Championing high immigration

The strongly pro-immigration political and business establishment must have been very grateful to the proprietors of the Herald for making so much space available for lengthy unpaid advertorials for high –  perhaps even higher – rates of immigration to New Zealand.  They even provided a journalist to write these paeans.

First, there was a double-page spread in Friday’s newspaper and then yesterday there was a further gung-ho column (under the heading “New Zealand leading the way on immigration debate”), both by Liam Dann.  When I saw yesterday’s column my first reaction was “yes, and the Pied Piper of Hamelin also found followers –  much good it did them”.

The double-page spread on Friday purported to be journalism: Dann had gone out and talked to various people, but every single one of them seemed to be either keen on high rates of immigration to New Zealand or wanting even more (wanting rules changed to be even more employer-friendly).  He even gave an uncritical platform for Statistics New Zealand, the agency which –  unable to conduct a competent Census – has now delivered us permanent and long-term net migration data that is so bad (in the short-term) that even the Reserve Bank the other day indicated that they were now reduced to forecasting flows starting nine months prior to the publication date of their forecasts (whereas previously they had good indicative data available on a timely basis).

Much of the initial story seemed to be built around a premise that the parties in government had not delivered on promises to lower net migration.     But then whenever he has been in government Winston Peters has never done anything material to make a difference to immigration numbers.   There is no sign he has ever regarded the issue as particularly important.  And, if you check out their 2017 manifesto they didn’t make such promises then either –  there was, for example, no suggestion of cutting residence approvals numbers.  Sure there was some loose talk of net migration numbers falling, but then official forecasts (eg those by the Treasury or the Reserve Bank) also had large cyclical falls projected back then.

What about Labour?   Despite attempts to suggest otherwise, they did not promise to reduce the net migration inflow by 25000 to 30000 per annum.   I wrote about their immigration policy proposals here, prior to the election.   What Labour promised was a series of changes around study and temporary work visas which, if implemented, might have had the effect of reducing the net inflow by those sort of numbers, for one year only.   Nothing Labour proposed would have affected residence approvals numbers at all, and thus nothing would have affected the projected net inflow over, say, a 5 to 10 year period.

Of course, none of this is to deny that both Labour (at least under Andrew Little) and New Zealand First might have been happy to try to create the impression that things would be materially different under them.  But nothing they promised would ever have done so, and (unsurprisingly) nothing they have delivered has.

And yet, amid all the breathless gung-ho stuff in the article, there is no mention at all of the substantial decline in the number of residence approvals granted over the last couple of years, no mention of the recent cut in the target rate of residence approvals, and nothing about the plans the government is now working on to managed residence approvals streams differently in future.  For anyone interested, I wrote about them here last week.

There are lots of small points I could pick up on.  There was the weird statement that “policy plans and population outlooks continue to assume that New Zealand’s net migration will fall back into negative territory”, which simply isn’t true: neither SNZ population projections, nor (say) Reserve Bank or Treasury forecasts assume the net flow turns negative, just that it slows.   Or the odd comparison that noted that our peak population growth rate (in 2017) “was more in line with sub-Saharan African countries like Sierra Leone” than with other advanced countries –  which might have made for some interesting comparisons (eg around economic performance) but was just left hanging.

But I was more interested in two lines in Friday’s article.  First, we had the prominent and doughty academic champion of high rates of immigration, Massey’s Paul Spoonley. who ran this line

More recently we’ve seen issues such as Auckland property prices and the Crafar farms sale. “There are distinct issues that trigger highly negative responses,” says Spoonley.

“What equalises that is the positive economic story and a relatively strong understanding of the role migration plays in that.

“We came through the GFC quite well and have done relatively well since … and what is important in that is the contribution that migration makes.”

I guess if you repeat nonsense often enough some people will believe you.  As a reminder:

  • New Zealand’s economic performance is among the very worst in the OECD, whether one looks back 70 years (about what the post-war immigration surge got going), 50 years, or 30 years,
  • There was nothing particularly attractive about New Zealand’s record in the (so-called) GFC, at least if one compares us to other countries with similar sorts of economic management (floating exchange rate, own monetary policy etc),
  • And, as even the economists who will champion New Zealand immigration policy will concede, there is no evidence specific to New Zealand that our immigration policy –  the most aggressive in the OECD over the last two decades –  has contributed to (an imaginery) economic success, or even mitigated our relative failure.

