time arguing that large inflows of unskilled migration (notably in the US) had, by lowering the cost of various household services (childcare, gardening etc) enabled many more women (in particular) to move into the labour force.  You really can’t have it both ways.

I’m not sure why in the latest book they seem so confident that New Zealand’s large scale planned immigration programme (three times the size per capita of the US programme –  under such nativists as Clinton and Obama –  and larger, per capita, than those of any other OECD country) over the last quarter century or more has been economically beneficial.

There seemed to me at least three possibilities:

  • the first was that they had made a rhetorical or positioning choice.  After all, if they had taken a stance that our immigration policy, as run, had actually been costly to New Zealanders, most of their other list of “wellbeing” considerations would fall away.   We might still want to take some refugees, but there would be any other very compelling case for large numbers of other migrants –  open borders ideology aside.  Moreover, since their target audience is typically pretty pro-immigration (officials, National/Labour/Greens politicians, and other “urban liberals”) casting doubt on whether there had been any economic gains might have led those people to simply refuse to consider their arguments, and the framework they were touting.
  • the second was that they had just taken the international economics literature –  which tends to produce results suggesting gains in productivity and per capita income (often implausibly – incredibly – large estimates) from immigration, and assumed that (a) these estimates were valid, and (b) they applied to New Zealand, without any specific consideration of New Zealand’s actual experience, or
  • third, that the authors had themselves thought hard about the New Zealand experience, including its overall economic performance in the context of a large scale immigration programme, and had come to an independent view that there had been gains to productivity etc here (and perhaps didn’t have space in this book to write up those views –  arguably, the economic effects are the focus of the book).

And so I asked the authors. Of the third bullet I noted

If the latter, I’m a bit puzzled as to how you deal with such stylised facts as the persistently high real interest and exchange rates, the decline in the foreign trade shares of GDP, and the long-running weakness of business investment.   Where do you turn for evidence –  formal statistical or the marshalling of other material –  of the gains you proclaim?   And how, for example, do you grapple with the fact that (true) fixed factors –  land and natural resources –  appear to play a much larger role in NZ than the (almost non-existent) role in typical models, or than in many norther European economies.
A few days later I got a response.

On your specific question, we didn’t write the book to resolve the issue of the effects of migration on GDP or any of its components or derivatives, like TFP.  Indeed, the core element of the book is that GDP and its derivatives are poor metrics of welfare, both generally and in relation to migration.   If you are using a wellbeing framework, what matters is the capabilities that people have to lead the lives they value, not their command over commodities. So the effect of migration on GDP, GDP per capita or TFP isn’t the focus.

Which might be fine in the abstract, but really rather avoids the specific issue.  If they didn’t think productivity or real GDP per capita outcomes were meaningful –  and most will beg to differ –  why would they keep on repeating a claim that there have been gains to New Zealanders on exactly these counts?  And if they do believe there have been gains –  as they state repeatedly in the book and associated media material –  where are the New Zealand specific arguments and evidence for those claims?  It isn’t as if there is a single mention made only in passing: the proposition that New Zealand immigration policy has been economically beneficial to New Zealand suffuses the book.

41 thoughts on “Immigration policy and wellbeing: Part 2 (aggregate economic outcomes)

  1. As a migrant I would not dispute that NZ has been wonderful for me in wages being paid to me, in my mother being cared for by ACC and in my investment portfolio growing through Kiwisaver and investment property. I would disagree that New Zealanders do not benefit. My 2 kids being New Zealanders do benefit greatly from my income generation and in future the equity from my investments. Remember that migrants are usually only one generation because the 2nd generation are New Zealand born. It is always hard to argue that migration is bad when for many New Zealanders ma and pa or grand ma and grand pa were migrants.

    I was watching a Facebook shared video of a argument between a white 40 year migrant and a newby asian migrant over the use of a common driveway. What was hilarious was that the white 40 year migrant told the newby migrant that she had more rights over that common driveway than the newby migrant as she was here in New Zealand longer.


    • Surprisingly, the Maori on line comments on FB got rather cross with the 40 year White migrant and gave encouragement and support to the newby asian migrant.


