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Greens propose tightening migration settings to achieve 1% population growth per year; Shaw wants to smooth out big swings in migration and reduce pressure on infrastructure, housing; Winston Peters accuses of Greens of hypocrisy

Greens propose tightening migration settings to achieve 1% population growth per year; Shaw wants to smooth out big swings in migration and reduce pressure on infrastructure, housing; Winston Peters accuses of Greens of hypocrisy

By Bernard Hickey

The Green Party has shaken up the migration debate with a policy that would significantly reduce current levels of net migration, albeit through a target on total population growth rather than net migration itself.

Co-Leader James Shaw has proposed changing migration settings in a dynamic way to ensure the population grew 1% per year, rather than the 2% growth seen last year.

Shaw announced the policy in an interview with Lisa Owen on The Nation on Saturday (see video above).

"We think that the country needs a more sustainable immigration policy, so what we would do is to set a variable approvals target based on a percentage of the overall population, and so that would be at about 1% of the population, which is historically how fast New Zealand’s population has grown," Shaw said.

"So what we would do is we’d say, well, if you look at a period like at the moment, when you’ve got lots of Kiwis coming home and not many leaving, then the number of approvals would be much lower, and in other years it would be much higher," he said.

Given the current population, that would imply population growth of around 45,000, including the migration home and away of New Zealanders to and from overseas, which cannot be restricted, along with natural population growth. Shaw said the 1% population growth policy would mean that net migration of non-New Zealand citizens would therefore be around 17,000 to 20,000 migrants this year, down from the current net migration of around 70,000.

Currently close to NZ First target

New Zealand First's current policy is for net migration of around 10,000 to 15,000.

New Zealand's population actually grew 2.0% last year, including growth through net migration of around 1.5% and natural population growth of 0.5%. There were a net 2,588 New Zealand citizens who emigrated in the year to August, down from 28,375 in the year to August 2013, while the number of temporary work visa and student visa migrants rose by 22,254 to 65,737 over the same period.

"The whole idea here is to try and smooth out the peaks and troughs," Shaw said.

"If you look at government policy, what they do is they try and say, well, there should be about 45-55,000 a year, but that sits on top of movements in the general population, which is why you have these big peaks and troughs," he said. "And that’s why people are getting concerned about it this year – because it’s having an outsize impact on house prices, on infrastructure and on wages, actually."

Shaw said the numbers coming in under such a variable migration target could rise to 30,000 if the net migration of New Zealanders was to return to previous levels. He rejected suggestions of a hard stop to migration from levels of around 70,000 now down to 30,000 or 17,000.

"You’d need to manage it down slowly, so we wouldn’t say that next year it should suddenly drop by that amount. What you want is to sort of smooth it down so that we get back to the kind of sustainable population growth that we’ve had over the past few decades," he said.

House price effect?

Shaw said such a drop would not necessarily have a big impact on house prices.

"Changes in migration flows to the equivalent of 1% of population actually push up house prices by about 6-12%, so it’s significant and noticeable, but it’s not 100%," he said. "It’s not a huge outside number. If you smooth that number down, you’re gonna put less pressure on house prices the way that we’ve seen over the course of the last sort of 12-24 months." Shaw said he'd talked to Labour about the policy, "and they seem comfortable with the idea."

Fewer overseas student places?

He did not give specifics on exactly which parts of the migration mix would be tweaked to achieve the 1% population growth, given the Government now has a planning range for permanent residency of 85,000 to 95,000 for the next two years, but does not have targets or caps for temporary work visas or student visas. Last week it temporarily suspended parental visa applications and lowered the planning range by 5,000. It is also reviewing work testing for work visas and student visa numbers.

A variable migration target implies constant tweaking of targets for permanent residency visas, both for skilled migrants and their families, along with targets for temporary work visas and student visas. Some elements cannot be controlled, including net migration of New Zealand citizens and working holidaymaker visas, given New Zealand has bilateral agreements with many countries that allow unfettered movements of such visas.

Shaw suggested student visas as one area that could be changed.

"We think that the government is actually barking up the wrong tree by putting the pressure on the family category," he said.

"There’s huge numbers of students that are coming into New Zealand on temporary work visas and that’s actually where a lot of the pressure is coming from, especially on housing and on transport infrastructure."

'Hypocritical back-flip'

New Zealand First put out a self-congratulatory press release after Shaw's announcement, and accused Shaw of hypocrisy.

"The Greens have always stood on a pedestal, looking down their noses, claiming the high moral ground as New Zealand First warned that immigration was strangling our public services, cutting Kiwis out of jobs, and helping push house prices up," Peters said.