As for the most recent wave of immigration –  which Spoonley himself (rather exaggeratedly in my view) describes as unprecedented –  here is the chart showing New Zealand labour productivity growth (or near complete lack of it) from Friday’s post.

GDP phw may 19

On matters economic (and he is sociologist not an economist) Spoonley is making stuff up, which Lian Dann happily channels for him.

And then there was the population issue. On Dann’s telling

One thing is for sure: if New Zealand wants to maintain a growing population it needs positive net migration.

and he even gets Statistics New Zealand’s chief demographer in to try to buttress his case

There are other places such as Korea, China and western Europe where the natural rates of fertility are much lower than New Zealand’s.

“In some ways they’re a harbinger of where we’ll be in future decades,” he says.

New Zealand’s total fertility rate has been below replacement for decades now (since about 1980) but with no trend apparent for further drops (the rate is pretty stable at about 1.8 children per woman) –  nothing to suggest that our birth rate future is that of Korea or Italy.

But even if our fertility rate were dropping, what of it?  Such a drop would presumably be the result of voluntary choices by New Zealand couples.    What is it that leads Liam Dann to be so sure that we need, or want, continued population growth?  He doesn’t say.

(And doesn’t, for example, mention that –  all else equal – more people mean more emissions, not just in New Zealand but (since our emissions per capita are quite high) probably at global level as well.)

And what of Dann’s rather shorter (and thus probably more widely read) column yesterday?

He begins with the tired rhetorical trope

New Zealand has always been a nation of immigrants.The good news is that most of us understand that.

I’m not sure about his background, but I certainly don’t count myself as an immigrant.  But even if in some sense his factual statement was true, what of it?  It tells us nothing about appropriate immigration policy now (any more than, say, it might have in 1840, had Captain Hobson suggested to the Maori chiefs “you know, this land has always been a nation of immigrants”).

But then he tries to get into substance

However even if numbers ease it seems unlikely that we’ll see a return to the migration outflows we regularly experienced through the past 100 years.

The New Zealand story in the 21st century is very different to the 20th.

For starters our economy is more robust. The peaks and troughs have mellowed.

There are concerns about the fairness of the economic changes made in the 1980s and 1990s but they created a more flexible economy that is less vulnerable to external shocks.

There is so much wrong with this it is hard to know where to start.   First, these “significant outflows” were not common at all in our history: net outflows to Australia happened towards the end of the great Australian boom (shortly to be followed by a very nasty bust) in the 1880s, and there were small net outflows in the 1930s (the UK’s experience of the Great Depression was much worse than our own).   Significant outflows have only become a feature in New Zealand since our economic performance started lagging so far behind Australia’s.  Once we and they had similarly high incomes: these days we are very much the poor relation, and if net outflows to Australia are now not what they once were, it isn’t because those productivity or income gaps have narrowed, but because Australia is much less substantively welcoming to New Zealanders (who can still go any time they like) than they once were.  That is probably a wise choice by Australia, but it has further reduced options for New Zealanders.

Second, what about that spin about our economic cycles. Certainly, any boom this last decade has been very (very) subdued –  basically not a thing –  but perhaps Dann has forgotten that rather severe recession that occurred only 10 years ago.  And there is a certain incoherence in the suggestion that the 1980s reforms reduced the likelihood of migration outflows, when many of the large outflows of New Zealanders have occurred in the decades since the reforms.

Ah, but it is not just the economics. We are now such a with-it place that who (decent human beings anyway) wouldn’t want to live in New Zealand.

Then there is New Zealand’s cultural rise on the world stage.

We’re still a minnow but we are visible and our international media stereotype is of a cool, progressive sort of place – rather than a backwater.

The internet and cheap air travel have removed the tyranny of distance. The immigration boom has turned our largest cities into more cosmopolitan places.

New Zealand has become a place that young people are in less of a hurry to leave, a place that those who do leave are more inclined to return to.

It is also a place that potential immigrants are more likely to be aware of.

It is a place those wanting to escape the madness of the wider world aspire to – whether they are Middle Eastern people fleeing war zones, or Brits and Americans seeking more progressive political landscapes.

And yet, as even the Minister of Immigration’s Cabinet paper –  discussed last week – noted, we have struggled to attract many really high-quality immigrants.  There will always be many poor people happy to move to a relatively prosperous country, if that country will let them in, but not many really able people would have a really remote country, with a poor record on incomes and productivity, as their first choice.   Not inconsistent with that, the number of residence approvals has been dropping not rising.

