Govt to tweak immigration settings to 'better control the flows and better match skills shortages', PM English says

Govt to tweak immigration settings to 'better control the flows and better match skills shortages', PM English says

“Tweaks” to New Zealand immigration settings to be announced Wednesday will give the government better control over inflows and allow for better matching with skills shortages, Prime Minister Bill English says.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse is set to outline changes in a speech in Queenstown on Wednesday. English, speaking to media Tuesday at his post-cabinet press conference, was coy on the details but said the changes were about “controlling the flows.”

However, he wouldn’t go as far as to say the government would specifically target reducing record net inflows seen in recent months. He warned that migrants to New Zealand were still required and that cutting inflows too much could reduce economic growth.

“We’ve got an awful lot to do…a lot of houses to build,” he said. “We’ve got to keep the balance right, here.”

English noted high inflow numbers had stayed high longer than most had expected – with annual net inflows over 70,000 in recent months.

He also said different people had different takes on what skilled work was – he referenced a conversation he’d had recently with a freighter firm owner who was unable to fill 28 vacancies for his fleet of 180 trucks. Likewise, owners of businesses in the retail, farming and construction industries were calling out for migrant labour to fill what they deemed as skilled roles, he said.

Cabinet dealt with the changes set to be announced “some time ago,” English said. They follow other moves made last year. They also follow changes announced today in Australia, where working visa numbers are set to be reduced and a more stringent English language test imposed.

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?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.



Election Year.

Vote for change.

It's like a Buddhist mantra to empty the mind -- "Vote for Change, Om".


Perhaps blindly pursuing any ideology or mantra is undesirable. “The free market will sort it out” “Small government is always good”, “High immigration rates are good for GDP”, “All foreign investment is good”, “we must privatize everything”,

Edited - Being part of the generation who missed out I feel skepticism towards the incumbents. Apologies for slinging mud.

The difference being, Pat, that nobody posted any of those here.


Yes but neoliberalism does seem to be the theme of the day. (edited as above)

If you say so it must be true.

Simple cliches that the National govt cannot express like emotional reactions on social media. Does it want small govt? Well yes, as long as the private sector can deliver in terms of jobs and income. In terms of the public good, they deliver based on their resources. Is immigration good for GDP? Most definitely. Aggregate demand naturally rises, which is ultimately reflected in economic data.

Good for GDP but not for per capita GDP, which is what makes us richer. Per capita GDP has been more or less static even as GDP rises.

Is increasing gdp good in itself? No! Increasing productivity & GDP per capita should be the goal! but even then only as means to an end. That end being improving the living standard of New Zealanders. Obviously we need to produce things that the rest of the world wants to buy. The government, like banks, have the capacity to create money (cf. Steve Keen), and if used wisely can stimulate aggregate demand, and deliver the abovementioned goals.

Those are very tough goals which require thoughtful long term strategy. Here’s what we’ve done over the last 9 years IMHO. Dumped third world immigrants into the country to deliberately suppress inflation so we can play race to the bottom currency war. We’re effectively “paying” wealthy foreigners to buy real estate from the boomers. Now the boomers don’t have to sell to gen X and Y, but you’ve just crushed tomorrows innovators with extractive rents forcing them on the wrong side of a massive wealth transfer.

We cannot play "race to the bottom in the currency war." We are far too dependent on running current account deficits.

".. tough goals which require thoughtful long term strategy.."

Oh Pat, what happened to the empty headed mantra's? I thought you were a fan.

For myself, I believe mercy triumphs over judgement and so can't turn my back so easily on third world migrants. The ones I know are genuine people trying to do the best for their families out of bad circumstances. It is so simple until you hear the full story.

NZ did not start any currency war, we are but a small pawn in a large war we can't escape.

P.S. Nice post Pat.

Mmmmmm GDP tastes so good and fills the stomach so well.


You forgot the overriding mantra, TINA, there is no alternative.

Maybe we could make one?