“What a turnaround we saw today. The party that claims it’s for as much diversity in the population as we can get reveals there are problems with a soaring population," he said.

“Who will call who racist and xenophobic now? It appears the Greens, like Labour, have had a Road to Damascus experience on policies they pushed for decades. But you simply can’t trust them."

Woodhouse has no new numbers of abandoned parents

Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse admitted in an interview on The Nation that the Government's decision to suspend parental applications was not made on fresh data on the number of parents being abandoned here by their children and going on to cost "tens of millions" in welfare costs.

Woodhouse said the Government would review the numbers as part of a review of its policy while applications were suspended.

"When the parent category was last reviewed, what we did see was that the health care costs by them were about three times higher than in, for example, the skilled migrants," he said.

"We also saw that there were very high levels of income support, both two years and five years after they came here. I can’t remember the exact numbers in millions of cost of income support, but we will be updating and analysing that as part of the review," he said.


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What next Greens? Build a wall?

Lol that was my first thought too . Next the will want to ban all Muslims

So glad you are happy to pay the welfare bill for these new "immigrants" onward. I can feel your empathy ozzing over the keyboards.

Nah, just pointing out the hypocrisy of the Greens. It seems they will do and say what ever it takes to gain power . If the spirit of the time is pro-migrants then the Greens are pro-migrants. But now that the general mood is anti-migrant...BAM...Greens are anti-migrant. Sad, sad little party.

Sad party slowing gaining percentage in the polls? I think most of there policy makes sense and at least puts Kiwis and the environment first. You against that?

Not against that at all. My point is that the Greens are not to be trusted.

Yes in KJ we trust he has your back (well home owners anyway )

It's strange how politics is the only arena where changing your views based on your environment is frowned on. Isn't a political party that adjusts its policies based on the evidence and the will of the people a good thing?

up wall required, just take down the open invitation.

Yes, after all NZ already has a pretty big moat making a wall unnecessary. It annoys me that NZ based critics of Trump's plan so often ignore this country's natural barrier.

Our Government will be real please with this news :

Growing house price rapidly is a a sign of prosperity and a good problem to have.

Shows the mindset of the government. Good news for Speculators = Government

Oh dear, Woodhouse stretching credibility - can't remember how many millions in income support the parent category cost. Throw in healthcare costs and a figure to the closest 100 million will do just fine.
Winston probably can't believe his luck. The Greens just giving him more ammo.

I think we should set a desirable population number, and work to it over a long time, more than just decades. Determining flows in and out of the country without addressing what the basic number should be is not that useful.
My view is that we should keep the population stable, increase will not benefit us. My preference would be for less population than now, but setting a max of say 5 million would work.
Clearly John Key and others think the more the better, but don't seem to have even thought of a national population figure. Some will be imagining 50 million, but also clearly they haven't thought it through in any way. Their management is limited to trying to screen just who, but they still want the big inflow.
I see a stable population as having great economic benefit to the population, and frankly the option of always increasing population has a serious flaw for our descendants.

Please set out how you think the Government should prevent people from living longer and from having as many children as they want.

Oh get over yourself MdM. Here's one for you. Demonstrate what makes you think those two things are necessary. Especially the first.
As for the second -- people who are more secure have fewer children. It's what they want. We could improve security. Magic.

She is asking a valid question. How do you propose to keep the population at a max limit, purely by focusing on immigration?
Households may decide to have 3, or 4 children instead of 2. Your assertion that people who are more secure have fewer children is flawed. Yes, it has been proven that women in the developing world who are allowed to complete their education, and are financially independent, have fewer children than those who do not have an education, no access to birth control, and no means of leaving their husband (resulting in more children). This has nothing to do with 'feeling more secure'.
In fact, when I was living in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger, it was very much de rigeur for couples of a certain level of income (high) to have baby number 3 or 4, because they could afford for the mom to stay at home. The third and/or fourth child was being used as - socially - a sign which said they were wealthy.
And people living longer will reduce the natural deaths in any given year, at least kick the curve down the line by a few years.
This will also impact on the total population.
If you propose solutions, you should be prepared, and able, to defend them. Shooting the messenger isn't very helpful (nor very mature).

You're the one who said that the Government should set a limit on population and not allow the population to increase above it, not me.

Since things which drive population increase include children being born and people living longer, those will have to be prevented if the population is to be prevented from rising.

Japan has a reducing population. And not driven by any plan or intervention. It's just a nation result from lots of individuals decisions and probably a social view. Maybe controlling population is not actually an issue. But MdM what do you think of the basic idea. That we should have a national idea of what we want the population to be. Rather than aimlessly focusing on immigration. Happy to hear your view even if is 50 million by 2045 and exponentially increasing.

