Massey's Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Spoonley urges immigration service providers to help tell the good news story of migration's place in NZ

Massey's Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Spoonley urges immigration service providers to help tell the good news story of migration's place in NZ

Massey University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor is encouraging immigration service providers to promote the upsides of immigration, especially as a lot of electioneering has focussed on the downsides.     

Speaking at the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment conference on Friday, Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley said: “What has frustrated me intensely about the election campaign is that immigrants are [treated as] a problem. No, they are not a problem.

“There are issues that we need to discuss, but let’s not problematize immigrants.

“What I think you see is… industries now rely on immigrants for labour and other things that are essential to their viability.

“I would love us to try to turn around the negativity which is associated with the label ‘immigrant’. I would love us to have people who stand up and articulate a more positive vision, rather than that ‘immigrants equals problems’ type of discussion.”

Spoonley went on to say: “I get really annoyed when people identify immigration with a problem like housing. Housing - especially in Auckland - is not an immigrant problem. It’s not caused by immigrants.

“Immigrants might underscore it, but the housing deficit is a long-standing deficit. We have not produced housing to equate to the growth of Auckland for a very long time.

“Immigration is part of it, but to lay the blame of housing availability and affordability in Auckland on immigrants is quite misplaced in my view.”

Spoonley also commended immigration service providers for their work, reassuring them that while: “You will hear in the media about some of the things that go wrong. What you don’t hear are the many good things that go right.

“I think you guys need to tell a story, and the story needs to be that migration is an essential part of what we do as New Zealand Inc in 2017.”

More specifically, Spoonley talked about how closely connected tourism, migration, and trade are.  

He noted tourists often turn in to migrants, whose expertise and connections we should be drawing on to facilitate trade and business.

Asked whether he believed New Zealanders risked developing angst around the influx of tourists, Spoonley admitted: “There are some tension points”.

He acknowledged freedom campers were putting a strain on amenities and causing locals grief.

Yet he said any frustrations apply in reverse too, referencing Asian tourists getting annoyed by some pre-arranged tour groups only visiting Asian shops and restaurants.

“Our reputation is often wafer thin on these sorts of things. We don’t need much to destroy it.”

Spoonley said the death of three Indian students in Australia in 2012 – two as a result of hate crime – halved Indian student numbers within six months. This was despite the Australian government offering to pay the students’ fees.

“So I think whether it’s tourism, students or immigrants, the pastoral care that we provide, or should provide, is absolutely essential to our reputation. And our reputation is our most important commodity.”

Hospitality New Zealand’s former CEO of 20 years, who’s now a spokesperson for At Your Service Aotearoa – a partnership between four industry training organisations – delivered a similar message about better telling ‘the migration story’.

Bruce Robertson told those at the conference: “I think one of the things that New Zealand doesn’t do very well at all is tell the story. People scratch the itch without knowing what’s causing the itch or [acknowledging] the fact that there are other remedies.”

Robertson maintained some of the remedies lie in coming up with ways to better distribute money central government earns from tourism-derived income tax and GST, to local government.

Spoonley agreed: “I think we need to look at new sources of income generation but also at how we invest in our regions. If you did it strictly on a population basis, then they’re going to struggle…

“There are big parts of New Zealand where the population is either going to stagnate or drop, and many of the people are going to be on fixed income, so local rates generation is no longer going to be a workable option.”

Robertson said he would like to see central government – the owner of our national parks – pay rates to local councils for Department of Conservation land in the same way other land owners do.

Alternatively he supported redistributing revenue through GST being paid to local rather than central government.

Spoonley said it was a complex area to navigate, but said it was important to ensure increased central government support through one avenue wasn’t offset by a reduction in another avenue.

Robertson applauded the Government for in this year’s Budget making up to $25 million a year available for the development of tourism-related infrastructure such as carparks, freedom camping facilities, sewerage and water works and transport projects.

He didn’t accept this was coming too late, perhaps as an election-year bribe, saying it was good to see the government acknowledging there is a problem.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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For an academic this guy is far from objective and has a long history of pushing immigration with little decent evidence.


