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Amid ongoing debate about immigration, is it time New Zealanders took the debate broader and settled on a population policy?

Amid ongoing debate about immigration, is it time New Zealanders took the debate broader and settled on a population policy?
Auckland Airport.

By Stephen Forbes

New Zealand is a nation founded on immigration.

From the first Maori who arrived on these shores and discovered Aotearoa, to the earliest European settlers and the myriad of peoples who have come to New Zealand since, migrants have built this country.

But despite these national ties we have to it, immigration has often been used as a political football by those seeking to whip up the ugly sentiments of the underbelly against those who are different. From the Dawn Raids of the Muldoon era to the vitriol against the new wave of Asian immigrants in the 1990s.

However, not all criticism of our immigration levels is based on racism and xenophobia. Some of those questioning government policy can point to legitimate concerns about the negative effects it can have. During the last government’s nine years in office immigration levels soared and so did the demand side pressures that came with it.

Economic pressures

In economics immigration is often seen as adding to total demand from households due to increased numbers of residents. This is reflected in increased demand for goods and services and this often leads to higher profit margins and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But if demand grows too fast it can create inflationary pressures and the over inflated house prices in Auckland in recent years are a prime example. The demand for housing was outstripping the supply and as our immigration levels reached record peaks, this contributed to house prices in the city skyrocketing. Other demand side issues can include the pressure on infrastructure, from schools and roads to public transport.

While on the supply side some people see immigration as a key way to increase the supply of labour. With young working age New Zealanders continuing to leave the country, bringing in more immigrants is seen as one way of meeting the shortfall. But it can also be used as a means of driving down wages, as when the supply of labour is higher than demand incomes will fall.

The debate about whether we have the right mix can often be defined by what type of immigrants we are bringing in. The skilled migrant category and who qualifies for it is an arbiter of whether our policy is meeting the demand from NZ companies. There will always be debate about whether we do, or don’t, have the right immigration settings.

According to economic consultants Infometrics in a recent report entitled Global Trends Add Weight to NZ Economy's Slowdown, net migration is falling, the housing market has softened and a tightening labour market could inhibit future growth.

“New Zealand’s reliance on a rapidly increasing population to achieve growth in recent years is exemplified by the economy’s productivity performance. Labour productivity has increased by an average of just 0.1%pa since 2013, which is the worst five-year performance since at least the early 1990s.”

Infometrics says to achieve economic growth businesses need to invest more and not rely on a growing population to drive growth.

However, many of the demand side pressures linked to immigration, including the cost of housing, are easing and some of the supply side factors that increased the country’s labour supply have also abated.

Figures released by Statistics NZ in January show there was a gain in net migration (long term arrivals minus long term departures) of 43,400 people in the 12 months to November.

It follows a change in how the government measures immigration numbers. Previously the figures were based on people filling out departure cards when they left the country, but Stats NZ has now changed to using an outcomes-based measure of migration. It uses passport data to link arrivals and departures and measure how long people spend in, or out of, New Zealand after their initial border crossing.

Under the new system Stats NZ estimates show net migration peaked at 63,773 in the year to June 2016 and has been declining since. With net migration of 58,625 in the 12 months to June 2017 and 46,634 in the year ended June 2018.

Population policy

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley says we haven’t even talked about creating a strategic government population policy in over 40 years, despite the dramatic demographic changes we’ve seen as a country since.

“The last time we had a serious discussion about it was in 1974 or 1975 in the last days of the [third] Labour government.”

His own research has looked at the massive demographic changes the country has undergone. But we are now faced with an ageing population and a falling birth rate with no overarching strategy to deal with them.

The French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) is a public research institute that specialises in international population research. It defines a population policy as:

“All of the measures explicitly or implicitly taken by the authorities aimed at influencing population size, growth, distribution, or composition. A population policy is a set of measures taken by a State to modify the way its population is changing, either by promoting large families or immigration to increase its size, or by encouraging limitation of births to decrease it.”

Spoonley (pictured) says it’s not a subject New Zealanders like to discuss. 

“We don’t like talking about population, but it’s a huge issue. There’s some parts we’ll talk about, like our ageing population, but we won’t talk about our declining fertility rate.”

According to Stats NZ our resident population reached 4.9 million people in September and recent estimates suggest we could top 5 million later this year. While the total number of residents in New Zealand is estimated to increase by one person every five minutes and 26 seconds.

Ageing populace and a declining birth rate

Spoonley says we can’t afford to take an ad hoc approach and we need to debate the issues.

“We really need to talk about all of the components [of a population policy]. For instance our rapidly ageing population, our declining birth rate, our population growth which is focused on Auckland, and immigration.”