      • Yes there’s always a “Maori” who will side with the Asian. Being “Maori” is a profession for some (under bi-cultural policy) and they usually have a good grounding in post colonial studies after all

        Racism is the ideological belief that people can be classified into ‘races’ … [which] can be ranked in terms of superiority and inferiority … racism is the acceptance of racial superiority … It is often used to refer to the expression of an ideology of racial superiority in the situation where the holder has some power. Thus prejudice plus power denotes racism in the modern sense … racism is essentially an attitudinal or ideological phenomenon. … A dominant group not only holds negative beliefs about other groups but, because of the power to control resources, is able to practice those beliefs in a discriminatory way … This ideological concept structures social and political relationships and derives from a history of European colonialism. The idea of ‘race’ has evolved from its use in scientific explanation (now discredited) and as a justification in the oppression of colonised, non European people say Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley.. That’s the tenor of their education.
        It doesn’t change that fact that (professional-Maori aside). Maori are more opposed to immigration than any other group and were side stepped by Government.


    • Sometimes one has to look past one’s self interests to see the bigger picture .I recall you lamenting the loss of self esteem when interest rates went the wrong way and your potential development profits go into the red.


      • I am still lamenting the loss due to interest rate rises engineered by Alan Bollard as RBNZ governor between 2002 to 2007. I had to draw on $400k of equity just to stay afloat which increased my borrowing levels. Fortunately I plan on the basis of having plan B and plan C but one of the key reasons I stayed the course was because a mate of mine mentioned to me that a lot of New Zealanders would have to go broke first before I did. And sure enough 61 Finance companies went down together with $6 billion in mum and dad investment funds and an entire building industry went broke.


  2. What is going on?

    Suddenly, over the past month we have been regaled by an “academic” on a continuous road-show that can only mean it is paid-for, plus another pop-economist who is climbing the ladder, and a couple of established ex-bureaucrats, all saying the same thing, all couched in warm-words of splendour – everything is OK, we can’t give you any evidence – we cant prove it – but, hey trust us, we just know.

    Last year it was published that NZ had the worst rate of homelessness in the OECD – in the western world. Today on the radio news the OECD repeats the same claim again

    So really, how’re we doin’

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes

        Is there a Government funded program researching the disadvantages of immigration?

        Or is the Spoonley-MBIE road-show the only game in town – that’s straight out big-brother stuff


      • the bias is built-in – see the name of the programme

        Capturing the Diversity Dividend of Aotearoa/New Zealand (CaDDANZ, pronounced ‘cadence’) is a research programme led by teams from the University of Waikato and Massey University. The team also includes staff from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research in Wellington. It is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

        In a sense they are irrelevant though. If anything material is going to change it has to come driven from a political level – and at present there is no one on the entire political spectrum willing to make anything of it. The risk is that at some point some very nasty figure emerges – an issue Fry and Wilson touch on, in their very liberal way (seeing, inter alia, Brexit as something terrible – and substantially a response to immigration issues). One interpretation of their book could be that it is running a “even if there are economic benefits, there are a lot of other things to take into account, and if something isn’t done before long, we could end with (say) a Viktor Orban, threats to democracy and consitutional liberalism (freedom of the press, rule of law) etc”. But even if that is their view – and I suspect it might be – they can’t actually bring themselves to say it outright, and on paper the book could be read either way (supporting more or less immigration).


      • There is a big conflict of interest between “an advocate of high migration” and “social cohesion expert”. It’s like Dr Mengele being Medical officer of Health for Jews.

        Spoonley gets to represent this tolerant New Zealand at international conferences. In Canada this month he heard debates about immigration and housing in which you could have swapped Vancouver and Toronto for Auckland or Sydney. In Berlin last year he noticed again that New Zealand is “an outlier” when it comes to anxieties about identity and citizenship.

        He’s the chap with the biggest salmon.


      • Spoonley’s dad is a Liverpool migrant. As I have indicated many if not most New Zealanders have a migrant parent or have migrant grandparents. Papa, grandma and grandpa is a migrant from Liverpool. Rather difficult to be too harsh of migrants.


      • GGS: Agreed don’t be harsh on immigrants. Mine is a immigrant family. It is not the raindrops that matter, is is the flood. Most comments on this blog are about getting NZ’s immigration rate under control, not stopping immigration but choosing those who clearly benefit NZ. In general conversation I find it is immigrants themselves who best see the dangers and regret the excess that is diminishing their new country.


