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Any debate on immigration has to consider the fixed natural resources that have to be spread across increasing numbers of citizens

Any debate on immigration has to consider the fixed natural resources that have to be spread across increasing numbers of citizens

By Keith Woodford*
(This article is part of's Election Series).

A recent article by Professor Spoonley at this site has laid out the demographic aspects of immigration. Spoonley illustrates how since around 2013, New Zealand’s net immigration per capita of existing population has been particularly high compared to other developed countries such as Australia, UK, USA and Canada. He also points out that rate would have been considerably higher if it were not for the long-term net departures of Kiwis that was occurring prior to this last year.

Spoonley’s analysis focuses on the age structure of the population and the implications thereof. He then advocates the need for a national debate on immigration and demography. 

There would be few who would argue against the need for a debate on immigration. However, what Spoonley does not focus on are the natural resources that underpin both living standards and quality of life. As such, his identification of issues is not balanced.

Compared to most other countries, New Zealand’s natural resource base is unusual. There is a large amount of fresh water and considerable thermal energy, but limited fossil-based petrochemical resources. 

New Zealand has a land-mass shaped by tectonic forces. These forces have led to big mountains but very limited arable soils. Most of the usable land is naturally infertile, with particular deficiencies of phosphorus, sulphur and numerous micro-nutrients.

There is a clear logic why New Zealand has used its land for pastoral activities and forestry. These have been the activities where New Zealand’s specific natural resource base has given it a competitive advantage on world markets.

In contrast, New Zealand struggles to be world competitive at production of most crops.  It is possible to produce very high yields of wheat, particularly in Canterbury, but only with intensive production systems that are costly. There is no way that New Zealand can compete on a cost basis with Canada, the USA, Australia and many other countries in the production of broad-acre crops.

Where New Zealand does have a competitive advantage is in producing horticultural crops out-of-season relative to Northern Hemisphere producers. The window of advantage depends on the shelf-life of the particular crop. For example, with kiwifruit and with current technology, there is a period of about four months where Northern Hemisphere competitors are largely out of the market.  

Plant variety rights is the other source of competitive advantage for some New Zealand products, with kiwifruit once again being the outstanding example. However, plant-variety protection is for either 20 or 25 years, depending on the crop, and with kiwifruit being 25 years. Hence, there is an ongoing need for new and improved varieties if that advantage is to be sustained.

The reality of New Zealand’s primary production exports is that the natural resource set is already close to fully used, with environmental sustainability issues already of major importance. There will still be some technological advances that can contribute to improved production and productivity, but it is going to be hard work.  

In relation to population issues, the bottom line has to be that if New Zealand’s population continues to track upwards at rates similar to the last decade, then land-based exports can only decline on a per capita basis.  Where will the new exports come from to pay for imports items for which New Zealand is poorly positioned? That issue has to be brought forward into any immigration debate.

Apart from the land-based exports, New Zealand’s big earner of foreign currency is from tourism and education exports. When they might resume is unknown.  However, there is considerable concern that New Zealand’s tourism, which is also natural resource based, is reaching a limit or indeed exceeding it. I have been surprised by friends and associates of mine who depend on the tourist industry telling me that they too don’t want to see further expansion of numbers.

Each year I spend about six weeks in the Wakatipu Basin, making occasional sorties into and through Queenstown. Every time I go into Queenstown, I ask myself as to whether the Basin has reached its human carrying capacity.  There can be little doubt that before COVID arrived, the international tourists were crowding out the local tourists.

Each morning there is a steady stream of workers travelling from Cromwell to Queenstown, and then returning in the evenings. The traffic in and out of Queenstown is heavily congested. Cromwell, some 60 km distant, has become a dormitory suburb for Queenstown. The plan is now to develop another dormitory suburb at Kingston, some 47km of winding road in the opposite direction. That seems crazy stuff.

