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Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the Government is striving to address the quality of immigration, saying 'it’s not whether it’s too high it's whether you are getting the right people' that matters most

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the Government is striving to address the quality of immigration, saying 'it’s not whether it’s too high it's whether you are getting the right people' that matters most
Winston Peters

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has criticised the quality of the data the Government receives on immigration when asked if the country’s net migration was too high.

Peters said interpreting the data from Statistics NZ was difficult.

“We are looking at the stats where to be honest with you are not specific or granular as they should be and they are very difficult to interpret,” Peters says. “But we are putting an enormous amount of work into ensuring what we are looking at is accurate and we do know for a fact what is going on.

He says the fact a New Zealander returning to the country after seven to 10 years overseas can be defined as an immigrant is problematic.

“I’m afraid to admit this to you, but when you’re doing your best to get to the bottom of the reality of what’s actually happening, it’s rather a shock to suspect that the figures aren’t accurate, and so we’re putting an enormous amount of work into that, at the moment.”

Peters made the comments at Monday’s post-cabinet press briefing while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is currently in the United States.

Growing population and net migration

Figures released by Stats NZ last month estimated New Zealand had experienced a net population gain from migration of 49,427 in the 12 months to June. That was up 1.0%, or 509, from the net gain of 48,918 in the previous 12 months, but well below the gains of between 53,243 in the 12 months to June 2015 and 58,688 in the 12 months to June 2017, with a peak of 63,834 in the 12 months to June 2016.

While the figures from Census 2018, released on Monday, show a rapid growth in the country’s population since 2013. New Zealand’s resident population increased by 10.8% and is expected to hit five million by 2020.

The Government has been criticised for not fulfilling its 2017 campaign promises, something Peters is more than aware of.

“Well, the Government campaigned, in terms of Labour and New Zealand First, exactly on that—to improve the quality of immigration while slowing down its number. You know that OECD and other organisations were saying that the quality of our immigration was suspect, and we’re seeking to address that.”

Getting the settings right

But he says the issue isn’t just about the numbers.

“The reality is that it’s not whether it’s too high [population], it is whether you are getting the right people, that is whether you are advancing the technical and skills base of your economy in a world where that is critical, it’s not just hands anymore. Or you are just taking a person that would not subscribe or benefit the economy that other smart economies have focused on. In short they organise immigration to suit their economy not the converse.”

But a spokesperson for Stats NZ says it produces high quality migration data that aligns with international best practice.

“The measurement of migration is defined statistically in terms of time spent in/out of New Zealand, not in terms of legal definitions. The migration measure is a direct input into estimates of New Zealand’s resident population.”

They say it is important to recognise that migrants include New Zealand citizens and New Zealand-born people.

“Population statistics, including population estimates based on census data, account for migrants arriving and departing to indicate the number of people living in New Zealand. If a New Zealand citizen has been living out of the country for more than 12 months, if and when they return to New Zealand to live, they are classed as a migrant arrival.

“However, each month, we clearly show the numbers of New Zealand citizens leaving the country long term (for more than 12 months), and returning after being away long term (more than 12 months).”

They say migration statistics are published by country of last residence (arrivals), country of citizenship, age-sex, visa type (arrivals), and New Zealand place of residence (e.g. regional council and territorial authority area).

"The adoption in January 2019 of an outcomes-based measure of international migration, instead of relying on the stated intentions of travellers when they cross the border, has further improved migration statistics. The outcomes-based measure has an objective and transparent basis to classifying travellers as short-term or long-term (i.e. migrants).

“MBIE regularly publishes additional data relating to migrants, including visa applications and approvals, and estimates of the population in New Zealand on different visa types.”

Briefing paper highlights concerns

A recently released report by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) to incoming Associate Minister of Immigration Poto Williams highlighted some of the concerns about New Zealand’s immigration settings and policies. It was presented to Williams in July and states:

“Right now we are experiencing unprecedented threats to the integrity of the immigration system. These include migrant exploitation, people trafficking, sophisticated fraud and increasing allegations of non-compliance. In addition, strong and sustained economic growth coupled with low unemployment has driven significant demand for migrant workers at all skill levels, and in particular in sectors and regions where migrants are vulnerable to exploitation.”