Excellent idea, Ralph, that should really help


A lack of skills you say?

What we should be doing is training our own young people to give them the skills they need. I call this process "Education". Sadly this word is already in use so my second choice is "Post Education".

This is so important that it cannot be left to chance - so we will force all young people who have made it through their comprehensive education into the new "Post Education" system, so they can be trained up into useful skills and to make up for the shortfall in their, er, comprehensive education.


Hard to trust National. Being election year will try to do some cover up without any intend.5 more months to go for national.


I am sure that National will have immigration under control by 2040, at the same time as superannuation and water quality. It's always good to have a plan.

I do think they have a plan, rushing it along as per usual. Stall marketeers. Playing a waiting game. They get paid either way.


Yes, Truck driver is a great example of the sort of skills that we need to import, likewise retail and farming, All highly skilled jobs that Kiwis cannot be taught.. as they have beaks instead of opposable thumbs. These people are not bringing skills, they are CHEAP LABOUR..


Agreed - cheap labour. Why not cut it right back and let wages grow for a bit? Happily take a stack of roading / transport engineers and town planners though (or maybe they are the skills we should be teaching kiwis)


They will fill the vacancies if they offer a NZ living wage. But they want cheap migrant labour. It has nothing to do with skill shortages.

Who would want to be a truck driver in AK?

Yes I think that is the elephant in the room. Tour bus drivers hate Queenstown with a passion. Going to somewhere like Westport is a holiday. Of course the government will say "build more infrastructure", however all people like bus drivers and truck drivers see is a low wage economy where people make beds on the minimum wage etc while the owners of property are pushed upwards like a glider in a nor-wester. Chinese are increasing their *half* of the tourist industry, the governments solution is Susan Devoy and Mai Chen "don't assume that because they don't look like your idea of a kiwi they aren't Kiwis ("Chinese have been here since the gold rushes")


Here comes the bribe......
Too little too late



I am so pleased for the health care workers with today's announcement of increased pay - heaven knows they deserve it - ..but the cynicism of National knows no bounds. For five years National put them through the hoops and, what do you know, in election year they decide - 'hmmm, there's a bunch of votes (55,000, plus family members etc) out there we might get if we allocate more resources in that area.

Tweaking immigration - hmmm, it's election year !! Vote National out!! Too little, too late..

I'm not sure of the business model behind the aged -care industry but a property spruiker used to say that Mc Donalds was actually a real estate company. Sounds like the accomidation suppliment
What about the low-paid workers who make beds in hotels? In the week-end many people off sick; "9 hours straight with two ten minute breaks".


upon reading Michael reddells post about cutting immigration and the economics behind it I totally agree. immigration in NZ is just about fuelling the low wage economy and in turn creating demand for more in a never ending cycle.
we have been deferring costs associated for later rather than fund as we go to try to juice the figures
also why do we want to fill NZ with people, we had something the rest of the world wanted space, unclogged living, friendliness because as the old saying goes we were a small village where everyone knows someone that you know.
after reading this today, which I agree with, who put these people in charge that allowed this mess to happen
and those that voted for them can not complain next time they are crawling along the motorway, or cannot find a park at the shopping centre, or have to wait 20+ hours at hospital to be seen,
its simple we let too many in too quick

Here are Michael Reddell's recent immigration posts.

Including his recent comments on Labour's press releases on the need to reduce immigration.

Michael also explains that immigrants have a greater demand than supply effect, which someone from Treasury like Bill English would know. What this means is for an individual firm immigrants can provide workers to help their particular labour supply problems. But for the economy as a whole the demand effects on increasing demand for housing, household contents, infrastructure and public services etc is greater than the supply effect.