As for education exports, New Zealand fits into the second or third tier in terms of status. Many of the students who come here in non-COVID times, do so as their second or third choice. And ironically, many of those who come here as first choice do so because the path to citizenship has been easier than elsewhere. 

On multiple occasions I have asked foreign students as to why they chose New Zealand, and the potential for citizenship comes up regularly.

For the last hundred years, the world has become used to population pyramids with lots of young people and not many old people.  But that has never been the norm over millennia. Rather, the human population historically only increased very slowly. It is modern agricultural technology and huge advances in health that have lifted the lid on global population.

There is an old saying that only madmen and economists believe in ongoing exponential growth. The last hundred years have shown that within that timeframe the madmen and economists were correct. But it cannot go on for ever.

Right now, New Zealand has a short-term problem with many existing visa holders reaching the end of their visas, and the immigration authorities wrestling with huge backlogs. Many migrants would have been hoping for extensions, including a pathway to citizenship.

It was New Zealand that showed them that potential pathway to citizenship. New Zealand enticed them.

Also, there are unlikely to be any replacement migrants for the next twelve months for positions where there are genuine shortages.

Showing compassion to those who were encouraged to come here can still be consistent with a major long-term policy reset.  These are real people, not just statistics.

A resource-based perspective can also be consistent with ongoing approvals for short-term seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands. Some twenty years ago I worked on an AusAID research project where we explored development strategies for poor and vulnerable countries, with Kiribati and Tuvalu being two of the case studies. From that and other Pacific experiences, I retain a perspective that seasonal work opportunities for Pacific Island people is a win-win situation for both the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. 

Within the business community, there will always be groups advocating for more and more migrants to help drive economic growth. These people can be strong advocates for their immigration perspectives. The question is whether this aligns with broader and longer-term perspectives in the community.

*Keith Woodford was Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University for 15 years through to 2015. He is now Principal Consultant at AgriFood Systems Ltd. He can be contacted at

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"groups advocating for more and more migrants to help drive economic growth." Actually advocating for low wage imports. Why would we have a policy objective that keeps us a low income country ?

There are 400,000 NZ Public Servants. There are 400,000 in the Tourist, Hospitality and Travel sector.
That's 800,000 out of a workforce of 2,200,000 or 36% of the workforce


It doesn't stop there: export-focused "private" workforce is engaged in low-value bulk production and trade while many others are busy inflating the housing bubble for asset owners to make a quick buck.

That's a pretty sweeping and arguably inaccurate statement bud, most (admittedly not all) export industries pay pretty competitive wages. In many cases well above the median wage and for a lot of the positions at least double it. I personally work in an export industry and make over 160K/annum - and I'm not in management, I work for a living.

There should have been no objection to the idea of setting a higher income level threshold for imported labour, really, given that.

There were plenty, and they shrieked.


Great article, Keith.


Yes, great article.

This is the debate we need to be having; great stuff


Agreed. Fantastic stuff. The immigration led "growth" was always a short term solution with long term consequences. The worst part it, its a policy that wasn't really ever debated or voted on, we just got lumped with it.


Keith, as usual your articles stand out like beacons. (Incidentally, didn't Winston Peters promise before the last election that he would deal with the 'immigration problem'.....what an incredible liar and waste of space he is.)

I have a cousin who owns a kiwifruit orchard in the Bay Of Plenty. I remember some years ago I was told by other relatives that his kiwifruit were badly affected by the PSA disease and he was working long hours trying to do whatever needed to be done to deal with it. I believe it stopped his production for a long period. There are always going to be problems at the border with plant diseases etc. if we come to rely on horticulture, and you see evidence of that when you see those revealing 'at the border' reality docos on TV........the offenders are invariably from South East Asia, China, and Pacifica innocently (professedly) being found to be trying to bring disallowed foodstuffs or other organic material into the country.
As our recent Covid experience shows, we need to be a lot harsher on all incoming passengers at the borders.......if I could lay one criticism at Jacinda and her party it would be that they are not tough enough on enforcing their security pronouncements.
I also agree with those who say productive pasture land such as that around my old town of Manurewa has been eaten up with residential housing development over the last 50 years. Manurewa used to be a tidy semi-rural town in the 1950s and 1960s; it is now fast approaching ghetto status, particularly on its west side with its intensive cheap housing development.