Japan is a famously xenophobic nation, they do not welcome immigration.
Birth rate has plummeted, as well, and a lot of that ha t do with the status of women in society.
japan is the only nation where families are, by law, required to have the same surname. So a woman has to adopt her husband's last name. The majority of women in the workforce, are expected to resign when they marry, or at least when they get pregnant.
this is not conducive, as is being proven, to an increase in birth rate and there fore population.
Coupled with (pun not intended) a nearly non-existent immigration policy, it's no wonder their population I forecast to pummet.

if we had no immigration our population over time would decrease due to the demographics and low birth rate

There you go. Thank you Sharetrader. Retreat in shame MdM. But seriously. What is the desired population of this wonderful country. My pick. Around two million.

Benefits and tax relief (WFF) for only the first 2 children.
Third child does not increase any benefit or tax relief.
Fourth child wipes out the benefit and tax relief of the first 2.
additional children each add 2% to your annual tax rate as well as that of any trust that you are a trustee for and/or company that you direct.

This sets the dangerous precedent of only the rich being able to have children.

A form of eugenics...?

Did you miss the part where the government helps you to have 2 children and doesn't penalize you for having 3?
More than 3 is just a fiscal prudence thing, it is not fair to make others pay more because you want to have more children whom you can't afford. No one would be forbidden from having children, those who really really want more than 3 children could get family to help them.
Bear in mind that even when the government isn't giving you a direct benefit or tax relief for each child they are still paying for the healthcare and education of that child, among other things.

Don't the parents spend money on their children that goes in to the wider economy?
Don't those children grow up to be tax payers that probably pay for your retirement?
Don't those children end up becoming part of a workforce that apparently is lacking skilled people it needs to import works?

I seem to recall something about the productivity of each child produced by a family with more than 4 children being exponentially lower. If i'm not mistaken the effect was so large that the sum of the net productivity of children from a family with 2 children is usually greater than the sum of the net productivity of the children in a family of 12+.
This means that if you have more than X children those of them on the benefit are likely to cost the system more than the tax take from those who aren't on the dole.

There are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics.

I seem to recall a study that looked at other studies that made claims which were never peer reviewed, never critically analysed, or relied on such a small test pool the results were almost always invalid and conclusions drawn from them were far to broad and sweeping to be meaningful...but hey, what do I know.

Perhaps we should euthanize the elderly once they get past their prime, then we could save even more.

I can't find the original source anymore but I reckon that the easiest way to check is to compare the household income not adjusted for size against the household income adjusted for size. the difference should show that larger households tend to have lower productivity per individual.

Finally someone else has seen the light.


It is something of a surprise that the greens have taken this long to recognise what is an obvious problem, particularly in light of the effects on the environment, and energy sustainability of this country. Also surprising that the parent category health and other costs are only now becoming apparent, when was this report that woodhouse refers to done? Income support for elderly parents, what's all that about? I thought you had to be a resident for ten years before claiming super. And what's all this about abandoning the old folks here, in what version of reality does that qualify as "re-unification". What a monumental cock up!


Contributors like me have been on to this immigration problem for almost five years.
I know this because it was back in late 2011 when both of our kids were looking to buy homes ( fortunately both signed up in March 2012) and at that time we noticed the significant numbers of young mainly Asian buyers were entering the market with budgets that would have been unlikely to be available to them personally at their age group. We were looking in the $600k plus range which was above average Auckland median at the time.

Seriously ? Are they taking their cue from Donald Trump?

This is climbing -on -the -bandwagon of anti-migrant sentiment as a result of the housing pressures in Auckland , and desperately hoping it will attract voters .

Their settings would see almost no migrant led GDP growth , whereas we actually need skilled migrants , who :-

Setlle and assimilate
Find work and use their skills and or capital
Pay Tax
Stay out of trouble


And avoid contaminating our health and pension systems with ancient parent baby minders.

So what is your solution if they don't settle, don't assimilate, don't pay tax, or cause trouble

Donald Trump? Hardly.

I think they have just pointed out that the biggest single threat to the environment is Human Beings.

It's just not politically very wise to phrase it in those terms.


