James Shaw 'sorry' after immigration policy slammed as racist

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has apologised for how the party introduced its immigration policy last year, which was slammed as "racist pandering" by migrant groups.

Mr Shaw spoke to the Federation of Multicultural Councils on Saturday, and said he was "mortified" by the criticism.

In 2016, Mr Shaw told Three's The Nation a sustainable policy should be based on about 1 percent of population growth, and said the Government's target of shaving 5000 residency approvals off migration numbers didn't go far enough.

"We think that the country needs a more sustainable immigration policy, so what we'd do is set a variable approvals target based on a percentage of the overall population. That would be at about 1 percent of the population, which is historically how fast New Zealand's population has grown."

However, he has now backtracked from his earlier statements.

"Last year I made an attempt to try and shift the terms of the debate away from the rhetoric and more towards a more evidence-based approach," he told the audience.

"Unfortunately, by talking about data and numbers, rather than about values, I made things worse.

"Because the background terms of the debate are now so dominated by anti-immigrant rhetoric, when I dived into numbers and data, a lot of people interpreted that as pandering to the rhetoric, rather than trying to elevate the debate and pull it in a different direction.

"We were mortified by that, because, in fact, the Greens have the ambition of being the most migrant-friendly party in Parliament. And I am sorry for any effect it may have had on your communities."

His apology has been welcomed by migrant groups.

"It's good to see a politician respond to criticism, and shift towards pro-migrant messaging," says Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign's Wellington Central candidate Gayaal Iddamalgoda.

"The call for a 1 percent immigration cap cloaked racist pandering under pseudo-scientific rhetoric, so we welcome this apparent retraction.

"We hope this shift in messaging remains consistent, and will continue to campaign for migrant and refugee rights."

Newshub.