And then Dann returns to the big-New Zealand rhetoric

That’s just as well. New Zealand’s population growth in the 21st century will be tied to immigration.

Our natural birth rate is falling and our population is ageing, following trends in Western Europe and demand.

Without a steady flow of migrants our economy faces stagnation.

With unemployment at historic lows, an international labour pool prepared to drive trucks, pick fruit and work tough, low-paid shifts in factories, rest homes and hospitals is now crucial to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing.

As a factual statement, of course immigration policy will have a huge bearing on New Zealand’s population future.  It has almost throughout modern New Zealand history (when immigration was less expansive –  between the wars, and from the mid 70s to the late 80s –  as well as when the doors are fairly wide open).

But the idea that with a flat, or even modestly falling, population we face economic stagnation, or an inability to manage “economic or social wellbeing”, is –  quite simply –  unsubstantiated rhetoric that (for example) pays no heed at all to the experience of other advanced countries with fairly flat, or even falling populations.    One could add in that unemployment isn’t at historic lows, and that countries with little or no immigration still manage to get the jobs done.    It isn’t clear why we should aspire to having more “low-paid shifts in factories” in the first place, but even setting that to one side,  economies have ways of adjusting to differing patterns of population growth: some activities just don’t need to be done as much if the population is flat (housebuilding is a good example), and changing relative prices (wages) will draw people into service roles. Unless, of course, immigration policy – as it seems to around, for example, the rest home sector – acts to stymie such adjustment.

I wonder if Liam Dann has any idea how the dozen OECD or EU countries that experienced falling populations in the last decade maanaged?

Central planner to the end, Dann ends his column this way

There’s room for more people in this country. We just need to invest realistically for population growth.

As a matter of geography, there is room for more people. There is physical room in almost country.  So perhaps “investment” is the operative word here, and yet we know that rates of business investment in New Zealand (share of GDP) have been towards the bottom of the OECD range for decades even though our population growth rate has been at the upper end of the OECD range.  Sure, there are issues about government infrastructure keeping pace with population growth, but the rather bigger issue is that private businesses have not seen the remunerative opportunities to invest here in ways that might have generated the sorts of incomes and material living standards our peers in leading advanced economies –  most of them with rather modest rates of population growth –  have come to take for granted.   That failure –  not just this year or last year (although very obviously through this particular immigration surge) –  is the market test that the boosters just never grapple with.    And before any comes back with a “but housing….New Zealanders invest too much in housing”, recall that (a) conventional wisdom is that there is a shortage, not a surplus, of houses, and (b) that without rapid population growth a much smaller proportion of scarce resources would have to be devoted to building houses.

Recall that the government’s new immigration policy objectives were about improving the wellbeing living standards of New Zealanders.  Current immigration policy is failing on that count.   In Friday’s article, the Minister of Immigration was running the party line

What we’re interested in is having an immigration system that supports the economic transition to an economy that is more inclusive and more productive.”

Sounds like a worthy goal. Just a shame that productivity growth has been so poor, and exports and imports have been shrinking as share of GDP.    Current policy –  and whatever tweaks the Minister has in the works –  seem unlikely to change that for the better.  The policy, in much the current form, has been tried for decades now and has failed.

Big New Zealand –  a sentiment championed by too many all the way back to Vogel at least –  is a costly delusion.  It is past time it was abandoned, and we concentrated on doing much better for the New Zealanders we already have in our remote and unpropitious corner of the world, far from markets, networks, supply chains, and (most)opportunities.

45 thoughts on “Championing high immigration

  1. I am not sure young people are less eager to leave. More a case of the UK – traditional place for young people to go – making it a much harder place for them work wise on their 2 year visa.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My cousin just visited from Tasmania with her partner, both in their early 60s. The sunny weather here in Auckland has been a paradise for them. They are now even more keen to sell up and migrate from Hobart to Auckland after having found out that Universal Super here in NZ is an entitlement rather than a privilege with no 10 year stand down period as Australian residents.


    • and Australia

      Is NZ’s ‘special bond’ with Australia a thing of the past?

