Immigration Minister Michael Wood denies 'sitting on our hands' ahead of visa restart

The Government denies "sitting on our hands" before finally reopening the skilled migrant visa category this week.

Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced the reopening on Wednesday as part of the next stage of New Zealand's immigration reset. 

But New Zealand was still behind Australia, with Canberra moving at the end of last year to reopen the skilled migrant category. Australia also increased its skilled migrant cap by nearly 200,000 people last month.

When asked why it's taken so long to act, Wood told Newshub Nation on Saturday the Government was moving quickly.

"It's not right to say that we've been sitting on our hands," he said. 

"Since July, we've opened up the accredited employer work visa which has enabled employers to be able to access people on a more temporary basis as well - so there has been a lot going on."

Wood said the Government had also increased the recognised seasonal employer and working holiday visa schemes.

But he reiterated the Government did not believe "a lot of low-skill, low-cost labour" was the way forward. 

"The whole point of this system is to get the measurement in place for the skills that we need in New Zealand," Wood said.

"We're now saying, 'If you've got the skills that we need, we will process your application' and that's an important shift."

Despite immigration staff already struggling with the current visa workload, the Government was putting "significant" resources into the system, Wood said. 

"In fact, when it comes to working visa applications across the system, we're generally now operating within the timeframes that we set at the beginning - so there's good progress that's being made there."

Another 100 workers would be implemented to process visas, Wood said.

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