He says the country’s birth rate is currently sitting at just 1.7 which means it isn’t high enough to maintain our existing population. We aren’t having enough children and, if we do, we’re having them later in life.

According to Statistics NZ the fertility rate for women under 30 years, who are of childbearing age (15 to 29 years), dropped to the lowest ever in 2018.

Spoonley says the fact New Zealand’s immigration policy is based on bringing in ready-made migrant families from other countries has masked the true scale of the problem.

“Across the OECD we’re seeing declining birth rates and no-one has an answer. And we can’t change the ageing of our population. The number of over 65s in New Zealand will double over the next decade.”

But he maintains the government can use its immigration policies to bring in more young people.

“It’s one of the few options we have,” Spoonley says.

He says 60% of immigrants currently coming into the country enter under the skilled migrant category and he thinks we do a pretty good job of it.

“Our immigration policy is a pick and choose system where we try to pick and choose skilled migrants for our workforce,” Spoonley says. “And internationally I would say Canada, Australia and NZ are as good as it gets in terms of identifying skilled migrants and recruiting them.”

He says changes the government has made to student visas and to who qualifies under the skilled migrant category are important.

“I think we do need to carefully manage who comes into New Zealand. But some of the changes the government has made, or is proposing, might change the numbers of people who are arriving quite drastically. But they’ve declared that is their goal and they’re delivering on that.”

However, he says it does create a conundrum.

“How are you going to grow the economy if you don’t have the workers?”

Policy settings

But Spoonley concedes the immigration settings under the previous National government may have discouraged business investment and hampered the country’s productivity.

“We’ve been doing that to some extent in recent years. We’ve been relying on immigration for economic growth and you can’t rely on immigration at the expense of your own people who need employment.”

He refers to the numbers of young people aged between 15 and 24 years of age who are not in employment, education, or training (NEETs).

“Otherwise you are going to create an economic backlash at some point and disadvantage your own people.”

He says another demographic issue which isn’t often talked about is the number of young people in their late teens and early 20s who are leaving the regions every year and never come back.

Spoonley says there is now close to one million ex-pat Kiwis living overseas and he says a lot of them originally come from regional New Zealand.

“I don’t think the scale of it’s understood.”

But while we might not like discussing the different components that could be used to create a population policy, Spoonley says he doesn’t buy into the idea that Kiwis are shy about talking about immigration.

“There might be some people who are cautious, but whenever I talk about immigration my email inbox says the opposite.”

Spoonley says while some people may have negative views of migrants, the majority of New Zealanders don’t.

“When you look at public opinion polls most of us are positive about the contribution immigrants make to the country,” he says.

He says immigration in New Zealand isn’t as politically charged as it is in other countries and refers to the US, Germany and Hungary as examples.

“In those countries it is politicised and immigrants are demonised. Whereas the political parties here in New Zealand generally agree it’s good for the country.”

But he says there are a number of outstanding questions that we could address with a co-ordinated population policy. 

When asked if he’s talked to the current government about creating a New Zealand population policy Spoonley says he’s too busy.

“I haven’t had the chance.”

An economist’s perspective

New Zealand Initiative chief economist Eric Crampton (above) was born in Canada and first came to this country in 2003 where he took up a position at Canterbury University. He became a permanent resident in 2005.

These days he’s working for New Zealand Initiative, a libertarian public policy think tank based in Wellington. It was formed in 2012 after a merger of the New Zealand Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute.

Crampton says New Zealand welcomed him with open arms, which was in total contrast to a previous experience trying to get a Green Card in the United States.

“I think immigration has been a strong force for good in New Zealand.”

He says there’s more than enough studies which outline the contribution migrants continue to make to the country. As an example he refers to a 2017 New Zealand Initiative report titled: The New New Zealanders: Why migrants make good Kiwis.

"As we detail in the report, they bring skills here that can be harder to find; they bring perspectives and experiences that can help in solving problems here, and, they bring connections to their home markets that can help build trade relationships.”

He says New Zealand is also more likely to export to countries which we have received migrants from.

“And migrants overall contribute strongly to the government’s bottom line. They pay tax and they often come here with an education they’ve gained elsewhere. But it would be a mistake to reduce migrants’ contribution to these kinds of figures. Imagine how bland our restaurant choices would be without immigration?”

He concedes the country has experienced population growth pressures in recent years.

“And a lot of our growth in nominal GDP has been because we’ve had more people.” 

He says during the last general election in 2017 the issue of immigration was a hot topic and he thinks it has had a flow-on effect. 

“I think that has a created a less welcoming attitude from Immigration NZ.”

Crampton says we can’t ignore the stories of immigration scandals we’ve seen in recent years and change was needed.

“We did need to fix some of the rorts that were going on.”

Global issues 

But he says immigration still has a very important part to play in New Zealand’s future and with the country's skills shortage we should be welcoming skilled immigrants with open arms.

