Immigration is inherently a political issue

In the few days after the Christchurch shootings, a few of the more rabid on the left appeared to want to rule out of court any discussion – ever –  about immigration policy.  Immigration was good –  was their prior –  and more immigration better, and no correspondence could be entered into.  Decent people don’t discuss such issues, except perhaps to celebrate.

The other day we had a similar sort of voice from another point on the political compass, this time in a column from Kirk Hope, the head of the leading lobby group advocating for the interests of businesses, BusinessNZ.   Despite counting myself pretty strongly pro-market (not at all the same as pro-business) I don’t often agree with Hope (I just googled his name and the name of this blog to remind myself of some of his more-egregious previous claims).  But Stuff seems to think him worth publishing, and he does head a pretty big advocacy group.

Hope’s key assertion?

One of the challenges we must face is for our politicians to stop treating the topic of immigration and immigrants as politics.

What a breathtaking proposition.   One of the most substantial instruments of government economic and social policy and Kirk Hope thinks that it shouldn’t be debated by politicians (let alone, presumably, the rest of us). Politics isn’t a bad thing –  as Hope seems to imply –  but something pretty fundamental, a big part of how we decide (and refine that view) what sort of country this will be.

As it happens, Kirk Hope never actually says how he thinks immigration policy should be decided, if not by politicians, weighed competing interests and claims.  Perhaps by BusinessNZ?   He never even tells us what his own preferred policy is.  Perhaps is he just some open-borders absolutist who thinks the very idea of an “immigration policy” is abhorent?   Probably not (there aren’t really very many advocates anywhere for such a policy).  My guess is that he’d like to keep on with something like our current immigration policy (probably the most aggressive anywhere in the advanced world), and just a bit more.   He doesn’t tell us, just urges that “politics” be removed from the process, all while advancing a mix of threadbare and/or flawed arguments for high rates of non-citizen immigration.

So how does Hope make his case?

First, there is the tired rhetorical trope about “a nation of immigrants”

It is a truth that New Zealanders are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, and we are ethnically diverse.

Which is pretty meaningless, offensive, and acts to diminish people’s sense of identity with New Zealand.  If all human beings are ultimately descended from people emerging from, say, the Rift Valley, at very least everyone other than perhaps Kenyans and Tanzanians is descended from immigrants.  But what of it?  Closer to home, the ancestors of the Maori population came many hundreds of years ago.  They have no other home.  I’m have no idea of Hope’s ancestry, but I’m one of those (of European descent) with no other home but New Zealand –  I’ve never known an ancestor who wasn’t born in New Zealand.  But again, so what?  It is simply irrelevant to the question of how many people we should import now, on what terms, with what skills or backgrounds.   Like many who run the line, Hope makes no effort to draw out any logical implications from his factual statement –  presumably because there aren’t any.

Then we get another factual statement with few/no implications

It is also true that the demographics for New Zealanders born in New Zealand tell a story of aging and regional depopulation.

And?   People leave regions when the opportunities in those regions aren’t particularly attractive.   There is no obvious role for central planners (like Mr Hope) to argue for policy initiatives to repopulate areas they happen to think aren’t growing fast enough.  I suspect that Hope is also hoping to skate over the evidence that New Zealanders have been leaving the region of Auckland for most of the last 20+ years.   And if great opportunities do exist in particular regions, wage adjustments are likely to act as an effective signal (higher wages never seem to be part of how business lobby groups think markets should deal with incipient “labour shortages”).

Then we get a grab bag of statements inviting a “so what?”

We will soon have more people aged over 65 than under 15 years of age. Auckland and New Zealand will be dependent on immigration for skills. Two out of every five New Zealanders will live in Auckland, nearly a third of them Asian.

Isn’t it great –  something to celebrate –  that life expectancy is improving so much that there is an increasing share of the population aged (well) over 65?  Apparently not to Mr Hope.     Or was his (central planning again?) concern that New Zealand couples aren’t having enough babies?

And what of that strange claim about skills?  Is Mr Hope deliberately avoiding the OECD skills data showing not only that New Zealand workers had among the very highest skill levels in the OECD, but that immigrant workers on average had lower skills than natives (that gap is smaller in New Zealand than most, but still there)?  Let alone the official SNZ data that confirmed again last month how poorly the Auckland economy does (GDP per capita) relative to, say, big cities in many other (overall more successful, typically with less immigration) OECD countries.   Inconvenient I suppose.

Then claims start getting more far-fetched

The labour market needs to grow by 1.5 per cent to support moderate economic growth of 2.5 per cent, but actual labour market growth tends to be under 1 per cent. Workforce exits are increasing, while workforce entry levels are modest and declining.   Our people shortage is getting worse.

This is just nonsense stuff.  Sure, all else equal, if your population growth rate is faster so will the rate of growth of GDP.  But – unless you are raising an army –  total GDP doesn’t much matter to anyone.  What matters, more closely, is real GDP per capita and the real GDP per hour worked that undermines that per capita growth.   If, say, the population were static –  as it now is in many OECD countries – 1.5 per cent annual GDP growth would be a quite reasonable outcome.    As Mr Hope surely knows, we’ve had almost no productivity growth recently (despite, because of, or just coinciding with very strong immigration).

A central planner apparently to the core –  did he tell the (generally pro-market) people at BusinessNZ this when he was hired? –  Mr Hope is alarmed about “people shortages”.   This just incoherent stuff, and he shows no sign that he has looked, even cursorily, at how countries are managing where the population is flat or even falling a bit?  As a hint –  but he could check the data himself –  most are achieving faster growth in per capita income and productivity than New Zealand is.