It highlighted the role immigration plays in contributing to the economy through filling skills shortages, encouraging investment, supporting innovation and growing export markets. And the report says it has also contributed to the country's strong GDP growth in recent years through population growth.

“It is important to balance these objectives with other portfolio objectives. For example, immigration can have impacts on infrastructure and housing that need to be well managed. In addition, it is also important to ensure that labour market settings facilitate a growing, more knowledge intensive and productive economy, which workers benefit from through rising wages.”

It says while immigration provides employers with access to foreign workers to supplement New Zealand’s existing labour market, it shouldn’t be used to supplant local workers or drive down wages.

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Ah, so it's actually really about something that can't be measured and therefore used against the Government as a tool for criticism for inaction.

And frankly, New Zealanders who have lived overseas and paid no taxes here should be considered a burden in the same way Peters frames hard-working immigrants who want to contribute and support the state in exchange for a safe place to live. Considering 20% of Kiwis live overseas at any time, and their propensity to decide to repatriate when things get tough, the 'right to return' needs to be viewed for what it is: additional strain on limited resources.

That's right. We always presume that Kiwis returning to NZ after a long stint are predominantly skilled workers.
The Australian government is pushing ahead with its stricter character test rules. So one can expect thousands of convicted offenders being forced back across the Tasman.

Agree. We should be taxing NZ residents while they are overseas to recover the costs of their superannuation, medical care when they return as older people, educating their kids, etc, etc. Regardless of where they live there is still a significant cost to the country in supporting their citizenship.

NZ residents are taxed on their global income.

Only while they are resident in NZ.
What happens if they live in Aussie for most of their working life. Send their kids back to NZ for tertiary education. Come back to NZ if they need some sort of social welfare assistance. Return to NZ when they retire on full NZ super and require NZ health care in their old age?

No, incorrect, for tax purposes, residency under tax law is the criteria, not physical location.

For NZ Super, one must have been resident and present in New Zealand for not less than 10 years since the age of 20. This must include 5 years or more since the age of 50.
be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident (that is, not be in New Zealand unlawfully, here on a temporary entry visa or a temporary permit) or
be deemed to hold a residence class visa in New Zealand under the Immigration Act 2009 (eg Australian citizens or residents) and
be ordinarily resident in New Zealand on the date of application

Well, aside from the fact that if you have worked overseas in places like Australia, Australia actually contributes to your superannuation in NZ. Plus you will arrive back in the country with your own superannuation fund so you can support yourself, unlike most New Zealanders.

Awesome, so you have your own super fund. But you've opted out of paying for infrastructure and housing while you were gone, and existing residents have to compete with you for the housing they need to have families and get on with life. That would be fine if we had a surplus of housing, but we don't.

So much for habeas corpus and being born makes you a citizen. Jesus

New Zealand People's United Party believes that
1. salary and wages are the primary determinants for the quality of immigrants
2. only brightest of brightest can become permanent resident
3. people on work visas are not subject to NZ's minimum wage but their home countries minimum wage if any
4. international students who studies in NZ for more than two years will automatically granted 1 year work visa if work in Auckland, 3 years work visa if choose work outside Auckland, and a 5 years work visa if work in the South Island


Ban the China bot.

10 year work Visa if you move to Gore ... do you like sheep ... I mean , really really LIKE sheep ? ... helps , if you wanna blend in with the locals ...

No point stating the "believes" of a party that was de-registered 5 or so months ago.
They were not United by the way, only the NZ People's Party.
But I like point 3, not workable mind you, it would certainly stop people from a lot of countries as they could not afford to live here and we can not afford to take the Europeans as that would mean paying them twice as much as the locals.