Spoonley is a fine example of an expert who just ain't expert.

Spoonley is an expert for hire


Yes, they arrive and we just prop them upright in broom cupboards when we're not using them. FFS, Spoonley.


As ever with Paul Spoonley you get so serious good sense and plenty of evading the issue. Auckland North Shore is 60% immigrant or children of immigrants. As am I and my family. And all these immigrants are happy to be in NZ because if unhappy they would leave. And I will agree with Paul Spoonley about the importance of social cohesian and the need for pastrol care etc.

Now where he is wrong. Firstly never any mention of the rorts and corruption. Secondly low skilled immigrants cause poor wages and these especially hit previous immigrants. This has been proved by various government reports and academic studies. And it is where my interest starts because I have adult children joining the work force. How are they to compete with potential immigrants willing to pay their employer commonly over $20,000 to have a job that qualifies them for permanent residency?

Finally the idea that a country has to have abnormally high immigration to keep its trade, tourism and other industries afloat is just plain wrong. Look at countries like Japan, China, Korea, Iceland, Finland all doing well without immigration anything like ours.

It is really important that we do not have jobs such as Dairying or Fast Food or Care-givers that Kiwis consider too low status so we bring in immigrants. It is both morally wrong and also unsustainable. There are many academic reports on the dangers of high level immigration. The most recent by infometrics ( see ) which is a dispassionate review and has references to the various NZ Government research papers that it is based on.

I can applaud Paul Spoonley for fighting against ugly racism but it is not a major problem in NZ - how can it be when so many of us are immigrants. He really needs to look after the immigrants we have rather than demand ever more.


All NZ universities, now are dependant financially on immigrants, through the international student enrolment channel.
If you removed international students, the government university current funding would not be sufficient to run any NZ tertiary institute.
So therefore, there is a strong motivation for this defence of the overall system of increasing immigration on all levels and channels - by a large net of government departments, agents, PTEs, employers of low skill workers, university marketing departments, etc


That conclusion implies that the only reason students choose NZ for education is because of the pathway to residency.


Many do.
And most of those from South East Asia are primarily aiming to get a job & stay in NZ. The study is of lesser concern.

Not so much in universities.

But definitely in the PTE (Pretend Tertiary Education) sector. A friend of mine who attended one was told as much by the staff when he requested better resources at the school. "No one cares. It's not worth the cost. People are only here for the visa."

The Herald last week had a large advert for studying in the University of Singapore. In the small print there was no mention of working to qualify for residence. They just pushed their reputation for top education.

I dont agree on your opinion of the "all levels" bit, nor on increasing immigration, I cant see anyone wanting low or un-skilled labour expect employers in low paid industries.

PS I think the % of foreign students who pay the full fees is something like 16%? and even some secondary schools do this?


Housing is not an immigrant problem.

Is this a joke?

May be vested interest.

Paul Spoonley Bio:

Paul has been a major contributor to research and public debate on cultural politics and identity in New Zealand and internationally. He has been the author or editor of 27 books on topics ranging from immigration and super-diversity to a biography on a prominent Maori activist. He has recently been the Programme Leader for MBIE-funded projects on immigration, the changing demography of New Zealand and the impacts of diversity.

So looking forward to this super diversity coming on line. At the moment I keep getting called a Fascist for being an ethnic activist and a staunch proponent of the "stale, pale, male" brigade. Have to be very careful about everything I say and do. Someday soon I will find my place in the sun. Got to keep positive.


I attended a short lecture he gave. He emphasised Asian success at school and the money Asian immigrants have brought to NZ. No mention of PIs like my kids. He also said education was a bigger export earner than wine - it was only later that I wondered what they could charge for a bottle of wine with NZ residency thrown in.

I'm a keen supporter of the 'lively, brown and female" brigade. Makes no difference still called a racist if you suggest anything is wrong with NZ immigration.


