Regional revolt prompts Government rethink on immigration

Newshub can reveal the Government is on the brink of a major backdown and it's on one of the election's big issues - immigration.

Immigration was due to be tightened on August 14 but there's been a backlash from employers and the regions.

Sources have told Newshub the Government is set to back down and keep the gates open.

Examples of the revolt include Southland, which wants 10,000 more people.

"Good Kiwis are hard to find. Guys don't want to let their good Kiwis go," farmer Hayden Nicholson told Newshub.

"I wouldn't. I wouldn't let any good Kiwi go."

Jono Breach also knows how hard it is to get a "good Kiwi". He just got an application from one, so checked his Facebook page.

"His first picture was with wads of cash and bags of drugs, and I'm like, 'Well!'," he told Newshub.

That's why farmers down in Southland have turned to immigrant labour, mainly Filipinos, like "Choco", who loves the work, and even says he likes the Southland frost.

"This is the weather that I really like... because it is frost in the morning, but after 9am or 10am, it's really warm and really good weather."

Mr Breach says those are the types of people they need in Southland. But there's a problem. The Government has proposed a tightening of immigration rules, due to come into force next month. Under the proposed changes, any immigrant earning less than $23.50 an hour, or $48,859 a year, will be deemed "unskilled".

They will face a three-year cap on working here, with a one-year stand-down from New Zealand. They also can't bring their families and children with them.

Farmers say a lot of work on farms is only economical at less than $23.50 an hour and not having long-term certainty or family will make it hard to get - or keep - immigrants.

"We're saying to these people, 'You're not good enough; we won't give you that.' It's just not on," Mr Breach says.

The message from Southland is simple - we need immigrants. They're telling the Government to back down and stop the proposed changes.

"We are still discussing immigration as a 'one-size-fits-all' policy," Cross Country immigration consultant Ben De'Ath says.

"How can the needs of Auckland, which faces gridlock and housing issues, how can that be the same as Southland?"

Prime Minister Bill English is clearly considering a backdown, telling Newshub: "We're listening to what's being said.

"We're well aware of the strong demand for jobs and we'll take that into account when we finalise the policy."

And even NZ First leader Winston Peters is sympathetic towards the regions needing immigrants.

"The ideal would be to have New Zealanders to do it. The problem is farm incomes are not high enough to do it."

But from the South, there's a clear message to Mr English - down on the farm, there's a revolt going on.