Do you even know any migrant stories? Do you know the truth? How about mathematicians, Dr of Vet Medicine, Building Inspectors, Project Managers and Architects all arrived with permanent visas and all heading home just 2 years later. Your qualifications are not good here, need to retrain , you need to de-learn, NZ is different so they/we have been told. The aforementioned all with degrees from IVY league universities and all with a decade of experience.....I think you really need to get informed and understand the have a better chance of integration as a cook, laborer or vineyard picker. Government has been so busy trying to attract talent but have never bothered to ask why they leave or directed any studies, stats towards same. Choice is everything and when qualified people have multiple residence choices ease of transition is paramount. Yes NZ is very different indeed.

Sad but true. Fortunately my GP from either Iran or Egypt is here to stay as a citizen and so was the Serbian registrar in charge of my eye operation. The problem is we have the INZ determining what is a skill whereas salary is the only effective way. Brilliant russian central planners couldn't do it and neither can our INZ. If your mathematicians and architects had obtained highly paid jobs as part of getting a provisional permanent residency both they and NZ would be better off. INZ's current policy of delayed processing of visas is a mechanism that drives the good out and leaves the less talented entry and as you say they take jobs that help keep NZ low paid workers really low paid.
Assuming your anecdotes are from Auckland it could just be accommodation costs. I came in 2003; if I had come recently the cost of housing my family would have driven me away too.

One needs to hire based on skill level, and a pedigree doesn't necessarily correlate with skill level. You mention ivy league universities. My experience with a few graduates (technical degrees) from ivy league universities was that they were almost completely useless. Couldn't find a way to get out of a paper bag if logic and rational thought were required. Having a piece of paper with an insignia doesn't mean one is qualified. The best structural engineer I ever worked with didn't have a degree. I've two degrees, and those are just bits of paper that do not mean much. What matters is the competence of the individual instead of the paper qualifications.

There is another issue in that much of the jobs available in NZ are rather non-technical. If I had to rely on getting a job in NZ, well, I'd be unemployed. My expertise is almost completely unneeded here. Fortunately, there is the internet... I get work from various locations around the world. I think that about 1% of my work income as been sourced from NZ in the last dozen years.

The best programmers I've ever met had no qualifications. But like you they earned well - proven reputation. Take the many complaints about immigrant chefs - many are barely dish-washers and salary is according - but there are chefs and not necessarily TV chefs who have developed a reputation among their contemporaries and they deservedly earn a fortune.
I'd guess you are just the kind of immigrant NZ needs: able and willing to communicate with us and increasing national exports.

Ha, so the criminal population has done well:
“Right now we are experiencing unprecedented threats to the integrity of the immigration system. These include migrant exploitation, people trafficking, sophisticated fraud and increasing allegations of non-compliance

Decent NZ citizens not so much:
“It is important to balance these objectives with other portfolio objectives. For example, immigration can have impacts on infrastructure and housing that need to be well managed.

the best thing that winston initiated was the winter energy payment and thanks for that,nearly everything else is negative and casting shade on his partners in the coalition.


So no-one, not even the government, understands immigration numbers, quality or impacts. Instead, in a vacuum of policy and management, we allow low-value businesses and low-principled 'employers' to demand entry for hundreds of thousands of low-waged, often exploited immigrant 'employees'. Our productivity per capita is flat-lining, our infrastructure is overwhelmed, and our national socio-cultural bonds are coming apart. There is no measure in any of this (we know how partial and discredited is GDP) to show any true national benefit.

Nah, the Wellbeing Budget is gonna measure all of that and more, and the promises to Fix It All with more of our own munny will be Delivered (it is the Year of Delivery, do recall) just in time for the 2020 Election season.....

I can't see it any other way.

Thou shalt not skewer the sacred cow!