Crampton claims the United States has become less welcoming to people on work visas and skilled migrants who would have previously stayed in the country are leaving. Crampton says foreign students are also finding the US less attractive as a study destination. While the ongoing dramas of Brexit in the United Kingdom has made things increasingly difficult for people living there on EU passports.

“New Zealand seems like the last sane place left in a world growing increasingly mad. Or, at least, we are going mad far more slowly than the rest of the world. But New Zealand may have missed a trick here in attracting very highly skilled workers who in normal times might prefer the brighter lights of Silicon Valley or London,” he says. “New Zealand has an opportunity to be draw in some really talented individuals. We need to ensure we are taking advantage of the current situation.”

However, Crampton’s wary of the idea of coming up with a national population policy and says putting an exact figure on how many people we want in the country wouldn’t be a good idea. “I wouldn’t want to pick a particular number,” he says. “Paul Spoonley is right, that to address our declining population we need immigration. But I don’t have an opinion on say how many children people should have.”

And he says while we don’t have a defined population policy, a number of other policies we do have indirectly influence our population. “We have immigration policies around who can get a work visa and when the government is worried about the number of people coming into the country they can always tighten up on the conditions. We also have various social policies that effect how many children people have, but I don’t think it’s something that people think the government should be involved in.

“I think we should be working on ensuring and making sure our systems are responsive to the immigrants who do come here and have a welcoming attitude to those who do want to come here and contribute.”

Housing market pressures

Crampton says central to that is fixing the country’s housing market.

“As we do have a lack of housing we need to make sure our housing market is working properly. And it’s not working in those areas where policy decisions have been made to limit supply.” He says for years the government denied there was any kind of housing crisis and put off making the changes that were needed to fix the problem. Crampton says the changes have to come on the supply side through regulatory change and he says cities like Auckland are under severe strain because of it.

“When cities cannot grow up and cannot grow out, the only way left to adjust when demand changes is through prices. That’s a problem not just when population increases, but also if demand falls – collapses in house prices are not without risk. Because we have not allowed supply to adjust, we feel every change in demand through changes in prices and that is dangerous. In markets for other goods and services, where regulations do not prevent supply from responding, we do not see anything like the problems we see in housing.”

Crampton says housing doesn’t have to be any different. He refers to the growth of Atlanta in the United States which has seen its metropolitan population grow from just under 3 million people in 1990 to an estimated 5.9 million in 2019. But despite the increasing number of people living in the southern city house price inflation has been kept in check. The median house price in Atlanta is three and a half times median household income, whereas in Auckland it’s nine.

“The problem isn’t population growth, it’s the rules around getting new housing and new apartments built.”

And Crampton says he wonders if it’s having wider effects than just the real estate market.

“I wonder whether the declining family size is partly because of those housing issues. People are delaying having children because they can’t make the choices they want to make around family size.”

Going to the regions

Crampton says the country’s declining regional population could also be addressed by giving those applying for permanent residency extra points if they are willing to live and work in a particular area.

“That way we could open up particular regions.”

He says he thinks the government’s foreign home buyer ban is misguided, but says it could also be adapted to help address the problem of regional decline.

“We could remove the foreign buyer ban in regions that need more migrants and population. That would be one way to address things.”

Meanwhile the data from the 2018 Census will be released later this year. New Zealand holds a Census every five years and it is the official count of how many people and dwellings there are in the country.

By asking people to complete a set of questions about themselves and their household it is one way as a country we can capture a snapshot of who is living and visiting 21st century New Zealand.

Stats NZ, which carries out the study, says it plans to make an announcement in April, but at this stage can’t provide an exact date for the release of the 2018 Census.  

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Given the world needs far fewer of us, countries experiencing falling populations should be lauded. Surely, we can figure out how to do this, using technology, mechanisation and robotics. A rapidly expanding population is a ponzi mainlined that can be very hard to come down off, but unless we want to be crowded into battery cage-like apartments, having to jostle for space on the beach and no longer able to catch a fish for dinner it's not something to look forward to.


Not to mention the absolute madness of concreting over good fertile, horticulture land


The very best horticultural we have is South of Auckland and sadly,I believe that most of it will go over the next 20/30 years. No politician at local or national level appears willing to grasp this nettle and stop development. Last year I visited relatives who live near Richmond outside of Vancouver and the development of agricultural/horticultural land was stopped some years ago. Unfortunately,they failed to foresee that Chinese buyers might snap up properties,build enormous houses quite out of character for the area and in some cases,just leave the land to revert to wilderness.

The exact land I had in mind and 100%, of course, in agreement with you. I think it is absolute madness to allow the greed of development trump the need to provide your own food.

right .. viva Syria

viva Japan

Please, no more young third world men flooding in.

