Opinion: Little is right to question immigration

Andrew Little
Andrew Little

Andrew Little has made a good point on immigration. And he should carry on, it's the major issue alongside housing right now, especially in Auckland.

In my opinion, it's well past time to review our immigration policies and look closely at whether Kiwis are losing jobs to foreigners.

We need a proper debate. We need to ask: Where are we heading and what does success look like?

Does the Government have any idea? I sense not.

So Little now needs to back up yesterday's musings with some meat on the bones and some policy rather than just barking at the next passing car.

In the 2014 election Labour started talking about immigration - then backed away. Of course it's populist to talk immigration, but that doesn't mean there's no issue here.

There clearly is. And the Government knows it.

In the month ending April 2016, our net immigration gain was 68,100.

That is a record. And there is no sign of these numbers going backwards anytime soon despite Treasury's warnings in the Budget.

We have had 21 immigration records over the past 21 months.

These are truly remarkable times. Every month the numbers of arrivals increase to set a new record.

But is this real growth or is this a sugar hit the Government doesn't know how to manage?

If we pull back, could it collapse the housing market? I sense the Government has no idea but it certainly worries about that.

The Government has allowed this to happen and at all times it's claimed this to be a huge success and a vote of confidence in the economy - despite it now having the hallmarks of a runaway train.

Because, clearly some New Zealanders are now losing as a result. They are not better off.

We have an acute housing shortage. That's obvious. For every 140 people arriving in Auckland, only 80 of them can be housed. The housing crisis has reached desperate levels for some. Yet the Government refuses to accept immigration is to blame. They are clearly out of touch.

And it's not just housing where people are missing out. As Little has said we now have foreigners taking the jobs of Kiwis. And we shouldn't be surprised.

Treasury has warned us about this too. Not all immigration is good for the economy, they said.

I see it daily in Auckland. Pressure on the roads, in our schools, and in housing. Auckland is choking itself to death. Sitting on clogged roads and paying $1.2m for a shack is not 'living the dream.'

We have been let down, in my view.

We have pumped up demand without offering the supply answers.

And now Little's point about foreign workers taking Kiwi jobs rings true.

With 38,800 foreigners coming in on work visas over the last year, surely some of them are displacing New Zealanders who could do the job. Are we really that desperate for foreign workers?

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders remain out of work - yet there are jobs in rest homes, on farms and in orchards that we simply refuse to do or aren't being hired to do?

Is it because we won't work 18 days straight? Is it because we won't work for the minimum wage?

So why don't Kiwis get these jobs? Are we lazy and unreliable as Bill English suggested? I think in some areas we are.

Or are we not trying hard enough to get these Kiwis to do the jobs? There's a bit of that too.

Or are employers simply fed up with Kiwis and it's now easier to get cheap foreigners into the country. Of course it is.

Our open door policy means it's easy to game the system according to former Immigration Minister and now immigration agent, Tuariki Delamere.

He says it happens and he explained to me yesterday how it works.

Get a NZ employer to offer 10 jobs, a Kiwi immigration consultant and an overaseas agent to do a deal - a bit of money changes hands - 10 foreigners arrive on work visas to do the jobs that Kiwis apparently can't or won't do - and everyone wins - except the Kiwis who miss out.

I am not anti-immigration.

It's important and we will always need immigrants and their skills. Imagine a country without immigration - it would be awful and dull.

But right now I think these record immigration levels are putting huge pressures on Auckland especially. And some New Zealanders are clearly missing out as a result.

They're sleeping in cars and missing out on jobs.

The Government refuses to blame immigration - yet on that the Government's denials look weak and unconvincing.

We need a proper debate on immigration. What are we trying to achieve? Are some employers gaming the open-door policy? Are Kiwis missing out? Are Kiwis worse off as a result? Are continuing record immigration levels good for all New Zealanders?

I sense not.

Andrew Little needs to keep his foot on the throat.