I like this policy and watched him deliver it, very sensible, it puts kiwis first then tops up with skills needed but does not let it flood us to the point of creating problems and can be adjust down or up depending on what we need
the interviewer had not done her research and trotted out NP spin which was shot down straight away i.e but most is made up returning kiwis, wrong it was only net 3k for the year so at 1% of population still leaves the rest to top up to 50 K

as for the ten year policy I do not like that, the base should be 1/4 at ten years rising as years are put in as a taxpayer until 25 years full entitlement.
after all are we not supposed be bringing in young workers to replace our population or is that just a myth.
so 25 years would be people 40 and under


31% of the migrants who sponsored their parents to come here never actually settled in NZ themselves. So we didn't get the earning and tax paying component of the family that qualified based on their skills and our needs - we got mum and dad and the related health and superannuation costs that they qualified for. You just have shake your head at the stupidity of some aspects of our immigration policy.

Yikes, where did you get that 31% from

Your source, please


Official Information Act

Many parents are being left in New Zealand by absent sponsors.
Figures obtained under the Official Information Act by the NZ Herald showed 31 per cent of sponsors who left were Chinese

So it's not 31% of all sponsors are absent ones. Just that 31% of absent sponsors are Chinese.
That's quite different.


The only "sustainable" population growth policy is in fact a negative one. There are just too many people on the planet. Hard to believe the greens can not link human POPULATION and overshoot fed by fossil fuel as the root cause of all environment (and now economic) problems...

I'm surprised there are some people who could see this graph but not put things together.

absolutely right. Says it all

This is mighty expensive considering the probability is they have never held a job, and never paid tax toward the system

Woodhouse said "When the parent category was last reviewed, we found the health care costs incurred by the parents was three times higher than the costs of the (entire?) skilled migrants group"

Nothing new. Smalltown has been telling us for 5 years about the elderly traffic flow (unaccompanied, on their own) through the North Shore hospital requiring 24/7 round the clock interpreter service


Winston is having a blinder. There is an unseemly rush by all the other political parties to adopt NZ First policy, albeit watered down versions of. He is totally front running the debate on Immigration, police numbers, law and order and now on decentralising govt departments to the regions which will play well here. Its like he's already PM.

Absolutely right SS and in the process he's been consistent in the delivery of policy unlike his competition and by far the most transparent political party unlike the current government and their flip flopping support acts.

Starting to agree. It will be interesting to see if the adoption of his policies is enough to stem the momentum that NZ First seem to have or if by validating his long held positions the public will see him as the authentic voice and continue to gravitate to him?

Australian Productivity Commission estimate immigrants on parents visas cost the country up to $410,000 each

Oops - pages 33/34 - Investment visas — the case is not compelling.
Guess we won't be seeing a report like this in NZ anytime soon then.

Aussies don't go slow when they can go fast

In the 2014 budget the Australian Government imposed a fee of $65,000 per parent application fee for each and every parent applying for an entry visa under the Parent Family reunion category

New Zealand? Going slow. Still 5000 km's from turning into the home straight


Sensible policy while there is a strain on infrastructure and the highest house price rises in the world.
Anne Gibson....Another journalist that doesnt classify foreign students and temp buyers as foreign purchaser.

Again NZ Media foreign purchaser = off shore buyer
Australian definition : foreign purchaser = students + temp + offshore

Why is this so difficult to understand?
Why would we not align our definition with Australia ?
Who gains with the current definition ?

"Labour wants to ban foreign buyers and Land Information New Zealand is now collecting data on the number of foreigners buying properties here, although those show extremely low percentages."

Funny thing is the university calls them" Foreign Students" so they can charge them accordingly.

Yet somehow when these "Foreign Students" buy houses they are no longer "Foreign purchaser"

Why ? Who benefits from this :
Real estate


Fact: 50% of parent-category-visa arrivals end up on welfare inside 5 years
More info - Today - this AM - On RNZ nine-to-noon

While making massive tax free capital gains as they clog the hospitals.
There is a little Winston in all of us.

Easy to forget those massive tax-free gains while they slurp from the public purse

Probably 98% of the slurping comes from NZ born Kiwi's...


Impossible - follow the thread - it's a discussion about how 50% of the migrants who come in under the parent-visa category end up on welfare inside 5 years

How you can morph them into Kiwis beats me


Vote for Winston Peter is Vote for John Key as he will be with whoever offers him power. I would not like to split my anti government (national government for their arrogance and egoistic approach and their policies) vote unless Winston Peter comes out and spell out that will not go with national - which I have doubts that he will do.


Exactly. For the first time in my life I am thinking of voting for him, although unfortunately, unless he could guarantee that he would not form a governemnt with National (the worst governemnt in the last 60 yrs I believe) there is no way I could actually go through with it.


Yeah I am the same. I don't like pollies full stop but the current muppets take the cake. I will vote strategically to ensure my vote does not support national in any shape of form.
Like others I would consider voting winston but only if it was clear it would not effectively be a vote for national.

