Immigration backdown shows National is the pro-immigration party

Prime Minister Bill English had a message for big business and employers on Thursday. Don't worry, be happy - we are backing down on our proposed immigration changes.

You can pay immigrant workers less - and keep them for longer.

Today's announcement is a u-turn after a revolt ranging from big city employers to those in the regions, like Southland farmer Jono Breach.

"The Government doesn't normally listen and finally they have," Mr Breach said.

The Government's original plan was for immigrants to have a three-year cap in New Zealand unless they were paid more than $48,839 a year or $23.50 per hour.

But under today's backdown, immigrants now only need to be paid over $41,859 a year or $20.00 per hour to avoid the cap. That pushes the threshold down closer to the minimum wage, which is $15.75 an hour.

Labour Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway says it has the potential to drive down wages.

"If employers are not prepared to make sure that their jobs are attractive."

But famers are still not that impressed.

"Calls for the immigration changes to address significant labour shortages in rural areas have obviously fallen on deaf ears," Federated Farmers Immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

Mr Breach says: "It's given us that long-term planning ability and a stable workforce and that's what we need."

The change will have a very real and immediate impact - about 6000 - 7000 workers will get to stay on.

It is now clearer than ever before that National is the pro-immigration party. As seen from the backlash to the original policy - there's plenty of support for that.

But the pro-immigration stance remains risky when it comes to questions about house prices, wages and traffic.