A declining birth rate is total normal among developed countries. Do we really want to be so crowded?

I do not think the current political system is capable of producing a political party that is able to govern a country with a population size over 5 million, nor a local government that is able to govern a city with a population size over 1 million.

Spot on!


The question to ask is why the MSM will not allow such a debate? They are controlling the narrative and all we are served up in the way of Politics is 2 minute sound bites of little importance. MSM would rather distract us by pitching Maori against non Maori, with xenophobia of Chinese thrown into the mix. MSM are the problem, perhaps the solution might be a public funded broadcaster - as at least we get some sense from Radio NZ.


Its not really about population is it?
Its about growth and GDP.
Enough is enough, we need to live within our means and that means growth for growths sake must end as should immigration. A bit of sanity on this finite piece of paradise, we dont need to strip all the resources.

One begets the other


I think the vast majority of New Zealanders don't have a problem with immigrants, as they bring a lot of skills and dynamism to our country.

I think what people are annoyed by are the political opportunists who used a flood of immigration to artificially stimulate the economy, prop up a housing bubble, so they could keep getting elected.

you got it Miguel. And when we try and debate population numbers, the msm and other parties of interest (those the make the big $$ at of increasing the popn) stir it into xenophobia. Pitch Kiwi against Kiwi to stifle and distract.. ala Trump.


Ho Hum

The easiest SOLUTION in the world is to turn the immigration tap off
This recommendation was first mooted back in 2011
So far nothing



They keep bringing them in but can't cope with the consequential infrastructure pressures

You mean did bring them in! 700,000 between 2010 - 2017. If you read the article you would see that immigration has dropped and with the focus on including the Provinces now, you will see that housing has taken off in towns in both islands. What we need, which is being done, is Trade Training etc and I applaud the Coalition for making an effort to weed out the bums on seats mentality of National. Bear in mind, unless I missed it, no mention of the plans by the Nats to raise tourism numbers to 3 million per annum. Seriously without any thought to who is paying. There is a long road to remedying their fake GDP behaviour.

Yep. Turn the tap down. We need more skilled people but its like the add..."its not how were changing its how fast we are changing"...

The more the merrier. Enough space to triple the population. Life would be better.

Vivid - try doing some homework.

Limits to Growth, 30 year update.

Read it and weep. Then withdraw your remark.


Another immigration article drenched in vague academic ramblings.

When it starts with “New Zealand is a nation founded on immigration” you know it’s doomed.


As soon as you see an immigration article quoting Spoonley and Crampton you know they're pushing a narrative.


Agree. Spoonley is an immigration spruiker and Crampton....tired libertarian clap trap.

Pity Crampton didn’t get his Green Card into the US.

I received my Green Card early in 2003. I then received and accepted a job offer at Canterbury. I surrendered the Green Card in 2004 or 2005. New Zealand permanent residence is way better.

Don't know why you think I didn't get my Green Card.

That's the hand-wringing way of re-framing the reality - that NZ is a nation founded and built by white europeans.

... strictly speaking , there is only one country on the planet that wasn't founded by immigration ...

And that was Ethiopia !

... and 100 000 years later they're still struggling to get the heck out of there ...


I thought overall it was a pretty decent article. Had a few key points sprinkled throughout:

1. Productivity has grown only 0.1% since 2013. As Michael Redell points out, productivity = "living standards". The fact that throwing open the floodgates without an overall plan has seen living standards stagnate completely is quite the indictment.

2. We have to address demographic bubbles without ignoring housing crises or pretending they don't exist. Pretty key to avoiding backlash from those who do not receive the free money from the artificial limiting of supply. It's unreasonable to expect young folk to fund the retirement of the growing cohort of old folks without addressing the housing crisis.

3. Immigration is rort. Rorts and pretense at policy are bad. NZ is in the position to attract skilled migrants so does not need to make a farce of it and simply enable every whining person to import a cheaper low-skilled workforce by claiming there are no locals willing to do the job.

4. Growing GDP without growing productivity or GDP per capita is farcical. Simply creating a larger group of poor people then pointing to it and saying "Look, a bigger number!" is a poor proxy for real economic management. (This more an implied point.)

Actually I think your “article” Rick is of a much higher standard and a more compelling read.

When I get “Imagine how bland our restaurant choices would be without immigration?” I’m just “shoot me now” – (though at least they wouldn’t be any more bland than Mr Crampton's contribution above).

I agree - Rick should write the article - pity it is Spoonley and Crampton who advise our government face to face.

Simplify the issue to immigration policy to fast/slow - no sane person says zero immigration (even North Korea has the occasional engineer supporting their air traffic control [I met him]) and no sane country has tried unlimited with open door. There are advantages such as the 1st Chinese restauraunt and disadvantages such as the daily exploitation story.