He offers some strange arguments about how we need immigrants to “replace” New Zealanders who are retiring and yet a little later on even he acknowledges that  immigrants themselves get old.  If there are fiscal problems associated with increasing life expectancies –  and there are – why wouldn’t you tackle those directly (eg raising the NZS eligibility age)?

We are then get back to some other claims

Immigration contributes to population and economic growth, provides an expanded talent pool, helps us understand overseas markets, and contributes to the diversity and vitality of New Zealand communities.

I’d be impressed –  though still not thinking that immigration policy should be taken out of the realm of politics –  if he’d claimed (and offered New Zealand evidence for) that rapid New Zealand immigration had boosted productivity growth.  We never know the counterfactual, of course, but in our decades of high non-citizen immigration, we’ve made no progress at all in closing the productivity gaps, and have actually fallen further behind.  Oh, and “understand overseas markets”…..well, perhaps, except that New Zealand has one of the very worst exports (as a share of GDP) performances of any OECD country –  levels and changes –  despite all that immigration.

Not content with the evidence-free-zone so far, Hope ups his rhetoric

Our people shortage is critical now because of the opportunities that are opening for New Zealand business.

The successful completion of the giant Pacific trade deal CPTPP and the likely completion of an European-New Zealand trade deal mean 46 more markets will soon be open to enhanced trade with New Zealand businesses.

So, while our markets are expanding our working population is reducing.

So despite having probably the largest (per capita) non-citizen programme in the OECD, it just isn’t enough.    He calls for even more.

Even serious defenders of the New Zealand immigration programme will be embarrassed by this particular line.  After all, no serious analyst claims that CPTPP will be worth more than perhaps a 1 per cent boost to GDP –  and serious analysts would claim those gains would come through terms and trade and higher productivity, not conditioned on even more people.  As for the EU, I know Hope is a big advocate of that possible deal, but as I pointed out in debunking an earlier article containing his over-egged claims (that the EU deal might finally be what transformed our –  already –  “rockstar economy”), the best sober estimate of the GDP gains from Canada’s “free trade” agreement with the EU was about 0.5 per cent.

And wasn’t there the small point that, despite all the various trade deals New Zealand has signed up over recent decades – including those with Australia and the PRC –  and the reduction in global agricultural protectionism, exports and imports have been falling as a share of New Zealand GDP.  Perhaps another million migrants will make all the difference?  But perhaps not.

Hope ends by getting out the violins

We need to ensure that our political thinking more clearly acknowledges that we are an immigrant nation at our core, that we truly value diversity, that we are inclusive and will celebrate and support new New Zealanders as we all grow our economy and standard of living, contributing to our communities and our future.

I could –  and would- reframe this as something along these lines

We need to ensure that our political thinking more clearly acknowledges that after one of the largest-scale immigration programmes undertaken anywhere in recent decades, there is little or no evidence of economic gains for New Zealanders, and at least the possibility that such rapid rates of immigration, to a location so remote, have made us poorer rather than richer.  Responsibility for that rests not with the migrants themselves –  almost all of them as simply pursuing the best for themselves and their families –  but with our own political and business leaders, who have championed an ideological cause (with both globalist and bigger-New Zealand strands) even as the economic evidence in support of their claims has failed to arrive.  Notwithstanding a wider range of ethnic restaurants (and associated consumption diversity), there has simply been no compelling evidence –  as there is none globally –  that “diversity and inclusion” (as distinct from the ongoing contest of ideas) has produced any economic gains whatever.    If anything, New Zealanders at the bottom of the socio-economic heaps have been paying an increasing price for this obeisance to an “elite” ideology.

I’m still left rather gobsmacked that a supposedly serious public figure can, apparently seriously, suggest that immigration is other than a natural and appropriate subject for intensive political debate.   What is more fundamental to a country than the people who make it up, and yet that is what immigration policy influences very heavily, at least when done on the huge scale our politicians have chosen in New Zealand.  Even at a narrowly-economic level, it represents a significant change in the overall resource mix and productive structure of the economy (especially in a country as natural resource dependent as New Zealand or Australia).

Immigration policy doesn’t make that much difference in any particular year, but we’ve been running something like current immigration policy now since the early 1990s.  In 1992, New Zealand’s population was about 3.5 million. In the years from 1992/93, we’ve granted residence status to more than 1.1 million non-citizens.  That is a huge number.   Some, perhaps many, will think it is a “good thing” –  for various possible reasons –  and others will think it a disastrously bad choice (that’s my view, even if more apparent in hindsight than it could have been in 1992).  Even among those who think it a bad choice, some (me) will emphasise overall economic performance arguments.  Others might emphasise real world second-bests around housing, or traffice congestion, or just a preference for being small.  Others again might emphasise environmental pressures.  Others might raise concerns about precisely the sort of “diversity” Kirk Hope and the cheerleaders celebrate, highlighting issues around cohesion, trust, mutual support etc. And others too might be uneasy about large-scale immigration does to the relative place of Maori in New Zealand.  Some might just think that the ideological etc make-up of future New Zealand should be determined by the individual choices of New Zealanders, not by politicians skewing the future population one way or another.  But all those disputes are naturally and appropriately the stuff of politics.   Given our relative economic underperformance, notwithstanding decades of large scale immigration, all these angles should be debated more vigorously, not less.

Most of my own arguments around New Zealand’s immigration policy have been economic in nature.  On its own, the economic track record should have been more than enough basis for a rethink, were it not for the ideological priors of the champions.  Perhaps the most accessible version of my economic story is here, in a speech I did 18 months or so ago.