Yes a very informative article. Makes a lot of sense, but will the politicians take note.

If only we had listened to Winnie instead of calling him xenophobic.

Listened to Winnie? Are you for real? What has he done re immigration since he's been in government? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Same as he did when Foreign Minister in the Helen Clark Labour government in the early 2000s - when we had very large population increases and the commensurate house price doubling.

Yes vote NZ First mate... and you'll get mass immigration and house price increases - wahoo!

If you want mass immigration keep on voting for Labour and National they are the ones that do nothing and they are the ones that have the real power. NZF are the only party pushing for a policy on population.
Sure, Winnie has been pushing the immigration barrow for some time but he does not have enough clout to make it happen. The majority within the COL prevail.

It was indeed. Growth by population QE is never a sustainable route with respect to resources and general living standards. The metric of GDP is defunct. GDP per Capita perhaps a better measure, but GDP growth that neglects the impact of increased/exponential credit growth for financial transactions (housing market speculation) Does not measure the efficiency of an economy. NZ sadly has been living a false dream that was perpetuated by the banking elites (Ozzie banks) that control our economy and politics. Would be really interesting if Jacinda followed John onto the board of an Aussie bank when her time in politics has passed.


I've said it here several times. New Zealand would be a better place with a population of two million.
Relating that to what Keith is saying it means we would farm the best bits, and for their most appropriate use. More profitably, and leaving more landscape to wander at will and enjoy.


Thank you Keith and for keeping this very important topic alive as we head to the next election.

On the business community advocating for high immigration (cheaper labour), we need to ask ourselves the following ...if an entrepreneur has a shortage of the other factors of production like land, labour, capital, energy etc., the business is a nonstarter. Yet, the govt. allows vast numbers if the labour factor is deficient.

The entrepreneur benefits directly and aggregate demand lifts proportionately. However, the other costs of the additional migrant like health, education, additional infrastructure etc. are borne by the rest of the economy.

This dynamic can only be sustained by a self reinforcing feedback that requires yet more immigration that keeps “growth” going and defers the costs. A true Ponzi dynamic.

As pointed out above, our true wealth depends on the resources of our country. Our children’s wealth depends on our stewardship of those resources.

COVID 19 has temporarily ended the positive feedback loop. For how long we don’t know but it’s a good time to take stock, and hopefully head in a new direction.


Yes it does my head in how much all this fake growth costs in the longrun just look at rates bills from 20 years ago versus today and where they are heading not good plus as you say new motorways hospitals schools all costing 100s of billions of dollars that would not be needed if we kept population growth low but not zero and imagine what we could do with that money to help improve our country in other ways.
The main reason everyone is coming here is we have not done what many other countries have done and destroy everything for short term profit but we soon will at this rate and then what.


We're no different, we're just lucky New Zealand was the last colonised land mass so others have a headstart on us. The elephant in the room is that we're still almost entirely dependent on hydrocarbons for transportation (and globally for agriculture). If anything disrupts the supply of these in the near-future we'll be in a whole heap of trouble.

The other issue is the question of whether the last decade of 'economic growth' in New Zealand actually materially improved our quality of life. If increased traffic, infrastructure deficits, unaffordable housing, and more families than ever scraping by is anything to go by, I'd argue it hasn't.


Yes Becnz this fake growth is actually uneconomic as people like Herman Daly have been outlining for years.

Our impoverishment shows up in the increasing costs of the basics like you said. Paying the rates, power, water, etc., cost more than servicing the average mortgage.
Tim Morgan goes some way to explaining this dynamic through the lens of diminishing energy returns.

Very well said.


