Winston Peters targets students in immigration crackdown

Winston Peters wants a major crackdown on the number of migrants, particularly students, as latest figures show a continuing record-breaking trend.

Statistics New Zealand data released on Wednesday showed a net gain in migration of 71,900 in the year to March 2017.

The figure tops the previous record of 71,300 set in February.

The New Zealand First leader told The AM Show on Thursday that his prophecy of what would happen if New Zealand's current immigration policy continued has come true.

"We've laid out our policy a long time ago when we warned New Zealanders of what would happen in every area of our economy if this unplanned, unfocused immigration policy went on and sad to say it's all happening and the infrastructural deficits in Auckland and other parts of the country are huge.

"We're on a merry-go-round going nowhere with unfocused immigration, the type of which has built up impossible infrastructural deficits which will take 15 years to fix up."

Labour plans to cut immigration levels by "tens of thousands", with a detailed policy expected in weeks.

Mr Peters wants that figure restricted across all visa categories to 10,000 at a maximum.

And he believes there's fat to be cut from the student visa category which saw 23,900 international students allowed into New Zealand in the past year, that figure down by 3800.

"When our export education and our education system began to falter against international competition, we offered the incentivisation to try and keep it going of being allowed to stay.

"That wasn't to help our economy; that was to help what you might call appallingly second-rate, third-rate education institutions to carry on their business so people are coming out with a diploma and can't fry an egg."

Mr Peters says New Zealand should have a system which allows students to be educated, but aren't allowed to stay.

"We're going to restore the integrity of our export education policy which was, 'Economy A' pays New Zealand to educate their student and when they finish they go home."

Mr Peters says there are enough New Zealanders to fill jobs available.

"It just makes sense because we've got 140,000 unemployed, we've got 93,000 young people with no job, no education, not in any training. On top of that, we've got 150,000 who can't get adequate hours of work we've got a social and economic disaster appearing in front of our face."

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub called Mr Peters' comments "Trumpian" and "dog whistle" politics.

He said his views, particularly around Asians, were "racist".

"Such a racist, right? The only thing Winston and I have in common is we're both brown and handsome."

But he conceded Mr Peters did have a point.

Mr Eaqub told The AM Show that New Zealand isn't having a conversation about immigration and a population strategy.

"He's coming from the wrong place, he's coming from the dog whistling end of politics and that's fine because that's what minor parties in politics do, but the bigger issue is that we don't have a population strategy, we are incompetent when it comes to providing sufficient infrastructure for a city like Auckland."

He believes New Zealand could survive with just 10,000 migrants a year, given it used to be in the negatives and the economy didn't fail.

"We'd cope, there'd be disruption for business, we'd have serious difficulty in terms of filling shortages that are there, particularly in skilled work, but it doesn't mean it's not solvable."