I have occasionally commented on various social and cultural dimensions, including in two posts sparked by the 2017 New Zealand Initiative report on immigration policy (here and here) and in some remarks on diversity, and its limits in a stable democracy, here.

I was also reading yesterday an  interesting article from the latest issue of The Atlantic by David Frum on US immigration, experience and policy.  Frum is a pretty determined never-Trumper, and yet he concludes his article this way

Reducing immigration, and selecting immigrants more carefully, will enable the country to more quickly and successfully absorb the people who come here, and to ensure equality of opportunity to both the newly arrived and the long-settled—to restore to Americans the feeling of belonging to one united nation, responsible for the care and flourishing of all its people.

Every country is different, but it is worth recalling that US immigration policy –  under all recent presidents – has targeted non-citizens inflow about one third those of New Zealand (in per capita terms).  I don’t agree with everything in his article, and some of the issues are different for New Zealand than for the US –  there is a more plausible argument in the US context that immigration is roughly a wash (in economic terms) for natives than there is here – but I thought it was a piece worth reading and reflecting on.  I wonder what Mr Hope would make of it?


60 thoughts on “Immigration is inherently a political issue

  1. I recall Stephen Franks saying that there were two issues that were not allowed to be debated -even at election time. One was immigration and the other was Maori separatism and it has largely remained true with all parties generally not willing to debate them. I suspect that the massacre in Christhurch has made the debate on immigration even less likely in future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may be right, altho I suspect there is a possibility that out of Chch there will be a new and more intense polarisation of politics – possibly from both sides. If so, immigration would almost certainly get caught up in the mix.

      But whether or not there is much political debate, I’ll keep on pointing out how unusual our immigration policy is and how threadbare (or worse) the apparent econ results are.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I think the Christchurch shooting has brought immigration to the fore. We have islamic calls to prayer on RNZ while they openly support decolonisation. They doubled down after Brexit and Trump, now they treble down.

      The Christchurch shootings were ultimately a result of the progressive left’s policies of opening up European countries to non Europeans en masse while suppressing opposition. Business NZ represents advertisers while the “left-modernists” control the other half so they have a hegemony over public discourse.

      Only 41% think immigration from Asia will have a positive impact and the results are skewed towards “those with most knowledge” of Asia.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sorethumb: “The Christchurch shootings were ultimately a result of the progressive left’s policies of opening up European countries to non Europeans en masse while suppressing opposition.“ Isn’t this very similar to the views of fundemantalist Islamist terorists? Shame on you, and shame on you Michael for not deleting this comment.

        I cannot imagine what you guys would have written if the killer was a Muslim migrant.


      • I very rarely delete comments, whether or not I agree with them. Personal attacks and bad language prompt me to get out the censor’s pen, not just unpopular opinions.


      • Isn’t this very similar to the views of fundemantalist Islamist terorists?

        The killers motivation was ethno-nationalism. The progressive left (left-modernists) took the initiative by globalising immigration into European countries with the goal of creating a new type of society where no ethnic group dominates. A negative response was predictable – including possible outliers.

        Islamic extremists appear to be concerned about western influence but don’t have an issue with immigration by non Muslims?


  2. Yes, immigration is an inherently political subject. It can have a major impact on infrastructure, services and the environment as well as overall prosperity. All of these dimensions are part of regular political discourse. As regards “diversity”, there was a time, not so long ago, when those administering the refugee quota in particular took care to ensure that people were selected who had some chance of integrating into their new society and making a contribution to it. Policymakers were concerned both for the well-being of the refugees themselves and the long term public acceptance of the refugee quota which they hoped would prove sustainable and even open to gradual expansion.The resettlement in New Zealand of refugees from the wars in Indochina was an outstanding example of the success of this policy. Where are we now?

    Liked by 2 people

    • An Iraqi refugee says his family has had to endure cold and damp living conditions in Dunedin because they were not given enough information about the home they were moving into.It is the latest in a series of complaints by refugees who have come to the city – who say their accommodation is not up the scratch and is even making them sick.

      Judging from the photos, this is the standard housing stock in NZ for most families. It actually looks like a property I live in myself. An aged bungalow done up for a reasonable living conditions but not perfect as it is old. But refugees have a higher expectation as they perceive us as 1st world and wealthy and their living and cooking habits tend to sustain a higher level of maintenance on appliances.

      But because it will be cold and damp especially if clothing are being washed and dried indoors, and the perception is that they are being ill treated, this makes for easy targets to be radicalised in the future. Coming from a hot climate and tossed into a cold climate would be torture conditions.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Immigration is one of those topics that is becoming increasingly difficult to discuss because it has been totally politicised. Even worse, it has most recently become ‘identity politicised’ particularly by those on the left.

    The economic case for immigration is contestable, but the real question that cannot be discussed in polite society are the cultural implications; or as you phrased it “what sort of country this will be”? Are we animated by ‘western cultural values’ or are we moving towards some kind of multi-cultural utopia where we all learn to co-exist despite our various and manifest differences? If that’s the aim, what will our legal and judicial framework look like? After all, our justice system is a codification of our cultural values. It seems improbable that we can successfully accomodate every culture’s view of what is ‘just’, so which viewpoint will prevail, and at what cost to social cohesion?

    If you look around the world, most people live in a predominantly uni-cultural environments. As commentator Mark Steyn has opined, multiculturalism is a predominantly a uni-cultural phenomena found only in the West. Japan in not interested in multiculturalism. Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran etc are not interested in multiculturalism, and perhaps with the exception of Jordan, neither are they interested in taking any fellow Muslim refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

    All of which suggests that multiculturalism is not a destination, but rather a transit stop on the way to the next uni-cultural destination. The open question for us in the West is what will that destination look like? A culture primarily informed by Athens and Jerusalem as ours once was (and to a great extent still is), or by Mecca and Medina? If you think they can live successfully side by side as one nation, then you haven’t been paying attention.

