Labour calls for cuts to immigration

Labour calls for cuts to immigration

Cracks are opening in the Labour-Greens relationship as the Green Party distances itself from calls for a tougher stance on immigration.

Labour leader Andrew Little wants the Government to cut back the number of foreign workers allowed to come here.

But Greens co-leader James Shaw believes that's scare-mongering.

"I think turning immigration into political football in terms of the effect it's having on the Auckland housing crisis is damaging, and I think that really tears the fabric of New Zealand society," says Mr Shaw. "What we want to do here is have a very calm and rational conversation about it."

Mr Little is suggesting unemployed Kiwis should be pressured to take local jobs before they're offered to immigrants.

Immigration has hit a record high of around 69,000 new arrivals a year, of which more than half are foreign students or people on temporary work permits.

Mr Little says it makes no sense that businesses are looking overseas to find people for basic jobs like hospitality and dairy work.

"Some employers say, 'Well I just can't get anybody locally, so I'll have to recruit offshore,'" says Mr Little. "So maybe we have to work a little harder to get people to pick up jobs that we know are going and that locals can fill."

Mr Little wants to cut back the number of work visas given to foreigners. 

"As the economy is slowing, as unemployment is rising, this is the time to issue fewer work permits," Mr Little says. 

He says there's an increasing number of temporary work permits being allocated to visitors, despite a challenging economic climate in New Zealand. 

"Look at the number of work visas being issued. There were 38,000 last year, compared to 33,000 the year before. At a time when the economy is slowing, that doesn't make sense," he says. 

Mr Little denies it's a cap, but says numbers need to be "managed". 

"I've never talked about capping. I know it's been reported previously that I have done. What I do support is an active management of immigration needs, particularly when it comes to people coming here for work," he says.

"We are entitled to look at our conditions here when our economy is slowing when unemployment is rising."

But Finance Minister Bill English says the number of people applying for residency is no higher now than 10 years ago, and a fall in immigration could lead to a fall in house prices. 

"You can see a scenario out in front where if migration does drop off, where interest rates start rising and if reducing demand and higher cost in debt could mean that people [homeowners] are finding themselves pretty stretched," says Mr English.

Peters' immigration call rubbished

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has rubbished NZ First leader Winston Peters' call to dramatically slash immigration.

Over the weekend, Mr Peters said New Zealand must reduce its net immigration figures to between 7000 and 15,000 a year.

He said the country's at "breaking point" and there's growing pressure on infrastructure.

But Mr Woodhouse said Mr Peters' idea is unworkable.

"How would you get it down to 15,000?" he told reporters today.

"Effectively that would be fewer than the number of Kiwis who are bringing their spouses and children in. It really is unworkable."

Newshub. / NZN