Kia Kaha Zach. The lies being rammed down our throats by IYIs like this and a complicit MSM need to challenged. You will find more freedom of speech here

IYI (Nassim Taleb) link:
"The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit. When plebeians do something that makes sense to them, but not to him, the IYI uses the term “uneducated”. What we generally call participation in the political process, he calls by two distinct designations: “democracy” when it fits the IYI, and “populism” when the plebeians dare voting in a way that contradicts his preferences"

Totally agree, Whaleoil is wonderful !!

There is no freedom of speech on Whaleoil. Unless you spout what he wants to hear in which case yeah sure, otherwise any differing opinion gets you banned.

Thanks for reminding me about WhaleOil. This is truly fascinating and a subject I must continue to follow.
This theory was quite a surprise to me. After a little reading I now think it highly improbable.

The NZ Government funds this special agency which has offices and staff overseas to aid increased education- based immigration


Well they certainly don't try and hide what it's all about: "Post-study opportunities continue to be in high demand as Indian students seek pathways for employment and migration. New Zealand’s Private Training Establishments (PTEs) attract the largest number of Indian students, driven largely by migration pathways."
Basically subsidising the "education" industry with our promiscuous immigration policy. Very grubby!

Surely the 13% unemployed youth could be incentivised to do farm work in NZ?
If the WINZ system was more flexible to allow labourers in & out without penalising temporary casual work.

13% under-employed. Unemployed is about 5%. Incentive is normally wages but immigrants are willing to work for whatever just to become permanent residents - if necessary they will pay the employer.
Youth unemployment is around 13%. Even higher for some subgroups and regions up to 25%
Unengaged - not in training, not in work for under 25s in some regions is very high. Often due to inflexibility of benefit system and studylink rules as well as motivation issues.

Thanks for the info. You are right youth employment is the most important. You only have to work one hour to be 'employed' according to the stats.


its no longer an immigration argument, its a size of population, resources and social arguement
some people can see that in the future countries with large populations will have big problems with less jobs in the future, and those that can not argue against stable populations use the racist line to try to shut down any discussion

OMG what a lot of Spoonley jargon! And contradictions!
This is an extremely lightweight article.

Perhaps a whole of life ROI is needed for the typical immigration pathway if an international student who pays $20,000 for a Grad diploma, one year, and the university gets $15,000 after agents fees. Plus the living costs contributing to local economy. Then the grad gets a helpdesk job or similar lowlevel IT or sales job based on the diploma field. Then immigration grants permanent residency PR. After PR the immigrant can work in any low level job they like, likely in amongst recent immigrant owned businesses. This is not the 'skilled immigrant' story the public is being told/sold. All of this for extra money to education providers? Or all this to supeficially prop up the housing, food, transport internal economy without further extension of the economy?
So what is the net benefit to NZ? These immigrants are unlikely to start innovative new businesses and employ general NZers.


Spoonley disingeniously tells us that it is wrong to blame immigration for the housing crisis.
It's the same old rubbish.
He is seeking to shut down any objective debate on migration.
Some of us DON'T blame immigration for the housing crisis. But some of us DO attribute a role for high levels of immigration contributing to the housing crisis. We also acknowledge the benefits of immigration.
One might think that an academic might understand it's not black and white...or maybe not. I can recall some very ideological and biased professors at university.
We should keep in mind that Massey is a second rate institution


Lets for the sake of the argument put all the blame for our housing problems on the government and Auckland council. OK now what should we do about it? It will take at least a decade to build the needed homes. Can we or should we stop Kiwis moving to Auckland or reduce immigration or just boast about NZ leading the world with most immigrants per capita and most homelessness in an OECD metropolitan city? I will be voting for a reduction in immigration.


Just saw national and labour housing ministers debating in the the nation and it is amazing how national party has no shame in blaiming labour who were in power a decade ago.

For 9 years being in power if national is still blaimg labour than NO point in voting them 4th term as we need government who will take responsibility instead of denial, manipulation and lie AND if that does not work blame other.

How can a government blame a government who was in power a deacade ago is beyond and national think that they can get away with it..... May be eaier but sorry not this time.

This year National has to go.

Deja Vu to Bill English.

They are totally devoid of any real ideas or drive.