    There is still time in New Zealand where this conversation is possible. I don’t believe it exists any more in Britain, France, Belgium and Germany to name but a few European countries. Hungary has had this conversation and settled on Athens and Jerusalem, but it helps that their leaders are students of history and care nothing for political correctness.

    Liked by 5 people

    • You might wonder why we have to overcome our cultural differences to get to a new end point. The left-modernists think they are the “one ring the binds them”, but other cultures pour scorn on them.

      “Put simply, the government embarked on an optimistic plan of social engineering to transform New Zealand into an ‘Asian’ country; unfortunately, it did a poor job of publicising its intent or rationale. Under the slogan that a global economy required global citizens, an ambitious plan was hatched to restructure society around an Asian axis. But these initiatives moved too quickly for most people, ignored the need to consult or convince people of the importance of any fundamental shift, and did little to monitor the impact of immigration on public perception (Heeringa 1996). “

      Paul Spoonley Recalling Aotearoa.

      Then they discovered they could just dominate the discourse. Now they are getting desperate, Paul Spoonley is equivocating between banning and open discourse, where open discourse is Smart Talk at the Auckland Museum or The Spinoff.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think our own culture clash (like that in the US) is still most likely to be between Christians and aggressive secular liberals (see for example Rod Dreher’s post today In a way, it has been surprising it hasn’t been more intense here yet, and the Chch attacks may now intensify it. Immigration – esp cultural diverse immigration – will be a plaything in that debate, but probably not the main event.


    • Perhaps.

      My sense is that Christianity in New Zealand, as expressed through the institutional Churches, has ceded the public square to the secular liberals a long time ago. The battles over abortion, same sex marriage, legalisation of prostitution etc have all been fought as rear guard actions by a diminishing minority and lost.

      As further evidence, I don’t see the Church willing to engage in the debate over gender diversity (for example). They simply failed to turn up.

      The USA is different because there still remains in that country a robust expression of the Christian faith, something now largely absent from the rest of the Western world, NZ included.

      It is precisely because we have ceased to know who we are in New Zealand, that we are vulnerable to ideologies (however numerically small) who have a cultural confidence and an assurance of their ultimate victory.

      How many communists do you think there were in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, I’m assuming a clear-cut win for the aggressive secular liberals (as Dreher really expects in the US). Institutional churches are largely hopeless as you say. I guess my point mostly was that I don’t see the Islam-related issues as being the key dividing lines of any increased polarisation in NZ, and in some areas the small Islamic community would have overlapping interests with traditional Christians.
        (I suspect that to the extent there is large-scale societal fracturing it is more likely to be along racial lines: whether Maori/other or re the Chinese population if large scale immigration were to continue)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Race (and racism) is rarely a problem in New Zealand, despite all of the recent talk to the contrary. Yes there are individual racists no doubt, (of all ethnicities) but there is no systemic or institutional racism in New Zealand, or at least none I have experienced or am aware of. (no doubt someone will correct me here).

        Islam is another matter. Overseas experience has shown that it is simply a numbers game.

        1% of the population who are followers of Islam as we have in New Zealand – no problem.

        5% as in England then you have everything we have seen there in recent years including Islamist inspired terrorist violence, ghettoisation, refusal by large sections to integrate, no-go-zones, women kept at home with no English language, extensive cousin marriages, FMG, honour killings, forced marriages, and 80 Sharia Law courts operating a parallel justice system dealing with ‘family law’ matters.

        8-10% as exists in France then you have Britain only more so.

        That’s not a criticism of individual Muslims. I have employed Muslims, our family has resettled Muslim refugees, and they were / are peaceful people and excellent citizens.

        But here is the problem: Polls show that two thirds of British Muslims would not inform the police if they thought that somebody close to them had become involved with terrorist sympathisers. More than half of Muslims think that homosexuality should be illegal in Britain and 23 per cent of Muslims want Sharia to replace British law in certain parts of the country.

        The findings also revealed that 39 per cent of Muslims thought that their wives should always obey their husbands and 31 per cent thought it was acceptable to have more than one wife. A shocking five per cent of Muslims sympathised with people who took part in stoning adulterers. 

        These facts appear unimportant to our politicians and officials who uphold an agnostic approach to religious ideology when it comes to immigration policy. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others. That’s not who we are.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I largely agree re Islam, but in a sense that is my point: to date very little Islamic migration to nz or the US.

        Race hasn’t been a fracturing line here yet, but I fear it may become one.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Whitecloud – of course older people are more likely to make submissions to the Auckland long term plan: they have experience of how things have been messed up in the past. Of course the important feature of those 26,000 submissions is their quality – it only needs one submission with a really good idea to make a difference and then who cares who submitted it. I don’t blame Lemauga Lydia Sosene for grabbing at an idea to increase her political clout.
        On the other hand the Herald (I am a subscriber) published an article last week with the headline “”Racism in health service kills: study”” which claimed your survival rate depends on your race and bad luck if you are Maori or Pasifika. And that was disgusting; the least racism you will find anywhere is in New Zealand hospitals – rather obvious if you note the multitude of ethnicities that are working and the way all staff members are interacting with patients. After Christchurch accusing anyone of racism is bad but accusing the health service where staff have been attacked in the car park at end of shift (two recent cases) is dangerous and of course casual PI and Maori readers may decide to postpone medical treatment if they believe the health service is racist. Two close members of my family, both Pasifica, have been treated recently for matters of life and death and they have remarked at how lucky they are to be living in NZ and getting superb care. Incidentally if you read the article one of the definitions of an unnecessary death was living in state housing!