      Kathryn Ryan
      What is driving this?
      Bernard Salt
      There has been a fundamental shift in the Australian demography particularly the last 10 years or so preliminary results from the 2016 census released one month ago show something quite unique. The western half of the country (Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territories) had quite a strong Anglo base (we draw our migrants from Anglo countries). The eastern side of the nation (particularly Victoria and New South Wales) are more likely to be Indian and Chinese . So the ethnic base (the source from which we are drawing migrants) has shifted in the last decade or so. I will say also the flow of Kiwis has reversed (the earthquake and a renewed energy with New Zealand). So there seems to be an ethnic basis to t(not a parting of the ways) but a slowing of the bond which had been there literally since resettlement.

      What is driving the politics?

      Well I do think the demographics are important : our shift in focus towards Asia (with the Chinese and the Indians). I don’t think it is so much a rejection of NZ as a pivot towards Asia. There was a shift away from the UK when Britain joined the EU. In some ways you could argue the same is happening here a shift towards Asia: Asian migration, Asian students, Asian implantation [ ?] infact. Our attention has been taken by South East Asia and as a consequence the politics may flow from that shift in thinking.

      The idea of New Zealanders being special is dissapearing apace (and was only based on a handshake between Whitlam and Kirk in the 1970s) and was always a matter of goodwill.

      “politics pushing in that direction”


  2. Instead of building 100,000 homes in 10 years, perhaps the Government could instead reduce net migration by 300-400,000 people (or 3-4 people per house). This could save up to 7 million tonnes of Carbon per year, or the equivalent of the methane emissions of 800,000 cows ([faultily] assuming the carbon emissions per person hold to the per capita rate we currently produce)

    Liked by 2 people

    • People are not usually counted because they would still have to eat sleep and emit carbon wherever they live on the planet. Therefore immigration in terms of carbon savings makes zero sense. You could argue that we could leave poor people around the world as poor people so that they continue to have a smaller carbon footprint.

      As we are a small nation with a massive carbon footprint due to our 10 million cows and agricultural production when we actually export 95% of that production we effectively subsidise the world’s food production.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was the implication – most of our migrants are from lower emitting areas – coming to NZ automatically makes your carbon footprint much larger, probably relating to transport emissions.I’d wager new migrants don’t spend all their setup costs buying the latest model, fuel efficient cars, but start off with an average (i.e. 14 year old) car and drive everywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

      • As per my other comment – the Zero Carbon Bill’s effects will fall most significantly on the poorest members of society. It may seem callous, but if the cost is already going to fall on the poorest members of our society, not bringing in the lower skilled (and thus not likely to fall into the high income brackets) migrants we seem to be bringing in will give effect to the Zero Carbon Bill’s intentions and mitigate the effects of the “housing crisis” in one fell swoop.

        Liked by 1 person

    • A very good point, from a Global Climate perspective they should perhaps be advocating a managed population reduction. “Big New Zealand” is surely bad for the environment and must contribute to Climate Change.

      Michael, I like the way you marked Dann’s essay, like a professor dicing the work of an undergraduate student.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Your article is a repeat of many of your previous articles about immigration. However it is worth saying it again since I have yet to read any reasoned counter argument.

    My concern about immigration is the inevitable exploitation and corruption involved with relatively low paid immigration. Even pro-immigration media publish articles on a regular basis that support Prof Stringer’s contention in her 2016 report that worker exploitation is widespread. This is one of the more recent:

    An earlier case (the details I cannot remember) caused me to write to Mr Lees-Galloway suggesting higher charges for work visas so that they could fund an adequate labour inspectorate. Two months later I received a pleasant reply saying he is concerned about migrant wellbeing and he has asked MBIE to “” undertake an in-depth research on temporary migrant worker exploitation in NZ. This will be a thorough review and will take time. “” He then says he expects to make decisions in 2019. Given my status as just an ordinary voter I was content that he (or his department) had made the effort to reply to the point I’d raised. [Whatever its faults MBIE has way better PR than Auckland Transport.]

    His letter concluded with “” this government recognises the numerous social and economic benefits of immigration and is committed to policies that ensure New Zealanders are first in line for jobs and training, and that migrants are not exploited. “”
    As an immigrant myself I acknowledge the social and economic benefits for migrants; in light of the Mr Reddell’s statistics not so sure for New Zealand as a whole. However my objection to Mr Lees-Galloway’s last paragraph is that it implies jobs and training as being of equal significant to preventing exploitation. Surely the first priority of a government is to have its laws obeyed; the economic value of jobs and training worthy as they are have to be secondary.


