Migrant numbers 'exceeded' expectations

Michael Woodhouse (Simon Wong)
Michael Woodhouse (Simon Wong)

The Government has announced a major crackdown on immigration.

It's cutting the number of resident approvals by 5000 over the next two years.

The number allowed in under the family category will drop by 3500, and it's closing applications for the category that lets parents of recent New Zealand residents move here too.

It's also making it tougher for those applying on the merit of their skills and experience.

Earlier this year Vanessa Zimmerman packed up life and family in South Africa and moved to New Zealand. Now, the final piece to the puzzle - permanent residency - could prove difficult.

"We had no idea this was going to come about, the change in immigration law, and it has left us devastated."

The Government says last year's migration numbers "exceeded" expectations. Since 2013, migration has seen a steady increase from around 65,000 a year to 94,000 in the year to August.

Now, after months of defending those numbers, the Government has buckled.

"Certainly there's strong demand - I want to make sure that we control the number of people coming in," says Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.

"There's no question this is a pretty big U-turn under pressure," says Labour leader Andrew Little.

Residence approvals will now be set at 95,000.

Migrant numbers 'exceeded' expectations

The parent category will be closed temporarily, Mr Woodhouse concerned about the quality of applications - in particular "the commitments that have been made by both them and their children about support, wherein after gaining residence they are not in a position to sustain themselves".

Labour claims the plan fails to tackle the real problem.

"It doesn't look like it addresses the real issue, which is those on temporary visas coming into semi-skilled roles, which the Reserve Bank and Treasury says is driving down wages," says Mr Little.

"There is a concern that there might be a form of wage suppression," says Mr Woodhouse. "We're watching this closely - we don't believe the evidence is there that that's the case."

Work permits are currently under review, but there are no plans to reduce holiday work permits.