We need to hear from fewer academics and more bus drivers.

1st gen immigrant here. Have been in NZ for 17 years. Came to NZ as a high school student when i was 17. Graduated from Auckland Uni. Now working as a business change manager for a well known large organisation. Most of my uni mates who are too 1st gen immigrant also excelled in their respective space. If you ask me, I'd say the most difficult part of immigration is to convince the right people to stay. NZ is a smaller economy and opportunities are limited. Career progression is slower than some other countries. We came in young as student so we had enough time to get things around. Not everyone can do so. Over the years, I have seen many smart people coming to the country with high hopes but left with disappointment within a few years.

They probably didn't teach you about exponential growth and the outcome of that, or of the limits of finite resources. These things have more to do with limiting opportunity, and the size of the economy,

I'd buy exponential growth if we talk about India or China, literally you have 1000 people applying for one job in those places due to massive population. I don't think it's the case for NZ. What i feel is we don't have the jobs but we don't tell that to migrants until they come. Recently I met a guy who's from Kuwait. He has 20 years experience in ICT programme and portoflio management, couldn't even find a project manager job here.

Don't people look at what jobs are available before coming here?

1) Set the immigration rate to maximize gdp per capita growth.

2) Give it to the RBNZ to manage via the 12 month rolling immigration rate (the points/skills needed to enter the country can go up & down) - the politicians have shown they cant be trusted to manage it. This gives the RBNZ the official cash rate & immigration rate to manage price stability.

3) The NZ fertility rate can be influenced by the level of paid parental leave, number of weeks, tax credits etc. One presumes one would target 2.1 the natural replacement rate.

4) Employers wanting to bring in an immigrant with skills should pay a fee to do so (which cannot by law be claimed back against the immigrant) This is needed to better level up the cost of training and NZer vs bringing in an immigrant.

Why would you target 2.1 as the replacement rate. 1.5 would be much more sensible and then we could get the population down a bit.

Who wants to get it down and end up like Croatia?

Now advance that graph a decade and have a think.

Works for me. At some point either one has to change the paradigm of endless exponential growth or accept that there will be an "interesting" future. The real issue isn't internal population growth but growth from external factors, aka immigration.

As for Croatia, that population age distribution is the classic post ww2 baby boom age distribution. They are not nearly as top heavy as countries such as Japan or Germany. Croatia should be thankful that their population distribution doesn't look like Lybia...

Or if you really want a nightmare, check this one out:
advance that graph a decade and have a think.

Works for you? you think the elderly are going to get healthcare and pensions? who is paying?

Croatia has 1/3rd more people over 55 than under 25.. its a disaster waiting to happen, particularly since the young are leaving the country, their population is falling so the demographics are getting worse.

Croatia graph is much worse than typical baby boomer demographics.. look at ours or Australia's. We have a bulge then the cohorts below are slightly smaller, Croatia has a severe necking down. Yes, they are going to have all the same issues Japan does, but without the industrialized economic base.

Niger is a basket case of a third world country, most of war-torn africa probably looks the same.

Sorry Pragmatist. I have just spent some time in Croatia and the place is doing very well. Noticeably upswept and much better off economically than last time I was there.
Your assumptions about bulges just don't stack. You quote Japan. We would be very happy to be as well off as them

Err, they might be doing okay for now.. but in 15-20 years when there is almost no new blood coming into the workforce, and mounting healthcare and pension costs, and the silly fools will be by then tied into the Euro too, so wont have control of their own exchange rate either.

Pragmatist. I think you are working it out from some fixed assumptions. But try looking at the actual evidence, you could even change your mind. Some people even cite a falling population as an issue, because errrr it's an issue, because ummm it's an issue, because infinitum.

Look at the actual evidence of what the future holds?.. how exactly would I do that? Got a crystal ball I can borrow?

I'm of the viewpoint that one should plan for ones future needs. The idea that one should be able to live comfortably on super... good luck with that concept. I've lived my life under the assumption that pensions and health care will need to be self funded. You should be doing the same thing, after all you know just what the reality is about what is likely to happen.

It would be of strong interest to see the immigrant age distribution, as the native birth rate doesn't seem to match the age distribution data. Just went to stats nz and downloaded the immigration data for june 2014 through dec 2018. Summing the net long term gains for that period, the under 25 bracket were 32% of the total and 55 and over were 7% of the total. Without immigration our age distribution would more top heavy.

Croatia has a far less top heavy age distribution than Germany, which has 60% more people that are 55 and older compared to 24 and younger. Somehow, they both will manage, and manage far better than countries that have a bottom heavy age distribution.