    • Thanks Bob. Yes, that whole mistreatment of immigrant workers dimension is totally missing from Dann’s article as well. I’m hesitant about the use of “exploitation” – since some of what is going on is mutually agreed, explicitly or otherwise – but the standards being observed should be totally unacceptable in NZ, whether mutually agreed or not (there are all sorts of things one can’t contract out of, or voluntarily contract to do). Tolerating such conduct corrodes the common standards any society must organise itself around.


      • The word ‘exploitation’ does mean treating someone unfairly so if it is mutually agreed maybe it is not exploitation. There are numerous labour laws in NZ and it cannot be left to employers and employees to decide which will be obeyed.

        Incidentally I am a frequent consumer of Indian sweets (a habit I picked up in Brick Lane, London E1) so there is a possibility that I have eaten the produce of those slave labour chefs.

        If our MPs had adult children with minimal qualifications about to enter the workforce then they might take the importing of 3rd world working conditions more seriously.

        I’ve just read Mr Dann’s article in Sunday’s paper. He says ‘without a steady flow of migrants ….’. Since we are discussing words what would an ordinary person define as ‘steady flow’? It can’t possiby be one, if not the highest, per capita flow rate for any advanced country.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. NZ’s immigration system is absurd and is lacking any strategic thought & direction from Government.

    1) Government should set a rolling immigration target aimed at maximising gdp/capita growth as well as taking into account climate change objectives (given our commitment is total, rather than per capita emissions)

    2) It makes sense from a planning perspective to keep the NZ fertility rate at near replacement rate, although this should also consider the gdp/capita goal in the detailed policy setting. The government does have some influence over the birth rate through the size of government transfer payments

    3) Make the employers bid for immigrant visa’s through a central government portal. Government accepts the highest bids up to the immigration target

    3) Employers then have the choice of:
    a) bid for an immigrant
    b) offer someone in NZ with the skills a higher wage to do the job
    c) train someone already in their company or already in NZ

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your 3rd point is sensible but I cannot imagine any party adopting it despite the benefit for govt revenue.

      These naive Sri Lankans appear to have spent $50,000 on useless diplomas as a gamble to get NZ residency. Very little of their money will have ended up as Govt revenue. We have a system that prefers to think about import revenue from Education than kindness to foreign families.
      The situation will occur often and is totally predictable. I blame our last government and since little has changes our current govt too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The “education industry” championed by former NZ governments for it’s contribution to the economy, in many cases offered a shoddy product (useless qualifications from dodgy “academies”) and ripped off people from developing countries. Who also seemed to have been given the impression that having completed one of these courses they could gain permanent residency in NZ. So the motivation to study in NZ was more residency than useful training to use back home.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Surprised you still read the Herald Michael. Their journalism is infantile and now they’ve instituted a paywall they are one step closer to the grave.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I have a subscription to the Herald. It is a curate’s egg. My sister-in-law who is a reitred journalist living in PNG was quite impressed by it when she visited. Compared to most popular UK newspapers the Herald is delightful.


  6. I have three children who each seem to read (skim through?) two (hardcopy) newspapers a day! Perhaps sadly, the tipping point hasn’t quite yet arrived while a vehicle as prominent as the Herald can just be ignored in the NZ debates.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Population growth gives us crowded roads, crowded schools, crowded hospitals, crowded beaches. And that’s even without mentioning housing. I can’t see the upside.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Food on the table from a larger economy and a larger tax pool. 70% of government revenue comes from PAYE and GST which equates to more people.


      • And that can’t be achieved with a stable population that replaces itself but does not grow? Right now the country produces literally more “food on the table” than it needs, that’s the competitive advantage we have in good agricultural soils and a kind climate. As a nation we had prosperity at 3.5 million, we have it 4.5 million. We don’t need growth to 5 or 6 million to insure future prosperity.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The problem is old people are not dying and you need young people to look after the old people. Or you do what the japanese do where they have 1 nurse to 90 dementia patient ratio. They use high tech techniques. Tie down dementia patients to their beds and administer sedatives. Sorry I mean low tech savagery and cruelty.


  8. There is some perfectly fine theory that suggest that more people, perhaps esp more skilled people, generates more ideas, and ideas are the foundation of long-term prosperity across much of the advanced world.