        Liked by 1 person

      • From having spent time visiting my mother in hospital, I don’t think it is a race issue. I think it is a weight issue. Most of the nursing and grooming staff are puny Asians studying as interns that have expected to do the heavy lifting. My mother was dropped twice whilst in hospital getting around from the bed to the various facilities including regular exercise and she is only a skinny 65kg. The lifting equipment is hardly used in the hospital and there is no use of safety straps to the ceiling to assist patients from falling as they try and get patients from bed to get some exercise and movement.

        Staying in bed too long kills as blood clots. Polynesian and Maori patients are at least 150kg and above. It is clearly a struggle to get them out of bed and moving around to prevent blood clotting.


      • I was a Christian until I read The Sermon on The Mount by Emmet Fox.

        His analysis rationalised the message out of existence (for me)


      • @sorethumb

        “I was a Christian until I read The Sermon on The Mount by Emmet Fox.”

        If reading one critique of Christianity can destroy your faith, chances are your understanding of Christ was only superficial at best. Over the centuries to the present day there are many thousands of Christians who have chosen a martyrs death rather than renounce their faith.

        None of us knows how we would react if we were faced with that choice, but you may be inspired by an Italian tailor named Antonio Primaldi who lived and worked in the town of Otranto in the year 1480.


      • I think you don’t have the right to judge another person’s beliefs and ‘superficial’. You can disagree with them on all levels but judging them less than your own (which you ARE doing ) is most unpleasant and possibly unchristian as well.


    • I’m not a Christian but I am culturally Christian. I like to see the churches and religious traditions. At primary school the minister used to come once a week and there was once “Readings from the Bible” on RNZ. Sunday school brought us and our cousins around the Sunday dinner table. I was somewhat piqued at the unmarried Adern decked up to look like Mary Magdalene.


  5. the Australian Experience where migration rate has been half NZ’s

    At 30 June 2017 there were 299,400 working age Australians from migrant and refugee backgrounds on working age (welfare) payments, 35 per cent male and 65 per cent female. The latest valuation shows the expected average future lifetime cost for migrants and refugees receiving working age payments is $340,000 per person. The estimated total future lifetime cost for the group is $101.9 billion. On average, this group is expected to receive income support for some or all of 30 years over the rest of their lives. Thirty-two per cent are expected to receive income support for some or all of every year for the rest of their lives. If nothing changes, 56 per cent will be receiving income support payments in 10 years, and 52 per cent will be receiving income support payments in 20 years.

    Click to access ttl_t2_migrants_and_refugees_accessible_no_text_box.pdf

    Migrants and refugees on income support

     65 per cent are female
     85 per cent live in major cities
     78 per cent have a non-English speaking background

    Does NZ have any corresponding data?

    Liked by 2 people

    • There is some relevant data (as I recall, cited in Julie Fry’s 2014 Tsy working paper). From memory, Brits and South Africans tend to match native earnings very quickly, while many other migrants take up to 20 years (half a working life). There isn’t a huge issue with migrants and welfare here (partly because of some skills screening) but many refugees really do struggle (which in a way isn’t surprising – bringing people often with few/no skills to an utterly different sort of culture/society

      Liked by 1 person

      • One in three new permanent residents is a partner – my own New Zealand daughter found her man overseas. You cannot be certain what skills they bring. There is some correlation between couples: usually an educated person has an educated partner. I’m not sure how many mail order brides have managed to get in but the INZ website used to have and maybe still does have a section for traditionally arranged marriages where the lucky partner arrives and has 3 months to get hitched. All part of accepting different values.


      • One of my colleagues, a single professional 60 year old kiwi born provided a defacto residency to a 30 year old Brazilian waitress on a holiday visa. The only condition is sex on tap until she gets her residency approved by immigration. He is now waiting for his standdown period, I think around 2 years, to lapse and then he would do it again. Migrants come into NZ in many ways.

        Liked by 1 person

      • GGS: I believe you can only sponsor one partner. Maybe if they die you get a second chance. However I am sure you have a good point – residency by partnership is open to abuse but then most of the residency classes are open for abuse.


      • Really only one partner? Wonder how his newest 23 year old Russian girlfriend would feel if she knows he can’t sponsor her?


  6. As someone with no Māori heritage but with ancestors arriving in NZ in 1823 on one side, I do not consider myself anything but a New Zealander. How many generations will it take to become a “New Zealander” in Kirk Hope’s eyes? If voting participation is anything to go by, 3 generations of immigrants vote in the same numbers and with similar preferences than everyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately a New Zealander is now 2nd class . Our 1st class category is Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi.


  7. They say the trouble with social media (I think this blogsite qualifies as social media or do I have to learn to twit and facebook?) is we read what we agree with and avoid what may challenge us. So I’m looking for a different approach to the subject. Isn’t the problem with immigration as it is discussed by both those for and against the fact that it is too general a term. Compare with the argument about alcohol being good or bad – a single NZ craft ale about three times a week gives me considerable pleasure and doctors have been known to recommend a generous glass of red wine for elderly patients; however my first job was at a Scottish railways station where the drinkers of methylated spirits were effectively committing suicide in stages.

    Quality and quantity are relevant. For example Whiteclouds statistics for Australia may relate to their taking more refugees (legal and illegal) than NZ. I suspect we deliberately do not publish data because some ethnicities would stand out compared to others and because the data would reveal the majority of immigrants are doing low paid work with all its implications for training Kiwis and income inequality.