Sums it up - That should be the caption of the day

How can we turn it into a catchy 3 word slogan

"who put these people in charge that allowed this mess to happen. Those that voted for them cannot complain next time they are crawling along the motorway, or cannot find a park at the shopping centre, or have to wait 20+ hours at hospital to be seen"

National party have treated NZ as a game. They are the players getting big bucks, the speculators are those betting big and knowing they will win and the rest of us kiwis are the ones paying to watch these idiots have a game of their lifetime

Correct even this announcement is a part of the game to win election and than ......NZ.

Change is must for NZ

The last horse has bolted from the barn, so now National get off the couch and check if the barn door is open.

I don't expect much from these "tweaks". It definitely wont be the changes we want/need.

This has been the same attitude of national and it's supporters that who cares is this attitute that is and will take them out.

Like it or not - National will go.

Wait for few months.

Andrew little on TV this morning gave me the impression he favours immigration so a vote for him is also a vote for tweaks, Quote we need to cut back only to catch up on building and services
it does not surprise me as when they were last in power they opened the door

I think that is the real problem facing voters today. Choice is nothing more than illusion.

Deep down all the parties are just going to keep doing the same old thing.

You are correct. Voting labour and/or other opposition parties may or may not help BUT voting for National will definetly not help.

So whom to vote can be discussed but whom NOT to vote is clear.

Also 9 years of power is too long for any political party - more so for National. Change of government is must for the benefit of overall NZ.

Choice is nothing more than illusion.

This is absolutely correct as the recent Trump election has illustrated. It seems that elected government positions are the only ones where you are allowed to lie on your résumé. It can always be justified by claiming that one's horizons expand when you get to the top and you can now see more than you did before so it is legitimate to alter your policies. Vigorous street protests and civil disobedience seem to be the only ways to make a democratic government change an unpopular course of action. In the past common cultural mores kept things on the right path at least keeping the government from selecting policies that were in direct opposition to the welfare of the people.
The Internet was a great hope in that we could in theory more easily create polls however this has been compromised by the rise of fake news. It's always going to be a bit of a mess.

politically toxic in migrant city

Auckland is a migrant city - where Auckland blows the rest will follow

In the 1980's Labour decided assimilation policies were wrong; instead policies of cultural pluralism were better. That decision has had huge ramifications. Essentially the New Zealander's country is no longer the New Zealander's country.

I don't think it was just Labour pushing cultural pluralism. Many readers here strongly believe in cultural pluralism. Just witness the beat down I get when I proclaim that the best thing an immigrant or asylum seeker can do is learn to speak English fluently and adopt British cultural mores. I ran across the Chinese immigrant PRC born daughter of a Chinese colleague the other day sitting in a restaurant with a group of friends all chatting away in English. She is off to take up a scholarship at Oxford University this year. Anecdotal but still..

NZ a convenient back-door stepping stone to somewhere else?

Thing is you've never said it that way before ....
In past posts you have promoted a different concept regarding the English language

check out your grammar and meaning of "Chinese immigrant daughter of a colleague"
who is the immigrant?

one could suggest there are distinct parasitical overtones in your statement about the daughter, and, who is using who, where she was educated and who is providing the scholarship, and will she return to NZ ... or was NZ simply a convenient stepping stone to somewhere else

back-door stepping stone or beautiful gateway into the Western world.

Clumsy, perhaps, but the daughter was not born in New Zealand and came over here aged eight years old with no English skills.

I must admit I am astonished that Oxford would offer a scholarship to a New Zealander with apparently no strings attached. The Western world is offering scholarships to everyone around the world and no doubt rejecting hopeful locals. Globalism.

was that an unsolicited offer?

I don't know the exact details although I know she had to choose between the London School of Economics and Oxford. Pretty bright kid. Very standard modern beliefs though. I describe these students as the Red Guards of the New World Order.

At eight years old, there is no barrier to learning a language immersion style. In fact, it is pretty much the optimal period of childhood to do so.
So, I don't know what your point is there.

You seem very out of touch with academia, despite your self purported affinity with it.
All universities offer scholarships for study, regardless of origin. This is pretty much standard practice to elevate the quality of graduates.
Hell, go to most continental European countries, regardless of ethnicity or origin, and you can study for free.