    In practice, it appears that such concentrations of people are more productive in some places – eg New York, San Francisco, Paris, London – than in other (very remote) places (call in Montana, the French Pyrenees, the Falkland Islands….or NZ). Much of our prosperity – and that of remote Australia – rests on exploiting a fixed stock of natural resources, for which more people is at best a mixed blesssing, and at worst something diminishing (perhaps slightly) the incomes of those already here.


    • The New Zealand Space Agency received high calibre applications from talented tertiary students studying STEM subjects. Four students, three based in New Zealand and one already studying in the US, have been accepted into the 2019 summer intake and granted scholarships by MBIE.

      We are certainly taking some baby steps towards the latest space technologies. Rocketlab IP(developed from Team NZ yacht carbon fibre tech should never have been sold to US interests and should have been kept in NZ. This is the only privately owned Space launch pad in the world and it is not in the ownership of the NZ government.

      Instead we will spend a billion dollars killing cows instead of buying up NZ IP.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those rocket emissions may be as bad for the environment as any belching cow. Perhaps we should be launching cows in space?


      • One rocket launch from NZ earns $7 million in retail sales value.

        It takes 63,636 cows(assume 22 litres milk production, 3 milkings, at $5 per litre a day) to generate an equivalent milk sales of $7 million sales revenue in a day.

        The milk production from cows is actually incredibly low when compared with the revenue of a single rocket launch.


      • Big deal it earns $7 million. How many rocket launches are required to equal the export revenue of the dairy industry and is that launch number even realistic? A bit of a ridiculous comparison really, a bit like saying if we had 50 Peter Jacksons we could retire the dairy industry.


      • If every nation which once farming was it’s top industry, and I would put almost all nations on earth once had farming as it’s top industries before they dared to venture forward to a technology based industry thought it ridiculous then every nation on earth would just continue to do farming as it’s top industries. If NZ believes all it is good for is farming then it is probably one of the last first world nation on earth that continue live in the age of the Roman empire.


      • Milk and meat is a $17 billion industry with 10 million cows. At $7 million a rocket launch, the launch rate is 7 rocket launches a day to achieve at least the $17 billion industry.

        But don’t forget the spin off is not just rocket launching, but also the parts that go into the rocket, the carbon fibre shell, the engine and various components, the R&D, the design. All of which can be separate industries in NZ.


  9. Dann’s comment here shows he is dealing in emotions and not facts…

    “It is a place those wanting to escape the madness of the wider world aspire to – whether they are Middle Eastern people fleeing war zones, or Brits and Americans seeking more progressive political landscapes.”

    By progressive I presume he means “good” in the Ardern sense of the world, and the reference to the Brits leaving is to Brexit, which is automatically assumed to be “bad” and a moral equivalent with Trump (the American side of the same coin).

    Brits who flee Brexit to NZ might be surprised to find themselves even more not in the EU than if they stayed. And for all the trumpeting of progressive politics, I seriously doubt NZ would ever join the EU as a full member, if that were ever an option (unlikely while there are still lazy French farmers).

    Also I would like to see his evidence for this statement:

    “New Zealand has become a place that young people are in less of a hurry to leave, a place that those who do leave are more inclined to return to.”

    I don’t think there is any evidence to suggest existing young-ish expats with families or about to start one, are moving back to NZ in any great numbers. Chief reason not to being house prices – Auckland might be quite exciting now as a city, but not as much as London, yet you will pay the same prices for housing (small apartments being the likely option in both cities) but with reduced professional opportunities, income etc.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. A really well-argued, balanced presentation by Douglas Murray on the European mass immigration experience, What struck me is that politicians there as here seem content to run massive immigration programs over many years without really thinking through the issues and consequences, both to the economy and to the wider society. If you’re pushed for time, just listen to the last 12 minutes or so.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Regarding the Douglas Murray video, I think he is an interesting commentator and worth listening to, but in the NZ context the topic of European immigration experience should be left to one side. The only similarity I see is that in both cases the political class have been tin eared about native voter discontent, but beyond this the respective situations are distinct.

      The NZ experience of immigration is in comparison to Europe extremely positive, notwithstanding the various accurate points made in this blog about it. Measures around social harmony, integration, economic performance are all positive in NZ’s case, at least when compared beside Europe (however NZ’s political class cannot take too much credit for that – the vast ocean boundaries helps NZ achieve a better type of migrant I suspect).