    Reading the never ending flow of articles about rorts and corruption relating to low paid immigrants and seeing how income inequality has increased (specifically how my four children cannot even dream of buying a house whereas I did in London three years out of university as a single man with no assistance from my parents) convinces me that low-skill immigration is a very strong issue for left-wing politicians. We really do need a political party that will stand up for the ordinary working person (showing my age I had written ‘man’). 16 years living in New Zealand is turning me into a radical socialist.

    Immigration the issue we cannot discuss? Well maybe we could ask Mr Kirk and our political leaders (a) the current level of granting residency is about 45,000 per year; do you want it increased or decreased and if so by how much? (b) if we do maintain a quota what is the best way of identifying who will benefit NZ most?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reading your comment, I realised I’d left off ‘evident rorts and corruption’ as another reason for some not to like our current immigration policy.

      On your point as to whether debates are too general, yes there is a risk of that, altho in practice most are debating actual NZ immigration policy. There is a hypothetical world in which we could do immigration in ways that made natives better off, but one of such approaches (aim for the really really talented and driven probably couldn’t be done at scale here (NZ just isn’t Silicon Valley or London), and the other – rotate thru really really poor unskilled people on temp visas to drive down services prices – is probably morally (and certainly politically) unacceptable. In practice, you are soon left debating something like what we have now and variants on it – scale, composition, salary thresholds, any cultural tests etc.


      • I would be very happy to have a discussion of scale, composition, salary thresholds, any cultural tests although cultural tests do tend to be a bit of a joke.

        Just because we are not Silicon Valley doesn’t mean we do not have attractions for a very small subset of the truly exceptionally talented and driven. Dealing with INZ would put most such people off.

        How can you say “” rotate thru really really poor unskilled people on temp visas to drive down services prices – is probably morally (and certainly politically) unacceptable.”” when I assumed it was govt policy. How elese does Richie’s recruit bus drivers?


      • Largely agree re cultural tests. I did a post a while ago having a go at ACT’s suggestion of a values test. Having said that I would staunchly oppose a million Muslim migrants ( even totally peaceful ones) or a million Afrikaner migrants, essentially on cultural grounds.

        Yes, we could get a few more really top notch people. My point was only about scale. I’d prefer 10-15k residence approvals, of which perhaps 4000 might, over time, be partners, 2000 refugees, and the rest allocated only to exceptionally able people.

        On your final point, point taken in part, but (a) I had in mind much much less skilled people, (b) in larger numbers, (c) strictly with no pathway to residence. To be clear, I am not advocating it, but the econ textbook would tell you there are economic gains to be had.

        (Going by the ongoing problems with Wgtn buses, it can’t be as easy as they hoped to get in unskilled migrants to do the job)


      • It is dangerous to challenge figures with you but partners will never get down to 4,000 in any foreseeable future. There are too many New Zealand citizens travelling overseas and often working for extended periods overseas. A reduction in selling study for citizenship would help but not by that extent.

        I’m totally happy to spend the money on refugees, I would even increase it, but not necessarily by bringing them to New Zealand; a UK cabinet minister claimed they could support over 20 refugees in camps for the cost of bring one to the UK. So we seem to be running a special lottery for 65 million refugees – for every one we take 64,999 miss out.

        A final figure of 10k to 15k seems reasonable since you have previously stated you would reduce numbers gradually and judge by results.


      • Hi Bob

        You wrote: “I’m totally happy to spend the money on refugees, I would even increase it, but not necessarily by bringing them to New Zealand; a UK cabinet minister claimed they could support over 20 refugees in camps for the cost of bring one to the UK. So we seem to be running a special lottery for 65 million refugees – for every one we take 64,999 miss out.”

        I agree with you. This is effectively the ‘Good Samaritan’ strategy. It’s a story Jesus told when asked “who is my neighbour?” The Good Samaritan discovered the stranger injured on the road and took him to a safe ‘third space’ to recover (an Inn) and paid for his care. Note well, he did not take the injured man home to live with his family, or his community. He facilitated his care such that he would be able to return home to his own family and community when he recovered.

        Not only is this a cost effective strategy as you pointed out, but it’s the most socially responsible strategy for everyone. We also resettled Vietnamese refugees here, and my heart went out to them because they were used to living their lives outdoors, in the streets of an evening, eating with neighbours, being part of the community. Here they were indoors, behind fences, isolated, alone. Sure they were ‘safe’ but what kind of life did they have? I suspect this is the experience of most refugees here in NZ who are not only physically displaced, but also culturally displaced.


      • We’ve discussed the partner issue (and numbers) before. Much of the current number relates to the ongoing high rates of residence approvals. Cut those back and the number of future partners will also drop (much of the partner numbers don’t relate to longstanding NZers). I’d even happily recast the range: since partner numbers will never be capped (but shld be rigorously tested to catch lawbreakers like GGS’s colleague), exclude them and set a target range for the rest of, say, 5-10K pa. Policy debates should focus on bits policy can meaningful influence/control.


      • It is rather difficult for a lowly immigration officer to challenge a 60year old professional who lives in Parnell, drives a Ferrari and has access to high powered lawyers who says he is in love.