"Experience of a Lifetime Camp" is how I would re-brand them.

tried every decade and failed camps I would call them, still remember seeing them march around papakura military camp getting fit ready to go home and be able to run from the cops

If a party is after nine years still making excuses and blaming the previous party, why should the electorate think another three years will enable them to achieve anything?

Seems like a terrible choice of angle from Bill. When - if ever - will they take responsibility?


Immigration is used deliberately as a device to keep down wages ( Southland Dairy, Queenstown Hotels). Why why would a country have a deliberate plan to keep incomes down ? Why would you sell that as a good thing.

Southland's population was dropping rapidly in the 80's and 90's without internal immigration schools would have started closing and once that happens a region is rooted. It wan't until '06 that the school age children numbers stopped dropping. Having a region hang on to its population levels isn't such a bad thing especially as 65+ age class rockets.

Yes Profile - and if those Southland Dairy employers paid reasonable wages New Zealanders would go there. Think about the no fees Southland Institute of Technology. Folk from all over very happy to move to Southland for that.
Further, it's not that helpfull to local business if your customers have no money. Minimum wage ( and less ) imports from the Phillipines don't have much to spend.

What is a reasonable wage for the urban elites POV these days KH? The school age population dropped by 1/3 in twenty years - immigration halted that precipitous decline.

Only temporarily. Automation on farms caused the decline and that is continuing. There are now machines that pick kiwifruit and tomatoes and artificial milk and meat are on their way.
It does seem as if most immigrants end up moving to the cities. Put it another way - a Filipino family arrives and the father works on a farm and the children help fill your local school - what will those kids do when they leave school? Especially the girls. If you want to address population decline in the regions then do so (Winston as ever has ideas) but immigration is a temporary fix.

Automation in the 80's and 90's? Internal immigration of sharemilkers families played a big part and they often stayed. Not automation or migrant workers. The stats linked are based on births and deaths not migrant working on temporary visas.

Too right though Winston's $20/hr minimum wage will result in a migration to robotic milkers. Why do politicians and champagne socialists hate entry level jobs so much?

80's and 90's - I had never seen NZ but in the UK and France everything to do with farming was reducing workers: bigger better tractors, larger farm sizes, improvements everywhere. Having lost the farm workers it took a while for the post offices, banks, shops, churches etc to close and the retired farm workers to die. If the immigrant sharemilkers do stay then that is great but I expect it might need a step towards ownership.
I admit total ignorance but if I was offered a job where I had to be absolutely reliable, responsible for say a million dollars of livestock, work weekends, work difficult hours, be a long way from most social events then I would expect more than $20/hr. If there were no immigrants then salaries would have to increase - immigrants from the 3rd world vary - some are highly skilled and some low skilled but motivated but both import low wages. Note IT jobs at Auckland council average over $100,000 and I can assure you IT is much easier and far more forgiving of blunders than sharemilking.

Yes KH, SIT is popular but only for the reason of no fees. Many graduates to not stay on in Southland.
Many 'imports from the Phillipines' send their money home to enable a better life for their family back home. They end up either moving back eventually, or becoming NZ citizens. Migrants have definitely added to the diversity of Southland. It is interesting that you 'pick on' Phillipine migrants. There are substantial numbers of European mirgrant farm workers too in Southland - in your mind they are different how?

Venture Southland is the lead agency in a 'Regional Economic Development Strategy Primary Industry Careers for Young People in Southland'.

Is it really interesting CO ? I did not 'pick on' Phillipine migrants. I 'mentioned' them because it is true they are there in their thousands. An interesting social change. True but can't be mentioned apparently.

KH perhaps come up with some examples of "Immigration used deliberately as a device to keep down wages". The minimum wage is up 30% hardly a keep down wages policy.

1000's? Perhaps a 1,000-1500 if you're lucky.

I don't think it is deliberate in terms of political leaders planning to increase income inequalities. I do think any rational employer given a choice takes the cheapest option. These are two quotes from the recent Infometrics report on immigration.

""Higher net migration inflows do not have a significant negative effect on employment or wage rates for NZ - born workers, but instead negatively affect the labour market outcomes of other recent migrants.