      I fear if you mix the European and the NZ issues, you will only help the pro-immigration (and China) lobby in NZ painting its opponents as alt-right xenophobes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m skeptical of what you say. Asia NZ Foundation 2017 say 41% think immigration from Asia will have a positive impact. The more you know about Asia the more positive you are (migrants?).

        Also Eric Kaufmann has demonstrated that Brexit and Trump were about identity threat. Why would NZ (once 94% European) be any different? Which disinterested party would do the polling?


      • Yes, the situations are distinct, I thought that was well enough understood not to need to state.

        But to suggest the European experience of mass migration therefore may be “left to one side” as irrelevant because we get “a better class of immigrant” is an odd and short-sighted argument in my view. It seems to presume, without basis, quite a lot. In particular, that the noted relatively positive outcomes in terms of integration and economic performance (?) come about because of some undefined but fortuitous qualities possessed by the immigrants who elect to come here. I find it hard to believe the legal migrants who come here are much different to those going to Australia or most other places.

        The argument also presumes that the same relatively positive indicators from mass migration we see today will continue tomorrow, next month next year. Yet one of the things the European experience has shown us is that situations can change very fast. Not much more than five years ago mass migration was nothing like the defining issue it is today in Europe, and outside of Europe. Who would have thought five years ago that Australia would be suffering from immigrant gangs in Melbourne or that Canada would, among other things, be filling hotels in at least one city with “asylum seekers” at taxpayer expense while nearby large number of homeless Canadian citizens in the same city live on the streets. The assertion that we have fared relatively well in the mass migration stakes to date is no guarantee that we will not face related challenges in future.

        Your view that a discussion of the issues Murray raises in a New Zealand context should be avoided because you fear the accusations of the pro-migration lobby is not an argument in a free society. But there may be lessons that we can apply to help us improve our approach today, or prepare for the eventualities before they face us, rather than rely on the appropriateness of the knee-jerk reactions most favoured by politicians when faced by something they didn’t expect. I believe we have a right to and should be trusted to discuss issues concerning the future nature of our society in a thoughtful and balanced way. So I disagree entirely with that view.

        The underlying political, cultural forces driving mass migration programs here are much the same as they are in Europe and indeed most places in the West. Quite a lot of what Murray talks about isn’t specific to Europe. When he asks “if diversity is such an unalloyed good, is there any limit to the benefit it brings … must more always mean better?” – he could be speaking to us. Businesses wanting cheap labour and the left are presently aligned under the diversity banner. Now companies, institutions, media, educational facilities present this as an obvious good, even an objective good – diversity is now seen as an end in its own right, and, as Murray notes, “as if this was the purpose all along” to mass migration. It is seen as such an obvious good that even to tamely question this assertion may result in the questioner being accused of various pejorative ‘isms’. Yet no one asks or can answer whether the “diversity dividend” increases additively or compounds, or whether in fact there may be a declining marginal benefit at some point. He also reasonably asks, why is it only Europe (or European cultures) where the benefits of diversity are thought to accrue? “No one preaches that to succeed China needs to become a migrant economy because they need to become more diverse”.

        Finally, I will add I am fine living in a diverse society, and stress my comments are not directed at immigration per se but at mass migration and risks posed by the extreme ideologies now coat-tailing on the mass migration cause.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Measures around social harmony, integration, economic performance are all positive in NZ’s case”

        I don’t think we know that. Do we really trust Paul Spoonley, Simon Draper, Richard Bedform and those who have built their careers on a great transformation of society. For one thing they are opposed to the evolutionary psychology of Jon Haidt and Steven Pinker & (in Spoonley’s case) informed by Critical theory.
        Meta analysis shows that increasing diversity is negatively related to social cohesion. Why should NZrs be any different.
        . Why shouldn’t a “xenophobe” desire to live in a society that has a degree of closure. There is evidence of immigrant groups holding ethnocentric attitudes to Anglo Australians (for example). If our society has a racist rump why wouldn’t immigrant groups also be so inclined. I’m not talking about high IQ, high status individuals here, they can move about.