  8. That fracturing along racial lines is already happening and if you are not aware of that then you are not close enough to the education system to see. The preoccupation of the left with identity politucs pretty well guarantees that this will just get worse. It’s so ironic that Martin Luther King’s admonishion to judge people by the strength of their character and not by the colour of their skin might occasionally be quoted but exactly the opposite is often applied. The actions of the Hastings District Council last week just illustrates that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It has been contended by some that the alleged Christchurch killer was inspired by identity politics and extreme Green views. I believe this is correct. Unfortunately the Censor has decided we cannot read his declaration of his beliefs leaving the way open for Green extremists and others to accuse conservative New Zealanders of “white supremacism”. If the trial is held in public we will see and hear for ourselves perhaps.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. The macro-economic side of the immigration debate is being done in a vacuum with lots of opinion and limited robust analysis (not that its easy given its a living system)

    New Zealand simply has no scientifically and economically based population strategy.

    This is no way to govern a country.

    NZ should get on with it and do the business case study & analysis.

    Clearly there are significant dis-economies of scale of excessively high immigration rates in excess of the country’s resourcing capacity – as exemplified in Auckland. Very low immigration (if also accompanied by a low birth rate) would lead to deflationary pressures.

    One would expect the study would find that an immigration rate that maximises gdp per capita would be an optimal or near optimal policy.

    The population strategy would also have to deal with the details of maximising the value of immigrants so they meet the skill needs of the NZ market whilst providing a better balance with the costs of training NZ citizens/residents.

    I still advocate for the 12 month rolling rate of immigration to the RBNZ. They can then cross balance that and the cash rate to manage price stability.

    The government is left to deal with the details of the immigration policy & managing the fiscal cost.


  10. The aging population thing has been debunked by numerous studies has it not Michael? Unless underlying economic fundamentals change you finish up with a much, much larger population?


    • Not sure what studies they are but clearly wrong. The numbers cannot lie. Health care and aged care is the largest growing service industries in NZ. Dementia patients if they don’t die from starvation is escalating at a scary trajectory. My dementia aunt in Sydney died because they forgot to feed her. But speaking to one of my mothers health caregiver. It takes her at least 2 hours to feed a dementia patient. That’s a 6 hour day for breakfast, lunch and dinner by one healthcare professional. The other option is to skip meals to save costs. Skip too many meals and the patient dies.


      • So it is OK to strip the developing world of its caregivers leaving their elderly to die without help? It is morally wrong not to tackle our problem with our people.


      • There are 4 million Syrian and other middle eastern refugees in Turkey waiting for settlement. The problem with taking in muslim refugees is that they are not very good healthcare professionals. It is rather difficult for a muslim to manhandle a stark naked white infidel and clean up his poop. It is best that we focus on taking in only the Christian refugees seeking a better life. Around 300 Nigerian Christians were butchered just last month by muslim radicals. We could have taken those in as part of our refugee intake program and straight into training as our healthcare professionals instead of leaving them as rotting corpses would have been the moral thing to do.


  11. Hi Brendan,

    If it is risky discussing numbers with Mr Reddell (see the Migration Data Explorer at where partnership approvals dropped just below 10k last year but would appear to be going up again) then it must be even braver for a atheist to discuss the bible.
    For example I’m skeptical about ‘turn the other cheek’; it may have worked for Ghandi with the British and Martin Luther King in USA but it was ineffective for the Jews defending themselves against German anti-semitism. However I have no doubts about the parable of the Good Samaritan which tells you almost all you need to know about racism. It is important to grasp that the Samaritans were the enemy; when you recall the story you need to mentally substitute with ‘patched gang member’ or ‘fervant Muslim preacher’ or whatever is your enemy group. However I think Jesus might well have said ‘took him home and asked his wife to feed him’. I agree that asking him to stay forever changes the parables meaning.

    A story from PNG. I asked an Engan colleague if she had had a good Xmas holidays (faux-pas since she is SDA and they don’t celebrate) but being polite she ignored that and told me she and her husband had spent two days searching for her mother-in-law who had mental problems. Eventually they found her being looked after by a Sepik Christian family who had found her in the street in great distress, wailing, ripping her clothes and covering herself in mud; they had taken her in, washed her with a hose, given her some of the wife’s clothes and were looking after her until someone identified her. Note that Engan and Sepik are more distinct than say Tibetan and Welsh. That story has always been my example of genuine Christian belief.

    So while I generally agree with your analysis there are situations where NZ should take permanent refugees. For example climate change refugees from Pacific Islands. During WW2 there was a cruise liner full of Jewish refugees that went around the Atlantic looking for some country that would take them. After the war the UN produced its refugee convention and protocol.

    I do not know what the good Samaritan would have done if there had been dozens of injured merchants or if they might have been beggars pretending an injury or if his house was next to the nearest inn. However the reasonable assumption is he would have tried to do his best.


    • Hi Bob

      I would be cautious in contesting any numbers with Michael, but I’m confident of the numbers I quoted in my 9/11 ‘doubling’ statement:

      Muslims: 2001 census (9/11) – 23,631
      2013 census – 46,139

      I’d imagine the numbers have continued to increase in the last three years, but as Michael has also reflected, we may be waiting a long time for the most recent census data.

      I’m always glad when an Atheist such as (presumably) yourself takes time to reflect on Jesus teaching. Not only did he expect his disciples to ‘turn the other cheek’ but to ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ (Luke 6:37-36) Jesus exampled this teaching in his own life, although as his disciples our track record has been mixed.

      Jesus appeared not to be overly concerned about how this turned out for his disciples in this life. His Kingdom, he reminded them (and us), is not of this world albeit his life and message has been transformational for hundreds of millions of people, and continues to this day – but I digress…. However I must say your Sepik Christian family exampled Jesus teaching perfectly, and in a way that still resonates with you (and me) today. An example of deep personal transformation that (perhaps) leaves us without excuse, or at the very least occasion to reflect?