      • No one is being hard on immigrants; it is immigration policy. This is a movement (undeclared) to create an ethnicless society. Instead of legitimate globalisation we have a government mandated program that doesn’t mind cracking eggs as it makes it’s omelette.

        For example in the 1980’s Japanese tourism boomed and Japanese came as tour guides many married locals or were given residency (they liked trout fishing). At the Airport there would be a New Zealand bus company with a Kiwi driver and either a Japanese tour guide or a New Zealander who had learnt Japanese at Polytech. Only a New Zealander drove a bus. Meanwhile masses of Chinese and Koreans arrived. An old farmer friend observed “I couldn’t see how they were going to benefit the economy”. I observed the phenomena and thought “they must be highly skilled”???!!!. Later Nye Un Xue left “Little Pumpkin” at Melbourne Airport as he fled to the US. He owned one of 6 Chinese speaking news papers in “Tamati Makaurua” and the Chow Brothers made millions out of property and brothels. Migration correlated with property prices that never stopped rising and the Chinese rolled up in their tourist busses.

        My wifes friend is down from Auckland.My wife says she lives in a nice house. “Do you own it?” I ask. “No, I could never afford the million dollars ; the landlord is Chinese”. This situation will never correct itself. A nice house will be harder and harder to achieve for all but the lucky few.

        Policymakers wallow in wealth. Louis lllXV would be envious

        As much as economists argue immigration is beneficial with figures they can’t demonstrate any tangible manifestations other than (say) a hospital specialist (but where did the New zealand trained doctor go?) or employment in construction (but where will we be if that stops?). To the average person figures are just smoke (and open to manipulation).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. quote
    “The available evidence suggests that in modern times, the economic effects of immigration to NZ are likely to be positive but modest at best.”



    • GDP rising to positive 3.5%
      Unemployment rate lowest in a decade which is positive
      Modest would be the due to the declining productivity per capita.


      • I’m of British descent and all of my great great grandparents were born in nz. I’m angry because I cant work in the UK unlike these newbies like yourself. Nothing personal just pointing out some of us get lucky with ancestry. Someone had to have grandparents who fought for nz in the war.

        I’m a settler you are an immigrant. Check the dictionary to see the difference between pioneer and settler v immigrant. You are the latter. A paper kiwi. I’m a real kiwi.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have no problems with British settlers and British colonial rule. Totally fascinated by the incredible extent of the British Empire and continued reliance on British Law throughout the world. My problem is the weakness displayed by the majority of White NZ, like you, Hendo which is still an overwelming majority of 70% of the NZ population. How does 70% white NZ not control government and government policy is beyond me??


      • The difference between a settler and a immigrant? A settler came via gun and canon and warship diplomacy and an immigrant came in via a 70% majority white government immigration target by pen and paper diplomacy.


      • Umm……..whatever status one wants to accord the Treaty of Waitangi now, it explicitly envisages a continued flow of European settlers arriving, and was voluntarily entered into (from both sides).


      • Not too sure fighting in a war has got anything to do with NZ. Most of us have parents and grandparents that have fought in wars as these were World Wars that inviolved just about everyone in the world. The only NZ related war was the NZ Land Wars and that was with Maori as the bad guys who now want our history changed as they rightly see themselves as the good guys and it was just last year we finally commemorate the NZ Land Wars The other wars were mainly European Wars that we got drawn into as part of the British Empire and as a contingent of the English led soldiers.


  4. High immigration rates in the extreme kills gdp per capita, see example below. or!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_pp_kd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:ARE&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    We do not price most of the environmental effects & thus high immigration does lead to environmental degradation. The NZ state of the environment reports are not nice reading.

    High immigration rates also leads to infrastructure deficits. In the NZ case it is extreme as almost all the immigration is into Auckland.

    As I’ve noted before immigration is the easy way of keeping everyone happy as it easily boosts gdp (and probably gdp per capita if its at a sustainable rate and with the right inbound skills). When it comes to elections its the economy stupid.

    Unfortunately capitalism depends on growth. Japan’s a nice example of no population growth (with previous asset bubble) and gdp per capita stagnation even though the government has borrowed to the hilt!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:JPN&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false


    • On your Japan story, bear in mind that productivity growth in Japan – the foundation of sustained prosperity – has increased materially faster in Japan (with little population growth, and now modest declines) than in NZ over the last 25+ years (and the gap is even larger on a 50 year perspective, but they were still in ‘catch up’ mode earlier). Of course, population growth isn’t the only difference, but on many other ‘input” metrics we do better than Japan – no financial crisis, govt debt under control, inflation more or less in target range, and less micro regulation in many sectors – and yet the outcomes have been less good. Oh, and we’ve also had strong rising terms of trade, and they’ve had something almost the opposite.