Indeed, and I am working towards that, doesn't change the fact that there are a lot of people that aren't, and will expect and need healthcare, and financial support. Which because we aren't a bunch of ####s we will have to provide at some minimal level.

Also just the costs of paying for maintaining and upgrading the infrastructure when so many aren't in the workforce providing govt revenue from income tax and not spending into the local economy means those that are in the workforce will be slugged for more. Population growth will slow and hopefully stabilise at some point in the future, but a transition that is too quick will cause massive problems.

The take-away I get from your position is that neglecting a dramatic improvement in the birth rate here in NZ, the doors to NZ should continue to be wide open for working age immigrants so that we have sufficient workers to pay for the pensions and health care costs.

I'm not certain that planning for future growth is an appropriate option myself. I'm certainly not at the PDK end of the scale, but am uncomfortably aware of encroaching limits to the prior exponential growth.

It was really depressing to research population age distribution. One thing that was very clear was that virtually any country that had a persistent younger age distribution has found itself in a nightmare of unrest. Virtually the entire country of Africa is set up for an almost unimaginable nightmare of future suffering as the population soars beyond anything resembling sustainable. And you want 10M people living here in NZ by 2050? I hope that doesn't come to pass. I also hope a paradigm shift happens that will allow Africa to not be a nightmare of starving children and youth. There are no possible refugee quotas in the world that will make any appreciable dent in the upcoming tragedy in Africa.

No, not wide open, and definitely support a dramatic slowdown till we get our infrastructure levels caught up to where our population is and hopefully a bit ahead. NZ by 2050 will easily support a population of 8 million, if we actually work on things. And as much as some of the luddites here try to avoid it, we are progressing, and we will adapt to new technologies. I'm not sure which ones will win out in the end, (thorium nukes? fusion? Solar/Wind?) but we will progress. Unlike PDK and steven, I don't see the end of life as we know just around the corner, we appear (according to some sources) to already have hit peak oil consumption in the developed world, and as we transition to EVs that decline will hopefully accelerate (and yes, i realise that part of the decline is due to the amount of manufacturing that has been shipped offshore, so true total oil consumption may not yet be dropping) . The possibility that as the majority of the developing nations catch up they will skip (to a large extent) the ICE for personal privately owned transport they might curtail their oil usage far faster than we expect.

Not sure what can be done about Africa, if they don't keep killing their young off with either war or disease they are going to have a huge problem. Education will help, but it only goes so far. Importing some of those young people to smooth out the transition of countries like Croatia might be part of the solution, but cultural differences and the educational divide is definitely going to be a problem.

I sure as hell don't have all the answers, but I do have faith that we will innovate and survive.

uptick for that one Pragmatist.

A bigger population does not make us richer. (and as an aside, economic growth hasn't either). I see no problem with a reducing population, things might be a little different, but not a problem.

Lets have some votes for a desirable population for New Zealand. My vote would be two million. What do others think.

By when? 2050?

Somewhere in the 8-10 Million range . Enough population to be able to develop decent cities with decent infrastructure and an economy that big enough to be worth investing in, and not overcrowded.

Sorry, I normally appreciate most of your comments, but this one, no. What you are not taking into account that if you are relying on an ever growing population, mainly to support the old folks, then no number is enough, you just have to keep on increasing it and increasing it. That notion has no full stop. We actually do have to come ith different ways of running things because we have done so much damage to this planet, we have left very little undamaged. We mustn't do any more

I never said anything about ever increasing population. It will have to level out and stop somewhere, but it won't be tomorrow, and NZ can and will be home to a lot more people before its done.

In other words you want more young people to generate income for the current mature generation, but when that even larger young cohort gets old... well it has to stop somewhere so let it be them that takes the lumps. Postponing the resolution of the problem doesn't eliminate the problem. Most of the time it increases the magnitude of the problem.

At some point the exponential growth exponent will get to zero...

Did you not read what I wrote? No, the younger cohort will not need to be larger that the current cohorts.. similar size and then gradually tapering. Increased lifespan and immigration will result in population increase for a while.

In other words, the current age distribution doesn't need to have the younger age cohort to be enhanced. This is in opposition to your prior statement. You are now making conflicting statements.

NZs total fertility rate is already less than replacement and declining.


I liked it a lot better at 4.5 million population and half the number of tourists we have now.

Yep, I'm with two million. It's about right considering the EROEI of renewables and the need not to draw-down soil (both quaity and quantity) and biota counts.

5 million. I wouldn't vote against 2 million but just cant see that happening...


Spoonley says we don't like to talk about population policy, but then says whenever he does his inbox gets full. Most people do want to talk about immigration in a rational way, but any conversation gets hi-jacked by the left or right as racist or anti-business. For most people its about neither - instead its about ensuring the people that come here subscribe to our values and that our children enjoy the things we do about our country.

