Mark Sainsbury: Immigration tinkering heading for a dangerous political compromise

OPINION: Do you hear that faint clinking noise? It is the sound of tinkering. Tinkering with immigration policy.

The Government came out yesterday with its strategy – you are going to have to earn more to get to stay here. If you earn over a certain amount – regardless of whether your job is necessary, desirable or otherwise – you can say you have a pathway to citizenship.

Will that stem the thousands and thousands of immigrants we accept here each year? Nobody really knows.

Andrew Little raised the bar on Thursday, telling the AM Show he would be prepared to cut immigration numbers by tens of thousands a year.

But will that help? Who is he going to cut? We still need the builders, the tradies, the fruit pickers, the dairy workers and the skilled migrants. How exactly will we keep business ticking over by guaranteeing enough labour and at the same time relieve the pressure immigration is putting on housing and other infrastructure?

We boast of our ability to attract international students to this country but they only come here as a pathway to immigration – come and pay to study in New Zealand then never go home. That could be a good thing for us but is it achieving anything useful?

So do we start with a wholesale reduction in the numbers as Andrew Little is promising – vague as his promise is – or do we just need to tinker with the existing policy until it is fit for purpose as National is proposing?

We need to balance immigration with the need to protect access to enough skilled workers to catch up with infrastructure. Which we need to do because we have brought in so many people to…oh that's right, catch up with infrastructure.

We've known for years we have a problem but neither side has me convinced yet that they are on top of this.

You suspect we are hearing what they think we want to hear and that is a dangerous political compromise.

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.