      • Michael,

        I agree with you. We should be able to have productivity growth and a lower and more sustainable immigration rate.

        I was more lamenting the fact that capitalism is easy with growth but requires much more discipline with no growth / lower sustainable growth. Something not easily achieved at the ballot box.


    • Japan’s export GDP is made up of mainly manufacturing. Motor vehicles 14.9%; iron and steel products 5.4%; semiconductors 5%; auto parts 4.8%; power generating machinery 3.5%; plastic materials 3.3%

      NZ’s export GDP is mainly cows, agriculture and tourists.

      kiwioverseas, not too sure how you would link population to productivity when the business activities and jobs are rather diverse. Not even a close comparison to draw a conclusion?


      • No, I agree. Context is important.

        Marginal productivity growth in NZ farming looks limited unless we can Dutch farm (economically) as Michael noted elsewhere.

        Personally I think NZ is going to hit a hard road block. We aren’t going to be able to compete with synthetic meats & possibly synthetic milks. Farming will also have to eventually pay carbon taxes.

        Suggest the exchange rate will have to fall substantially until we find comparative advantage elsewhere.


      • Which proves cultural diversity and gdp are a hoax. Japan is homogeneous yet has a diverse work variety.


      • Cultural diversity is only 30% of the population. White NZ population is still 70% of the population. Not too sure why you are worried about a small minority when you should be concerned why 70% white NZ, the pride of the British Empire behave like scared little white lambs being led by sheepdogs??


    • All the nice places become crowded with immigration. Eg in Queenstown where Mountain view Lodge once stood you have Pounamu Apartments where each apartment gets a narrowly focussed view. This sort of thing must be “good for the economy”? It may even make the economic case for immigration?


      • Also driven by greed for the tourism dollar rather than us poor migrants held as scapegoats for greed by the locals.


  5. On Nine to Noon Kathryn Ryan discusses racism in Nelson. Before that a comedian talks about how he tackles issues of racism on his shows. It never stops.

    Officially “89 percent ]agree] that it is a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different races, religions, and cultures”

    Parr (2000) writes “[T]he views of New Zealanders are not conducive to the population of New Zealanders becoming more diversified globally.”
    From localism to globalism? New Zealand Sociology, 15(2), 304-. 335

    Immigration and the multicultural project are joined at the hip. Multiculturalism has created a yardstick for human progress for those arrogant enough to think they can manipulate human nature (without compensation) and maybe a distraction that avoids taking reality seriously?

    Johnathon Haidt and Jordan Peterson argue that religious behaviour has come to dominate thinking on immigration (referring to the US).


    • “Julius Vogel was the dominant political figure of the 1870s, serving as colonial treasurer and premier in NZ on several occasions, and launching a massive programme of immigration and public works. To revive the faltering economy, Vogel initiated a bold 10-year programme of public works and large-scale assisted immigration, funded by extensive borrowing on the London money market.”


      • And here is a post on a lecture Vogel gave late in life on some of what drove his immigration/debt policy

        It doesn’t make entirely comfortable reading, hardheadedly realistic as it might be seen as:

        “I will tell you the real facts, and I think I may say there are only two or three men now living who can speak with equal authority. The Public Works’ Policy seemed to the Government the sole alternative to a war of extermination with the natives. It comprised the construction of railways and roads, and the introduction of a large number of European immigrants. The Government argued that if they could greatly increase the population of the North Island and open up the means of communication through the Island, and at the same time give employment to the Maoris, and make their lands really valuable, they would render impossible any future war on a large scale. They recognised that in point of humanitarianism there was no comparison between the peaceful and warlike alternatives. “


  6. Do Julie Fry and Peter Wilson in “Better Lives: Migration, Wellbeing and New Zealand” distinguish between low-wage immigration and high wage immigration? Both common sense and every serious authority I can find has low wage immigration as being against the interests of natives.

