Duncan Garner: Immigration debate sorely needed

OPINION: New Zealand has, over the past 20 years, thrown open the gates and said, 'welcome, come on in,' and our cities, and indeed the country, has changed.

New Zealand has been in a sustained period of growth - it's grown at its fastest rate ever, and it's more diverse than we probably imagined as well.

It's grown at about 60,000 people a year. Immigrants mainly stay in Auckland and yes it's colourful and diverse.

Imagine if it was just white people with cheese muffins and fish and chips - no thanks, that's not who we are.

But we have also made a mess of this - we sorely needed a population debate.

What does success look like? How many people do we want to crush into Auckland? Shouldn't more go to the regions?

It's usually the North Island immigrants settle in - half of the country now lives north of Taupo.

The standard of living in Auckland, as a result, is not better. Congestion reigns as does confusion.

For every 160 people arriving, we build houses to accommodate 80 of them.

Now we have overcrowding. With that comes all sorts of issues.

We have been searching for this golden economic growth but we got addicted to immigration - like a kid with a lollypop we couldn't stop.

It's masked our economic story, too, it artificially inflates the strength of the economy as more and more people become homeless and live in overcrowded facilities.

Yet, despite the hundreds of thousands of new people, we haven't built alongside that.

Not enough houses, not enough public transport, the sewer pipes are stuffed and the beaches get closed.

If that's the cost then slow down, bring in who we need - not all in need - and build, borrow, build, borrow.

Money has never been so cheap, get on with it Phil.

If Aucklanders continue to feel ripped off - you may pay a heavier price than you think.

Duncan Garner is host of The AM Show.