  11. Mass low skilled immigration makes us poorer by reducing per capita productivity, overburdening infrastructure and services, pushing up housing costs, degrading the environment and adding to our carbon bill, and suppressing investment in new technology to replace repetitive unskilled work. It is a Ponzi scheme which relies on successive waves of new immigrants to give a sugar rush to the economy by temporarily increasing demand. Low skilled immigrants however consume more than they produce and the long term trend is self-defeating. I can’t be bothered with the Herald anymore or much of the New Zealand “legacy” media which would have been quite at home in the former GDR pushing out state propaganda.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your first three sentences are a good summary of my own opinion. However a case for immigration can be made; the countries with just about zero immigration are not to be recommended: North Korea, Burma, Somalia. But there are small countries that have preserved their culture with effectively no immigration, would be fine places to live but are very fragile in a modern world: for example Bhutan. And there are larger countries with minimal immigration that have increasing productivity and more wealth than NZ such as South Korea.
      I expect we all know some Kiwi who arrived from overseas but is a highly valuable asset to NZ. The problem is with the numbers and the quality; as previously said we all can remember some friend or acquaintence who is a migrant who has made NZ a better place and in Auckland we meet pleasant efficient recent immigrants at the checkout – nothing wrong with any single one of them but there is something wrong with the quantity. We have a 2.1% annual growth of our largest city; a city with a long proven record of poorly planned development. Surely time for a serious cut back until we have no families living in cars, garages, motels and dangerously damp slums.
      Just put things back to Mr Dann’s ‘steady flow’ and select migrants carefully and NZ would do fine. Why no take the average immigrant per capita for an OECD country and make it our target.


  12. Too much media influence from these people

    CORIN You don’t want immigration to fall, though, do you? I just want to say something. I saw you in a speech after the Budget, and you were speaking to a big room of businesspeople – some of the biggest business minds in the country – and you stood up and you said, “Don’t worry about Treasury’s figure or estimation that it will go back to the trend of 12,000.” You were confident it was going to be a lot higher than that.

    JOHN I just think it’s unlikely it will go to 12,000.

    CORIN But it was like you wanted immigration to go up, because you were telling them, “Don’t worry. The demand in the economy is going to stay there. That’s what’s keeping New Zealand afloat.”

    Plus high status progressives who see the situation in simple terms of racist versus non racist.


  13. There is an article in Quillette about communitarianism.

    “This philosophy of public life gained traction throughout the 1990s, crested with the turn of the new millennium, and then went into sharp decline. Is its moment about to return?” – Celebrate diversity?

    “Even among the conservative pundit class, a zone which one might justifiably think of as a major source of societal division, polemicists such as Glenn Beck and Ben Shapiro, perhaps surprisingly to some, increasingly advocate a culture of reconciliation and virtue as a means of restoring social fabric and community. And they do so in terms that (sometimes) reach across conventional political divides.

    Similar activity is visible on the Left. Princeton Professor Cornell West, long an icon among leftists from the academy to the street, has taken to touring the country alongside conservative professor Robert P. George, modeling civil disagreement, empathy, and the power of shared virtue to forge civic bonds. Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome (about whom Arthur Brooks writes at length) and former Obama administration official Van Jones have spoken across the country and to conservative audiences about the need for empathy and understanding across party lines.”

    We don’t see much of that here it is the establishment versus “white supremacists”?

    I made a complaint to RNZ about Giles Beckfords program “hidden in plain sight” about “white supremacists” (more sizzle than sausage). On the basis that there was no acknowledgement of context involving proactive government policies, such as, “an optimistic plan of social engineering” (Heeringa 1996) and the need for an “institutionalisation of public discourse” plus no popular mandate (Parr2000) etc. RNZ’s charter states it has to be neutral.


  14. Michael. In this old National advert they say that immigration will lead to unemployment, yet that hasn’t happened. I know you say that an increase in immigration leads to a demand shock. Back then we also had unions. In fact though we have also had an increase in low value services.

    Ian Harrison says it is (based on a simple model) a decrease in marginal product per additional worker in a land based economy too far away to be a major manufacturing center.

    Tourism lecturer David Williams says:

    ” Yes this is a long term trend that not many people in NZ want to talk about, it affects all but the elite workforce and it’s a result of the neo- liberal revolution in the 1980s, we have gained considerable economic growth and consumer choice, but the rewards of that growth are increasingly concentrated into the hands of the ones with established capital, wages earners are losing year after year. “


    • That advert is a quite astonishing period piece, some of which today’s Greens would be proud of. The connection from immigration to unemployment is as wrong then as it is now, and the real issue they should have focused on was the risks to economy wide productivity and real wages, at least in a remote natural resource dependent country.

      Liked by 1 person

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