One of the obvious questions posed by limiting immigration when there are plenty of job opportunities and the economy is growing strongly is “what about businesses that are already finding labour difficult to come by?” Restricting immigration during these periods would push up wages, encouraging businesses towards more investment in labour - saving technology, thereby improving New Zealand’s labour productivity. The scarcity of workers would also help ensure that labour was directed towards the areas that it was most productive.""

With my children looking for work in Auckland I think the first quote understates the problem as it is today - many entry level jobs have potential permanent residents paying their employer over $20,000 - this practice is reported as widespread - and it does not give an honest Kiwi a fair go. If the numbers were lower (not 50k to 70k immigrants entering the workforce annually) it wouldn't be so significant.

Clearly, the migrant workers we bring in are exploited;

And the current government is complicit in this as it is the one who facilitated the changes to student visas to allow for these workers to enter under that guise in order to be exploited;

Wow! Shocking stuff and now NZ's reputation is getting thrashed in Germany and other European countries.

Yes, been going on for years - like the mines inspectorate had been run down in the lead up to Pike River - the labour inspectorate has been run down similarly;

As I've mentioned before, any surplus we've realised in these last nine years has been due to the austerity policies being implemented on the sly by this National government.

Lapun, just a note to say I'm really enjoying your contributions. Cheers.

that should be part of the population discussion, how many people do we need want in parts of NZ, what industries can we encourage to leave Auckland,
I had to tell the billionaire owner of our global company why we hired trucks to run our goods to wellington and did not run our own trucks back and forth, because one city was huge and easy to source freight the other small and too much competition so no work or carry for a large loss,
has not changed much in 20 years. NZ still has one massive city and small cities everywhere else.
until we encourage spread we are going to encounter more problems going forward.

As an Aucklander and happy to be one I have to accept NZ could live without Auckland but Auckland can't exist without NZ - quite simply Auckland can never be another Singapore or Hong Kong for geographic reasons.


@profile. Let's look at the other example. A place (Queenstown) that really is 'rooted' (to use your term. Once it was wonderful. Now a traffic nightmare. Building a sewage plant half capacity required. Locals can't live there. Town center dangerous at night. A confined site already beyond its carrying capacity for population. A cut rate tourism model than makes the place unpleasant. A classic case of an industry killing it's own future.
And we need cheap migrant Labour to 'root' the place more ? Like why?
Smaller, more profitable, higher value products would be better.

Yes once it was boring backwater now it is a tourist trap. The globe is littered with them. Bannockburn used to be a worthless rabbit run now it has primo vineyards. Are immigrants to blame for that too? Perhaps your immigrants are bad for Southland and Otago is a tad simplistic.

We have not produced housing to equate to the growth of Auckland for a very long time.

I wonder why?

In their latest wheeze, construction firms now offer financialised part-exchange deals where they can control the margins of the secondary market as well as the primary – crippling the estate agent business. And as land is the only truly valuable part of any British home, some builders have retained ownership to rent back to homeowners on onerous terms, and a new “Leasehold” scandal has begun to unfold. Read more

Clearly Prof. Spoonley did not see the need to make a compelling or balanced argument to support his views then? I'm an immigrant myself and completely appreciate New Zealand needs an immigration plan that allows companies to fill highly skilled/paid niche positions or academic institutions to recruit students for post-graduate education. However this must also fit within the constraints of infrastructure and allowing a supply and with deference to the demand environment in the local labour force that fosters local skills, grows productivity and wages.

Squishy: you said everything I've been trying to say but much clearer. Thanks.

Precis: Guy who benefits from immigration says immigration is great!

Spoonley says immigrants are not a problem.
Compare two times.
One some time back when immigrants were not a problem with now when they are a problem, at least to those of us who live in Auckland.
What are the differences?
1. Numbers, numbers numbers far too many to blend in without upsetting infrastructure and housing in particular. No bias on race as they include all of those entering including UK, US, South Africa/Zimbabwe all English speakers.
2. We used to allow in those with proven skills and we allowed in those who were prepared to knuckle down to join in our communities. It just happened to be easier if they already had our common language skills as well.
3. We have become a soft touch on not stopping the rorts, like students in name only being allowed permanent residence.

