Jacinda Ardern defends immigration reset, refuses to say whether Government will cap numbers

The aged care sector woke up with a groan after hearing plans for an immigration overhaul.

It's suffering massive nursing shortages, but the Government claims our dependence on migrant workers is stifling wages.

Everyone agrees our elderly should be well cared for, it's just hard to find the nurses to do it.

"It's difficult with our registered nurses - I won't tell you how many we've got outstanding because it gives me a fright," Radius Care CEO Stuart Bilbrough tells Newshub.

About 55 percent of aged care nurses are from overseas on some kind of visa - and they're still up to 500 nurses short.

After Monday's promise of an immigration reset, the Prime Minister on Tuesday refused to say whether that means a cap on migration numbers.

"What we're looking for here is a rebalancing," Ardern tells Newshub. 

"There's no suggestion here we'd be turning off the tap entirely to temporary workers."

"I think people were expecting some answers, some policies, to give certainty to businesses and certainty to migrants," National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says. "And no one got anything out of it."

Net migration is almost zero with the borders shut, but pre-COVID it hit 91,900 migrants.

Labour had previously campaigned to drop it by about 20,000 to 30,000.

"The Government ought to not use dehumanising narratives like 'turning the tap off' or 'low-value immigrants'," Green Party MP Ricardo Menéndez March says.

The Government says New Zealand depends too heavily on migrant workers - with roughly 5 percent of our workforce here on temporary visas - arguing that's pushing down wages.

But a 2019 OECD report says immigration doesn't in fact suppress wages or kick New Zealand-born Kiwis out of jobs.

"There's no evidence that I've seen that shows in the New Zealand context bringing in immigration and migrant workers decreases wages - in fact the opposite is actually true," economist Brad Olsen tells Newshub.

We couldn't ask the Immigration Minister for the evidence he's relying on to back up his reset - he's off sick waiting for a COVID-19 test as a cold moves through the Cabinet.

"I don't know that four people having a cold is particularly newsworthy," Ardern defends.

Maybe not newsworthy, but certainly not ideal just two sleeps out from Budget Day.