Whakatiki Don't forget our natural environment and incomes are also challenged by immigration


Paul Spoonley is sponsored (bankrolled) by the government


When asked if he’s talked to the current government about creating a New Zealand population policy Spoonley says he’s too busy. “I haven’t had the chance.”

Under National he was here, there, everywhere, telling us how good immigration was for NZ

This is just so offensive:
However, not all criticism of our immigration levels is based on racism and xenophobia. Some of those questioning government policy can point to legitimate concerns about the negative effects it can have.

It is subtle so I will decode the message:
People who criticise immigration on the basis of racism and xenophobia are sub human and should not be allowed to vote. If I was in charge, I would execute them or deport them, or at the very least castrate them and strike them off the voting register.

I would point out that in a democratic society everyone gets a vote, racist and xenophobes included. That is the social contract, mainly because any other system gives someone the right to decide who gets to vote and who does not. The argument is also logically challenged as some people may have a perfectly valid basis for their racism or xenophobia.

Do not underestimate the dark side of the force. Those cultural marxist ideas we all lapped up as youngsters are deeply destructive of our civilised society:

Dead right Roger. I think an apology from Stephen Forbes is neccessary for that slant and slur, and Chaston should have him on the mat in the morning.

It's such a difficult subject, mainly because the subject is so provocative to those with the unrecognised desire to control others. That video was an eye opener to me. We all drank the KGB Kool-Aid when we were growing up, discarding the long tested traditional views as old-fashioned and irrelevant. The KGB had deep insight into how to destabilise society and their ideas are still part of the slow process of corruption of the very basis of what makes our society civilised. Free speech is important. The boundary is not to incite violence.

I used to think the same as the authors, so I don't blame them for their views.

If Spoonley is so enamoured with high immigration, what’s his suggestion to deal with the housing fall out from it? Has he ever commented on that?

He says he lives on the one of the North Shore bays so if he owns his own house he will have done very nicely from immigration. The same can be said about almost all National and most Labour MPs.

Take a 'skilled' job being filled by immigrants - for example bus drivers. Richies quote for a contract on the assumption they will pay driver just over the minimum wage ($20.20); so they cannot find drivers so they get permission to bring them in. Nobody mentions the wages for bus drivers haven't increased in line with say Auckland council average wages.

Immigration as it applies in NZ is an attack on the working class. It doesn't have to be this way. Immigration ought to be like it is in Silicon valley - attracting exceptional talent.

India is the highly favoured country of origin for immigrants and students to NZ
Education NZ and Immigration NZ are funded to promote NZ heavily as a destination

The best computer programmer I've met in NZ was an Indian immigrant. He is good for NZ. Most of the recent supermarket checkout operators are Indian too and they are very good at their job too. But do we really need them?

Stop low paid immigration. Start high paid immigration.

I've seen the results of 12 years of low end Indian immigration coming through my kiwifruit orchard. We hire a kiwi contractor, who in turn hires an Indian subcontractor, who in turn often hires Indian students and any Indian relatives who have tagged along (in many cases fresh off the plane). We pay $23.50 plus GST per hour. The contractor and subcontractor clip the ticket and the workers get on or near minimum wage. The quality of work is often substandard and many of these workers have next to no english skills. It is clear to me a significant proportion of these students are not genuine students (in some cases probably illegally here). Exploitation by Indian subcontractors of Indian labour is not uncommon. Unfortunately our industry has become addicted to this sort of labour.

The problem is you are running a business not a charity. If you insist on workers earning at least the legal minimum then you will go bust while the orchard down the road thrives because it accepts rorts and corruption.
There has to be a way of eliminating what Prof Stringer labelled as 'WIDESPREAD worker exploitation' in her report 2016 that is mainly related to immigration. Beefing up the labour inspectorate would be a good start but both National and Labour are too beholden to the businesses that cheat.

the big corporate orchards work like this.
They get workers from the Island and pay airfares to NZ
The workers are picked up at airport and shuttled to accomodation on orchard.
The workers get paid a weekly allowance often under $100 pw
At the end of the season company deducts all costs, shuttles, administration, food, accomodation and pays whats left after return flight.
A friend fell in love with a Samoan, he worked in an orchard Mr Apple I think. He was on $2 an hour in Samoa, after a season here, he left with 10k in his pocket, thats not much for a seasons work. I suspect the company screwed him all the way, nice guy though. They really need an advocate service.

I am a great supporter of the programme that gives the chance for these people to come here seasonally and do work that we simply do not have the labour force for, HOWEVER, I think the whole RSE scheme needs supervising from a non profit making point of view to ensure that the people who benefit to the greatest extent from this work is the people doing it.