    The well-being approach reminds me that when I came to Auckland the average worker lived in a stand alone house which they owned and drove to work with by UK standards minimal traffic problems. Now the average worker cannot buy their home and they are being pushed towards apartment living and use of public transport and suffer severe congestion in bus or car. Most of the contributors to the GreaterAuckland blogsite are happy with this change minus the car and congestion. It is not why I came to Auckland and the Asian immigrants I talk to seem even keener on owning their own land with a house on it than I am.
    That is the problem with well-being – it is subjective. How do you value a unpolluted harbour or a large garden against a new town house and a crowded school and a queue at the hospital?


    • Unpolluted ……

      I grew up in Auckland. I was born there. Secondary schooling MT Roskill Grammar. Today on the MRGS website the school roll is 75% Asian, 15% Pasifika, 10% Maori and Pakeha. That is an spectacular change. When I was there the Asian roll was about 5%, Maori 10%, Pakeha 88%, Pasifika 0

      The change that I regret the most is the Auckland Viaduct Basin.

      It was an area reminiscent of the early 1900’s. One parked their car in Halsey St, walk across the barren causeway, wait at the drawbridge as the fishing vessels entered or left, then a 7 minute walk along Quay Street to the bottom of Queen Street

      It was the most tranquil marine setting within 30 minutes of the CBD. I would periodically journey there on a Sunday morning with the children, sit on a pylon and watch the lapping waters against the pylons. There would be a couple of recreational fishermen or children and perhaps another 3 or 4 locals enjoying the same sense of beauty and serenity and tranquillity. If you enjoyed the interface between the Waitemata (sparkling waters) and the land here it was.

      Then they won the America’s Cup and the burghers of Auckland transformed the Viaduct Basin and in doing so created a nightmare that pleases no one

      Read about it in Wikipedia

      This is an example of the lack of foresight and lack of planning and lack of understanding. There is no photo-history of the place available in the public domain. The now residents are not happy. The tourists and visitors are restricted. the outdoor spaces are restricted. Unable to find any planned vision of what they were trying to achieve other than unhappiness on the part of the current users and current inhabitants

      On another note, two members of my family (not immediate but close) enough, retired pensioners, not rich, have had health problems, have made a couple of not-wise decisions in their life, one of them happens to be Maori, have pulled the pin on Auckland, sold their modest house in Papatoetoe and are moving to Whangarei to free up some equity because living in Auckland is no longer pleasant or comfortable

      Liked by 1 person

      • I concur with your comments 100%. I remember driving to the tepid baths and parking where the turners fruit markets were based in the viaduct. Also ironically gum San foods which was a historic shed built by the American soldiers in ww2. The history of my city means nothing to anyone anymore. Instead I have to embrace Diwali and latern festival.


      • The Indian Diwali and Chinese lantern festivals are driven by greed for the tourist and international student dollar. Nothing really to do with migrants. These festivals are intended to draw tourists and international students. In my 30 years in NZ, I have only attended a Diwali festival once by accident and twice for the Lantern festival because I happened to live in the Waterloo Apartments and had to try and get to my carpark.


      • But then of course, International students are also call migrants and foreign workers that service the tourists are also called migrants. But never mind we will not separate out the real migrants from the temporary migrants.


  7. One prediction, from PwC, suggests the potential for deep job losses due to automation across the developed world: “Our analysis suggests that around 30% of UK jobs could potentially be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s, lower than the US (38%) or Germany (35%), but higher than Japan (21%). The risks appear highest in sectors such as transportation and storage (56%), manufacturing (46%) and wholesale and retail (44%), but lower in sectors like health and social work (17%).”

    These are the lower paid jobs; when it happens in NZ it will be socially divisive if we are multi-cultural but not if we all think we are Kiwis. Judging by my local ‘wholesale and retail’ outlets and the drivers on our buses there could be social problems ahead that could morph into ethnic troubles. I hope not.


  8. Michael,

    Have you considered writing a book yourself? There would be ample material from this site to develop into a book addressing NZ’s population or Big NZ policy over the past 25 years. A title could be ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’: How Big NZ Policy is holding NZ back… Anyway, I think you should consider it. Your ideas deserve a wider audience and media attention.


    • I have considered it (and even the title you suggest). Two things hold me back: books don’t sell many copies, and finding a publisher would be likely to be difficult (BWB runs quite a good series but with a strong left-liberal bias/emphasis). My ideas in this area have had reasonably good media coverage over the last few years, but no political traction.


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