Kris Faafoi skirts around answering whether Government is still planning to cut migration as promised by former Labour leader

Kris Faafoi has skirted around questions over whether the Government is still planning to cut migration in line with previous Labour leader Andrew Little's policies.

In 2017 Labour announced it was aiming to slash net migration by around 20,000 to 30,000 per year by targeting low-skilled workers and students, who they thought were exploiting a back door to get into the country.

Then Labour leader Andrew Little said the cuts were needed because the country couldn't sustain the number of people coming in under the National Government's policies. At the time more than 70,000 people a year were settling in New Zealand than were leaving each year.

Little warned if New Zealand didn't cut the number of migrants the country would need an extra 10,000 houses each year and there would be an extra 20,000 cars on the road.

After she took over as Labour leader now Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed she was sticking by slashing migration.

But speaking with AM co-host Ryan Bridge on Thursday Faafoi wouldn't reveal whether that was still on the cards.

Faafoi said the policy wasn't his goal and then, when Bridge pointed out it was Labour's, said the Government is focused on a higher wage, higher skill economy.

"Our goal is to make sure we move to a higher wage, higher skill economy and that is why we have made the changes that we announced yesterday," he said.

When pushed by Bridge whether the plan was still to cut migration, Faafoi reiterated the Government's commitment to a higher wage and skill economy.

"Our current policy, which we announced yesterday, is to make sure that we have a smarter and simpler immigration policy."

In 2021, Ardern said the Government was using the pandemic to reconsider areas such as immigration. She didn't clarify how many people would be affected by the changes but said the Government was focusing on the outcome for New Zealand, not "crude numbers". 

On Wednesday, the Government revealed New Zealand's border will completely reopen from the end of July, including cruise ships and international students, as the Prime Minister declared Aotearoa "fully open for business".

The Government also used the opportunity to introduce "rebalanced" immigration settings with a key component being a "green list" - featuring 85 hard-to-fill roles that will have simplified application and residence pathways. The rights given to some international students after they finish their courses were also changed.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand, released on Thursday, show a net migration loss of 7300 people in the year ended March 2022 - the lowest net migration since 2012.

It follows a loss of 1700 people in 2021, and a record net gain of 91,700 in 2020.

It comes as many industries are crying out for workers and the unemployment rate is 3.2 percent, one of the lowest since records began in 1986.

Newshub has contacted Faafoi for clarification.