Foreign buyer ban isn't misguided. Look at those graphs of the birth rates going down. The damage caused by upper quartile house price hyperinflation is even more than people realise. I think it's created negative genetic selection pressure in a subset of our society. I know it's intended as a joke but the intro to idiocracy has elements of truth.

I would have thought concerns about global climate change and sustainable energy would trump other considerations when thinking about population growth.

If we are reducing mining and exploration it should go hand in hand with reducing population growth.

Yes, correct. However even the Green's dont recognize population reduction is needed.

Call an ambulance for me, I agree with ZS

Rather onesided article, will Interest publish any opinions from anti immigration contributors? It should be noted that the NZ Initiative advocated for several years for a massive increase in immigration to acheive a far larger population and subsequent internal economy, looks like National listened to them.

You cannot grow for ever on a finite planet. Further you can look at the mess that countries with bigger populations are in like the UK and well what's actually the point of growing population when things get no better?

"NZ initiative is a far right wing "think tank" and well not much more is needed to be said.

PS in 9 years National grew the population and we have worse inequality, worse environment and worse housing, yeah great idea, not.

Well this is progress ""Crampton says we can’t ignore the stories of immigration scandals we’ve seen in recent years and change was needed. “We did need to fix some of the rorts that were going on.” ""

It would be the beginning of sense when the 'some' becomes 'all'.

Over 60 comments and nobody has contributed an easy to implement workable population plan so here goes. On the basis of typically having 3 to a house the govt issues three immigrant work permits for each Kiwibuild house when it is occupied. So just under 150 visas but with 300,000 coming up. 300,000 in the next 10 years would still leave us near the head of the immigration stakes and that would keep Spoonley and Crampton happy.

Lapun. Here's an easy to implement population plan. One in and one out quota at the border. Folk do leave and that would allow flow enough for the skill exchange. Let the natural decrease be, and population float down as it will.
That wll take a while to achieve the desired two million. While it's not quick enough for PDK, even just ceasing the mindless increase would have immediate beneficial benefit.

Mine was a bit of a joke but yours has merit. You would have to work out who is leaving for a holiday from those leaving forever. Some link to average salary would help. Although we do have a minority of well paid immigrants (see both Spoonley and Crampton) there would be a tendency for NZ to lose a skilled builder, project manager, doctor and gain another fruit-picking student.

Lapun. Assume there are a bunch of people wanting to get in. It's been that way for a number of years now. There would be a priority queue and we would pick the one we want most. Especially want people who are bringing not just a skill but a skill that transfers here. Health services for example use learning across nations as an important tool.
Yes, some enterprises would have to shift to paying staff more and training them, technology use and innovation.

We live in a supposedly capitalist system. If there is demand we pay more (A2 milk for example, houses in Auckland). Except the principal is avoided at the bottom of the labour market - you want workers then offer too little and offer no training, get no applicants and then tell INZ that they must let in your immigrants. That sounds like the bus troubles in Wellington on the news today.
If you are wiling to let market forces operate in NZ so pay increases to match demand then I'll go along with whatever system you introduce.

Can somebody explain why it is so difficult to turn off the immigration tap for 5 years so the infrastructure can catch up

Everyone seems hell-bent on a gradual adjustment scheme where the number of houses being built will never exceed the incoming migrant buyers - like being determined to fail

1,500 refugees (or is it 2000) is a govt commitment. Kiwis falling in love and bringing their partner from abroad ~13,000. Then there may be just a handful of really essential immigrants - your cancer specialist and the next Fijian needed for the All-Blacks.

It would be dishonest to remove the work visas promised to foreign students.

So stopping immigration is not possible. What can be pleasant is to have a reduction of low wage immigrants - getting Richie's to pay more rather than bringing in more minimum wage bus drivers would be a start.

I'll comment. :) If we target 2 million as a sustainable population, sans fossil fuels and resource draw-down, and let's say we have until 2050 to get there (those who 'get' exponential growth will realise the immediacy) then we have to turn off the taps immediately, and probably have to have a wee talk about incentivizing two-children-and-snip.

What is the fundamental baseline of New Zealand? For me it is the 100% pure nature. Will the increasing population do any benefit for this?

We could base population reduction on making NZ so unpleasant that everyone who can afford to goes to Australia. Put Auckland Transport in charge of everything.

Well for a start, bring back the historically normal rate of immigration.

That would be a start but don't forget NZ has had high immigration for 70 years. Is it a coincidence we have been slipping down the economic league table of OECD countries for 70 years too. Just because immigrants 60 years ago were from the UK (like myself 15 years ago) doesn't mean they did the economy any good.
A statement that we are aiming to progressively reduce immigration from 50k to 20k per year would be fine. It would allow govt to build the roads, schools, hosptals and houses needed and train the teachers, nurses and doctors.