What are the obligations and rights of a sole NZ passport holder, one who doesn't have a dual citizenship ?
That would be a good starting point to see who is an immigrant and who is not...
Emigration overseas is not the same as immigration into the country. Especially for a Western democracy.
There can't be one size fits all.
Best is to have a national, binding referendum on annual quotas for different visa types, to be voted on by NZ citizens only.
Who will bell the Cat ?

it seems like the politicians have less say over the levels coming in than the officials that work for THEM.
too late now the fox is in the hen house and has set up home

Has Winnie's party also been infiltrated by 'foreign' interests too? Surely not..

I assumed it was a given Ol' Whiney Winnie had foreign interests. After all he is Minister of soliciting offshore donations Foreign affairs.


Election coming up. Winston back on immigration which he and Labour conveniently forgot about once elected. Now its the NZ Imm dept. National probably knew but turned a blind eye as they wanted mass immigration. NZ Immigration may be part of the problem and Winston First and Labour could have easily fixed this in the 2 years gone by. No point in saying the census showed this up. There was always sufficient evidence to trim back quite drastically. I was one of quite a few who put NZ first in with a chance to temper Labour as I didn't want National in on the basis tas they indicated there was no serious housing problem. Also Labour wanted reduction in immigration as well. Not sure I'd want National, Labour or NZ first in so it'll be a case of no vote Only problem I don't know who benefits by a no vote.

I'm much the same. Who can I vote for now? In order I want: (1) no corruption & exploitation and sadly that relates mainly to low paid immigration (2) no low paid immigration that holds down NZ wages and reduces the incentive to train (3) makes NZ more attractive for really highly talented immigrants (4) keeps numbers down until our housing and congestion problems are resolved. Please tell me which party do I vote for?

And the thing is, even if there was a party with an immigration plan exactly as you describe, can you trust them to then put it in place if they got into office?

And the answer is, probably not.

If I could get (1) & (2) it would get my vote. Of course they are promised - I mean who actually promises continuing worker exploitation - but a policy that would actually do something about it.


The only reason there is a skills shortage is because of immigration. Its cheaper to hire an immigrant than it is to invest in training and upskilling existing staff, or paying more to attract them away from other businesses.

Catch 22, aye.

Also, exchange rates affect labour supply. 1 nzd is worth a whole lot more to a foreign worker from a 3rd world country than it is to a local.

Had enough?

Excuses excuses , the Data IS avaiable and very clear on the NZIS website , immigration be country


Yes, I saw something on New Shub the other day.
2008 - 2013 = 60k total into the country
2013 - 2018 = 260k total into the country.

I think it is slowly (and I mean incredibly slowly) dawning on people that it's not a racist/religist/ethnic/nationalist thing. It is just pure weight of numbers.

The lifeboat is being rushed as the global ship starts to sink. If we let everyone on the lifeboat, it will sink as well.

Good God did Winnie just wake up after a 2 year sleep ? Hes not still banging on about solving the immigration problem again is he ? don't tell me....he's trying to make it an election issue....again. How can any intelligent person not have had enough of this useless COL by now ?

Winston: "Oh sh*t! The election is next year?!" While he's banging on, you're bang on with the comment.

I have to give the govt credit for not panicking and slamming the door shut just because it was a election policy to effectively do so. The reality is that the past 20 years has seen a very growthless economy (post rogernomics) resort to the next easiest thing you do after the sale of all the states assets and that is to sell its land to foreigners and remove all sensible policies regulating immigration to under pin any bare millimeter of economic growth possible. Addressing 20 years of a wide open policy like that and the futureless business culture this country has developed as a consequence is not going to happen over night. The total refusal of business NZ to train and invest in indigenous staff and simply import them instead means most of the country's employers would experience severe difficulties immediately. In our big talking but wobbly walking business sector it would certainly boil down to recession of the type we so often saw in the years prior to easy imported labour. Our businesses are already pretty poor performers compared to other developed nations and they, as usual... need all the time and help they can get in order to adjust, because they aren't capable of doing it on their own.