That's not true exactly. Some only offer easier access for EU members but they still have to pay fees. Germany is reintroducing fees. It does seem fairly cheap though.
I was astonished that Oxford University would so readily cover the costs that is all, nothing really more than that. I do admit I am out of touch with academia. I have been saying for a while now that you might as well embrace Globalism. Go on, ride the tiger.
Many NZers want globalism for themselves but not others when you think about it. Let the ideas compete.

I like this comment.

Nothing to do with this subject,but in a previous post,you may recall that you poured scorn on my statement that NZ is actually an Asian country.
Well,in his book Asia's Cauldron,the South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, Robert Kaplan wrote this; "East Asia is a vast,yawning expanse,stretching from the Kuril Islands southward to New Zealand". He was the chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor,a visting professor at the US Naval Academy and a member of the Pentagon's defence Policy Board. Foreign Policy magazine named him as one of the world's Top 100 Global Thinkers. Do you want to argue that he is wrong?

Kaplan is not saying here that NZ is Asian, rather that NZ sits on the edge of the yawning cauldron of Asia.

Anyway I wouldn't put much faith in Kaplan's jottings as he worked with Paul Wolfowitz on planning the Iraq War. He is an absolute Neocon.

Hard not to see this a splurging pre election. Auckland has been crying out for a hand brake on immigration for years, and 5 months before the election this happens...

National must think the population are sheep.

People think we aren't censored but we are. A message needs a vector and in modern society the market owns the vector.

Check the fine print when it comes out today

Australia had 600 permissible job classifications for the "work visa" program
Malcolm Turnbull's panic move merely reduces the list down to 400 categories

And he's not facing an election

Bribery is another word for corruption

a country without financial sovereignty will not be control its destiny no matter what tweaks done by whatever party.

Who would want to be a truck driver full stop. Got a text from my old man yesterday at 4:30pm, he was getting a load to deliver 2 hours away in the back of beyond then it was another two hours home. Starting at 4:30am and knocking off somewhere around 9pm last night made for a 16.5 hour day. Illegal. Max working day is 14 hours. He's back out on the road this morning at dawn.

Last week 4 of the 6 days he was over his 14 legal hours. And they wonder why they're struggling to find non immigrants to drive.

As someone that hitchhikes occasionally I have been picked up by drivers with similar stories. One driver from Dargaville explained that he started work at 4:00am to load the truck, and his first two hours work don't go in the logbook because it isn't driving. You have to wonder about stimulant use or we would be seeing crashes all over the show. I think what saves us is that they are professional about what they do.

“We’ve got an awful lot to do…a lot of houses to build,” he said.

That's quite circular. More immigration to build more houses, required by immigrants, which require more housing, etc...

Talking of construction, if Fletchers is broken up and sold off, I wonder who will buy. AFR analysts ( talk about the possibility of "a cashed-up newcomer to the local building materials scene". Sounds like a good opportunity for a Chinese SOE or conglomerate looking to move some cash out of China.

Some of the Australians have a few things to say about their concurrent changes to immigration policy, particularly 457 visas (short-term work visa, widely abused):

I recently read an article on Bloomberg which argued that regulators around the world often look at lower than average unemployment rates and conclude that the economy has everything it needs. China and India have less than 4% unemployment rate each but productivity is marginal compared to OECD levels.
A combination of full employment and immigration decouples economic growth from productivity improvements as employers have the liberty to choose increased capacity over training and skill development.
Historically every country that has witnessed a mass influx of working migrants over a long period has also seen a drop in standards of living for the same reason. Italy, France and Spain are perfect examples of this policy failure. On the flip side, Switzerland and Germany have restricted immigration to certain skills which has helped their economies achieve high productivity levels and better social integration of migrants.

Can anyone get on the NZ immigration website?

there seems to be no problem at all.

Thank you, your link worked fine

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are under pressure so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.