Spoonley says immigrants are not a problem.
Compare two times.
One some time back when immigrants were not a problem with now when they are a problem, at least to those of us who live in Auckland.
What are the differences?
1. Numbers, numbers numbers far too many to blend in without upsetting infrastructure and housing in particular. No bias on race as they include all of those entering including UK, US, South Africa/Zimbabwe all English speakers.
2. We used to allow in those with proven skills and we allowed in those who were prepared to knuckle down to join in our communities. It just happened to be easier if they already had our common language skills as well.
3. We have become a soft touch on not stopping the rorts, like students in name only being allowed permanent residence.

Professor Spoonley also lobbied a museum hard to ensure the exhibits painted European colonisers in a bad like. He says that racism came to NZ with the colonists.

Any evidence? 200 years ago they sure were racists but then everyone was and most of the world still is. A museum that showed European colonisers in an all good or all bad light would be seriously misleading. But at least it shows Prof Spoonley has some reservations about immigration in some circumstances.

My own ill informed opinion is that it was a problem of numbers - Maori adapted very quickly to the truly alien English and could have ended up like Malaya i.e. a independent Maori nation if it had not been the sheer numbers of my UK ancestors who arrived - too many too quickly.

If I (and I suspect others) were asked, "if you could freely choose, from what country would you like immigrants into NZ, to originate from?" I would rate India and China toward the bottom of my wish list. Yet that's where the vast majority of immigrants come from. Yes, it is a racist comment, I admit it, it's also how I truly feel.

Why so many people from countries which people are bursting to get out of?

It is just another can kicking exercise, when what is really needed is for those countries to address their own overpopulation. I wouldn't mind so much some of them coming here, if they made efforts to sort that. Unsorted it will just lead to more and more of them emigrating to countries like ours that look to be grossly underpopulated. That is a matter of opinion, however

your choice really doesn't matter. if you're not evolving fast you will be replaced. end of story.

It's as old as history mrp, with plenty of recent recorded examples, one right here: Hundreds of years ago the Moriori, of the Chatham Islands, took a solemn vow of peace known as Nunuku’s Law. The decision to uphold this sacred law in the face of aggression in 1835 had tragic consequences. They were slaughtered, enslaved, and dispossessed of their lands.
Or the tragedy of Lebanon (1975 -1990) whereby a successful, liberal and predominately Christian country was overrun by Islamic forces from within and without. The "Paris of the East" was no more.

It is a rather racist remark but better to say what many are thinking than to be evasive. Certainly having a Melanesian family I took Paul Spoonley's remarks about how well Asian students do in North Shore colleges and how good his Asian students at Massey university as missing the issue of under performance of Paciific Island students (and Maori). Of course Paul Spoonley was speaking to a room of elderly Pakeha and he had restricted time since he was about to fly to Wellington to advise Mr Woodhouse who he admires, so maybe a longer speech would have been more nuanced.

If immigration was only a small number of highly talented / skilled people then I would disagree with you. In fact the absence of one category of Indian immigrant is very surprising: their top PhD graduates move on to Ivy league universities or to the top tech companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft never to NZ. We should be asking in the words of my friend Bushan "why are we getting the wrong Indians".

National has greated this problem....come election and vote for change.

Traditional, agri-related businesses are better options than tourism to enliven regional economies, academic Paul Spoonley says.

Speaking at the Future Farms Conference in Palmerston North last week, Massey University pro-vice chancellor Spoonley said tourism was no saving grace despite being thought so for regions like Southland and the West Coast.

“Tourism is very low return.

“The income that comes from it and the wages that are paid from it are actually one of the lowest options available.”
Spoonley said the Government should being trying to address the national population imbalance in Auckland but if immigration was taken out of the economic statistics nearly all positive economic stories evaporated.

If immigration impacts were taken out of GDP growth it came back to 0.5%.

“Immigration is a very good news story, with very positive economic impacts. And I don’t think the Government wants to turn that tap off.”

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