Minister in charge of the Department for counting Stoats, Ferrets and Possums

One can only hope that NZ First holds firm.
Should it hold the balance of power, it should hold out and force National to form a minority government and for NZ First to sit on the cross benches

Any cosy deal and Winston would get intoxicated with the token power he would be given

If Winston was already in coalition with National we wouldn't have the giant mess where in now with overpriced housing and a huge deficit of infrastructure as he would have reigned National in.
I want National out, but a coalition with Winston would be better than just National in control.
Immigration is going to be the big issue this election and National have recognized this and will spin doctor the voters to think all is well with their minor adjustments.
The oldies that have been dumped here receiving free healthcare, interpreters and benefits should be put on the next plane back to wherever accompanied by their bill.

Yes Northland Hippy. False declarations have been made. Their responsibility. Put em on the plane.

I don't know if any of this is news to the rest of you but most of it was to me. As an Aucklander I suspected the immigration laws but this beggars belief:

I suggest you all look at the Winston Peters Q&A interview that was on yesterday. He reveals a couple of more depressing statistics.

Pass these on to whoever you know. We need to get rid of the scum we have in government.I don't have a great view of any politicians but this lot take the cake!!!!

I am disgusted after reading this. Surely this is it, they cannot get another term. We will be paying for their power hungry greed and incompetence for decades to come.

Spell it out - from the article

Winston Peters raised concerns about the Parents category a long time ago and with good cause.

In two of the last five years, the numbers gaining residency in New Zealand under the Parents category from China exceeded the total numbers in the Skilled/Business category from China.

A young couple that qualified for residency here was able to bring out four parents under the "centre of gravity" policy. While that has since been dropped, applications for parents have been well over the 5500 annual cap

Oh yes indeed.
Winston has said some silly xenophobic things in the past, which didn't help his cause.
But wisely, he mainly sticks to solid common sense these days.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - NZ's citizens have been taken for a ride big time with this current government's policy settings in immigration, foreign investment, housing etc etc.

But if Winston doesn't speak up, well who will?
Being xenophobic is not a crime.
It is a point of view.
Just like every property advert in the local rag, where the country is being sold off.

Very good policy Greens.

Does anyone know if all these elderly immigrants putting their hands out to the state for assistance - when they were let in on the basis of their family supporting them - can be sent home?
Is that available recourse?
Auckland - Scam City

If it isn't it should be
The basis of their entry approval was that they wouldn't be a burden on the state

Someone has been telling porkies
It's systematic - it's co-ordinated - it's not just a few unfortunates - it's 50% - that's organised

OK, rambling here only goes so far.
I will email Winston now and ask if he can follow up re: enforcement

"Look, we'll have to take advice on that".
and 3 years later..........."at the end of the day, the advice we have shows that the future of our country can be really great and New Zealand as a whole needs to save more, spend less and reduce our reliance on foreign debt, ohhh and don't forget this one.....our opponents say more children are living in poverty than when we came into office. And that's probably right".

Skilled migrants as per the herald
"Numerically chefs were highest, followed by retail managers, then cafe or restaurant managers."

if we don't bring in chefs where will we eat, we cannot train our own that would be unthinkable
The top five countries for chefs approved for work visas over the last five years are:
•China – 5,390
•India – 3,803
•Thailand – 2,154
•South Korea – 2,009
•Japan – 966

14,000 chefs fantastic just what NZ needs to raise its standard of living ... plus parents also i guess....another 14,000 or so

NZ should be trying to get more technology workers.... due to our distance tech is a good way to compete on the world stage..focus is still on primary goods...

Shame the government doesnt provide meaningful incentives to get people to invest in small start up etc.... perhaps like the uk with 30% tax relief on investments.

Looking forward to the next bribe from National.... had immigration ... housing soon i am sure

Vancouver tax....

Globally competitive tax rates would do the trick.

My dad was an unemployed immigrant when he arrived in NZ in 1970, the irony was Aussie would only have him and not NZ as he did not qualify...NZ was built by immigrants...

It's meaningless to say, "NZ was built by immigrants". It doesn't really convey any useful information. NZ was built by the British, it is a British cultural artefact and immigrants choose it because of that.

explain - if NZ wouldn't accept him how did he get into NZ

Yeah that stumped me.... also wasnt sure what the irony was.

Keywest are you an aussie?

Look what happened to Maoridom when they lacked the ability to control immigration; near destruction of their culture. Immigration is needed in this country but we need sound policy around it which include appropriate limitations.

Yeah and what happened to the Moriori

Taranaki Maori went to the Chatham Islands and killed them....and?


Good comment Zachy