Govt on immigration: 'We can't turn off the tap'

Labour has called the Government's promised infrastructure boost both "too little, too late" and "irresponsible" in its scope.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce on Thursday said $11 billion would be spent over the next few years on top of existing plans. Few specifics were given, with more details expected in next month's Budget.

Speaking to The AM Show on Friday morning, Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni said Kiwis are "looking around, feeling like the health system isn't serving them right, the education system is feeling inadequate".

"As for transport, if you live in Auckland it's the bane of everyone's existence."

National MP Judith Collins, also on The AM Show, agreed New Zealand has long neglected infrastructure.

"We underdo everything, because we always think we're not very big and we won't get very big because we lose lots of people to Australia… nowadays we're getting Aussies coming here to live."

The difference now is the Government's books are back in the black, and there's room to both spend and pay down debt.

"You can't spend on infrastructure if you don't have the money to spend on infrastructure. We are now in a financial situation where we can commit not just for now, but the next four years."

While saying $11 billion was not enough, Ms Sepuloni also said turning on the spending tap was "irresponsible" given the Government's long-stated desire to cut taxes.

"Judith has just said there's only a certain amount of money, but they're still considering tax cuts."

But Mr Joyce said on Thursday tax cuts were off the table this year, with only bracket adjustments under consideration.

Record immigration - help or hindrance?

Labour has promised to cut immigration by tens of thousands, blaming the record numbers of new arrivals are pushing the transport system and housing to their limits. Ms Collins says this would send a harmful message to the rest of the world.

"If you just turn off the tap today, the message goes out New Zealand's not interested in new skills, new people coming in or more capital coming in. That can have a flow-on effect for years.

"We are competing with countries like Canada, Australia, the states, the UK for skilled immigrants and people who can actually add value - and most immigrants add tremendously in terms of GDP, skills and what they bring to New Zealand.

"We're all the children of immigrants or grandchildren or great-grandchildren. New Zealand is built on immigration."

Labour has yet to release its immigration policy.

Earlier this week party leader Andrew Little slammed potential coalition partner Winston Peters' claim "Asian immigrant" journalists have been writing "propaganda", calling the New Zealand First leader's comments "out of order".

Labour itself has been accused of dog-whistling, particularly during the "Chinese-sounding names" controversy of 2015.

Ms Sepuloni told The AM Show it's not racist to question immigration numbers.

"It's so frustrating every time you want to have a rational conversation about immigration, then all of these allegations start getting thrown at you. We have to be able to talk about it."