      The thing about public policy, refugee, immigration or otherwise is that it cannot be based upon exceptions. It can only be based on what we wish to be normative. If there are exceptional circumstances, then yes, let’s take refugees but on the basis that they will return to their homelands when the war, or natural disaster is over, which in most cases it will be in a few years. I’m not convinced we do refugees or ourselves a favour by providing a permanent home, displaced from their homeland and culture. It’s noteworthy that since 9/11 it is often second generation Muslims who have been radicalised and become terrorists in the west. There is no way the UNHCR or our immigration services can screen against that exposure.

      So, yes, I’m keen on the Good Samaritan approach to refugees with the exceptions being temporary rather than permanent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nothing wrong with the numbers provided by Michael. The main problem is in the interpretation and conclusions drawn by Michael appears severely lacking in correlation studies or common practical sense.


  12. I have always enjoyed interaction with our refugees from Indochina, eg the Vietnamese. An entrepreneurial, family-oriented, extremely hard working group of people from a highly sophisticated and attractive culture. They didn’t bring any baggage, despite having experienced tremendous suffering, and they were keen to get stuck in and improve their lot on arriving in their new home. Great New Zealanders.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree. I have a lot of time for the Indo-China refugees that were settled in NZ. A Vietnamese family bought a house next to my mother 20 years ago, pooling all their wages income to make the purchase/ service the bank loan.Since then we’ve observed the next generation grow up, fluent English speakers all involved in small businesses. They are prospering through hard work, not waiting for handouts. I’ve seen the same with Lao refugee families in the local hot bread shop. Hard working people who are successful because they are determined and came with nothing. But here’s the thing with these folk. They don’t expect New Zealand to become Vietnam or Laos. They don’t expect the host country to change at all, to accommodate them or make them comfortable. They retain their culture (and religion) while respecting and succeeding in New Zealand’s unique European/Pacific culture.
      In my opinion, that is the only type of immigrant that should be accepted, whatever the policy on annual numbers is. People who are willing to integrate into the New Zealand way of life. And that’s how you achieve real social cohesion. Not telling the majority culture “these people are different to us, so we need to change to make them feel part of us.” The migrant must always be prepared to make the bigger change.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was involved in setting refugee quota policy many years ago, and in dealing with UNHCR, and this is the kind of positive outcome for both the refugees and New Zealand we were striving for back then. But I fear the ideologues have long since taken over. In regard to the Middle East, there appears to be active discrimination against Christians and other persecuted minorities like the Yazidis. It is a disgrace.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, I am fedup with seeing my favourite Pork McRib with a not available sign and I object to my KFC being halal ie prayed over by some voodoo priest.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Immigration contributes to population and economic growth, provides an expanded talent pool, helps us understand overseas markets, and contributes to the diversity and vitality of New Zealand communities

    Unfortunately, “diversity” and “community” are two, mutually exclusive concepts…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. He does the typical conflation between immigrant and immigration. In the scenario where some immigrants are murdered, one should not be insensitive and anti-immigrant, but that is quite different from being anti-immigration.

    The second classic illogic in this is citing today’s changed situation as support for further changes – “Two out of every five New Zealanders will live in Auckland, nearly a third of them Asian.” Right – so what? Perhaps, that was a policy mistake to arrive at that situation. Perhaps it wasn’t. The modern liberal left loves this argument – you don’t want to be on the wrong side of progress, do you? Progress being what they describe it as.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. @Fan-Srancisco

    The killer Tarrant’s manifesto (which we are no longer allowed to possess) is entitled ‘The Great Replacement’. In it he states that he was motivated to commit this terrible crime because he saw indigenous European peoples being replaced by migrants from north Africa and the Middle East.

    It’s a pity our censor has banned the document because it provides insight into his ideology and what drove him. The best analysis I have seen so far can be found here:

    The thing is this is; it is possible to agree, at least in part with Tarrant’s analysis without for one moment supporting or condoning his actions. Europe is in serious demographic decline, is culturally exhausted, and abstracted from its animating story. At the same time has taken in over 1.5 million migrants from North Africa and the Middle East who don’t become European simply by landing on their soil. I’d encourage you to read Douglas Murray’s excellent book, the Strange Death of Europe:

    None of this justifies Tarrant’s actions. It does however highlight the issues that are bubbling beneath the surface in Europe and other western nations including Australia and New Zealand. I saw an interview with Douglas Murray where he talks about Europe’s political response which started out being ‘there is no problem here, and besides it’s too small to bother about’ and then transitioning into: ‘this is too big to deal with’. We are in the first stage here in NZ.


    • Agreed, I left my home country because of Muslims encroaching into every corner and this incessant screeching that they blare out on loud speaker that they call prayer, 5 times a day. I left for the peace and quiet of New Zealand, a Christian nation. Now I get to hear it blared over radio and TV and to top it they want to screech on Anzac day as well. Horrors.


  16. “immigrant workers on average had lower skills than natives (that gap is smaller in New Zealand than most, but still there)”

    Sounds like we should emulate the immigration policies of more successful countries, like the USA, by increasing immigration until the migrant-native skill gap here is the same as there.


  17. Friday’s attack should remind us that in most Western democracies, the number of deadly events motivated by extreme-right beliefs is considerably higher than those motivated by Islamist extremism. That said, it is mainly an underground and unorganized threat, and those who shape public opinion should be careful of blaming those operating in the public sphere and within legal boundaries such as radical right parties or anti-immigrant protest movements. There is actually a negative correlation between electoral support for radical right parties in Western democracies and the levels of deadly attacks with an extreme-right motivation.


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