Agreed panic is not a decent solution. However responding to Prof Stringer's report on widespread worker exploitation of 2016 should have been day 1 priority not another lets form a working party to discuss it for over 2 years. When the laws of a country are being broken on a wide scale either repeal the laws or change the policies that cause the problem. And if the latter caused many tertiary education businesses to collapse so be it.

Stringer certainly shone the light. I would like a royal enquiry into Zespri allowing the systemic abuse of its contractors staff in the years leading upto Stringers report. Zespri ran assurance programmes to protect its fruit market but allowed the orchard workers to be treated like slaves and worse.

This is a nightmare, for everyone involved. After 32 years since the Asian invasion began in earnest (after the share market crash of 87) we now find ourselves in places, strangers in our own culture. Why? because the last 30 years of open up NZ Inc has dramatically changed our culture just as the island immigration did 20 years before that. None more so than in Auckland, but now everywhere, sadly. So, what the f....k do we do about it. Well, we can't turn back the clock, so we have to go forward. I thought one of the good things about CoL might have been the dramatic fall off in petrol station owners, couriers, restaurant staff & the like. But no. This lousy set of urban liberal losers has been just as untruthful as the last lot. More so, when you consider National actually wanted it. The immigration fiasco is now beginning to weigh on the country's ability to deliver. Literally! We have sold our soul to the cheapest human's & they can't believe their luck.
Shoot the politicians.


“The reality is that it’s not whether it’s too high [population]" - Yes it does. NZ is running one of the highest per capita rates in the world. We should have a sustainable immigration rate focused on maximising gdp/capita not just growing gdp.

"He says the fact a New Zealander returning to the country after seven to 10 years overseas can be defined as an immigrant is problematic." - They are immigrants & it is the net immigration that matters. If more NZer's are coming home then that should be balanced by a reduced number of foreign immigrants.

Just count work and resident visas and match with IRD returns to establish who is still here and working.

Here is a great example of the quality of some recent immigrants:

And yet we're told they're all highly skilled people coming into the country.

I have another question for Winston. There are reports of frauds in eVisas and that they are being modified and illegal aliens are coming in to study, work or live here long term.

When passports are counterfeited easily and create headaches for many desired destination countries, which genius thought of using such eVisas for letting people into the country ? And which genius boss approved it for implementation ?
It is understood from reports that even Residence visas are of this type, eVisas and not by stickers on passports. This is carrying the reliance on technology to a ridiculously dangerous extreme.
Such eVisas should be scrapped immediately.

they do make a disclaimer that their figures arent accurate,I think we can assume the 2013 census was gold and the population increased in 5 years by only half of the 2018 estimates.I didnt realise that natural increase amounts for around 30,000 a year so 150,000 would be without immigration and we have 450,000.

No one asked UK if it wanted another 7m people , in 2004 and look how that turned out.
No one asks NZ if they want 5m either, or whether Auckland wants 30% of its school population to be of Asian extraction.
Basically, how we want our society to be is NOT put up for discussion at election time, or in interim periods, because we are constantly told, implicitly or explicitly, that all that happens is good for the economy (but not which parts of the class structure happen to Gian most from that of course...)

Well, somebody is rooting for Winston, some powerful peopl at that..
NZ Herald news : 'Mood of the Boardroom: Winston Peters viewed as 'the voice of reason'

Voice of Treason you mean??
Did not he and Labour promise to severely limit immigration as a major election plank.Which hopefully they'll soon be walking.

One category on immigrant visa I would endorse being added would be a 'Visually Talented' category. The inbound would possess exceptional beauty or handsomeness. Gotta ballance off the hairy moles and potbellies in the skills shortage category right!

Very unfair. Come to my local 'New World' which is graced by some beautiful Indian women on the checkouts; all very good at their job too with very good english, pleasant smiles, efficient packing of bags, etc. However I can't help wondering why we need them. And wonder if are they all partners of PhD students or here on their own right.

I think this idea has merit. In fact I have suggested it here before.

How about dealing to the massive benefit fraud here too.

Days to the General Election: 25
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.