"if New Zealand’s population continues to track upwards at rates similar to the last decade, then land-based exports can only decline on a per capita basis. Where will the new exports come from to pay for imports items for which New Zealand is poorly positioned?"
It's the same problem that everyone is facing, and the result, when we realise that there are too many of us crawling about the place will be:

Everything, I mean everything, is going to be repriced ....We are using old tools to measure a new economy.....This is going to change the way we live.

Scariest article I've read in a while, and I'm a fan of horror these days:
"The Fed's project of lowering the cost of capital to zero doesn't generate this virtuous cycle; all it does is encourage socially useless speculative predation..."

"Thanks" for the nightmares.

Socially useless speculative predators. In NZ, we call that the economy.

The RSV's...
Some of whom frequent this site.


Yes, Spoonley's argument was poor. Focused myopically on aggregate GDP growth, when GDP per capita has to be the best metric. By that standard the Japanese, who he criticises, have done pretty well. Their population remains rich and well resourced.

When you pose the problem in Spoonley's terms, the answer is always to add ever more workers (economic units). Only economists could fail to realize the absurd and illogical nature of how they frame it. Just like they can't see past their myopia of interest rate cuts creating growth and prosperity.

By that standard the Japanese, who he criticises, have done pretty well.

The Bank of Japan has been paying Japanese banks a supplement on loans they collateralize with the central bank. This program is not new, announced first during the depths of COVID earlier this year, but its growing popularity has demanded attention. In addition to this market “support”, in April BoJ added a bonus of 10 bps to each pledged loan.

The original aim was clear enough, to make sure that credit kept flowing into the real economy even as it experienced its worst contraction in a very, very long time. The continuation of it, however, has led many to believe this is the equivalent of central bankers admitting a policy error. Link

Agreed. I've been hammering on about 'per capita' for years.

That includes future generations. The RMA mirrors our misconceptions. Actually, future generations are multiple, the current one is ...... 1.
So in an Envonment Court situation, we really should have multiple advocates (7? 10?) speaking on behalf of each coming generation, to be equally-weighted. That would be real ' per head'. Imagine how little would clear that hurdle?

I once worked in a factory operated by one of NZ's largest companies. They manufactured things. The factory manager was a smart cookie. He met with the directors of the parent company once a month to review his performance. He realised his performance was the number of units shipped out the door. He wasn't the slightest bit concerned by the number of faulty rejects that came back to the factory. There were a lot. So long as he got them out the front door in the first place he was OK


And so it is with the measurement of NZ's aggregate GDP
So long as the pie gets bigger each year government can say - see the pie is growing
No concern whatsoever that the slices of pie are get smaller and smaller each year.
And the Macro-Economists and Treasury and Minister of Finance remain silent

In the original batch of environmental legislation coming out of the 80s, DOC was given the role of environmental advocacy;

And indeed in the early stages of the RMA they exercised it, taking a number of appeals to the EC on matters outside the conservation estate. However, successive ministers I believe discouraged them from having a voice-for-nature in private development consent matters and their funding was eroded time and time again.

Now we find it is either Iwi, local civic groups, EDS, F&B or F&G doing all the hard yards in terms of legal challenges. And there is talk brewing about Fish & Game's use of licensing fees for environmental advocacy related work as well.

Always enjoy your filling in of context Kate. Thank you.

Yes, DoC have become the Department of Tourism-lite. They fly coal into tourist 'huts' using helicopters. Whatever that is, it isn't conservation.

True, but your solution is?

Kate. In the environment Court last year they threw out a River Liaison Group as an affected party, because though while it was made up of community elected members, it received it's funding via a special rating by the RC. As such, the Court ruled it was a function of the RC and as such couldn't appeal against the RCs Proposed Land and Water Plan. That has made many catchment groups very wary now, of taking funding from RCs. Perhaps it is a similar story for DOC. DOC is seen (rightly or wrongly) as representing the govt. When we last got our farming consent (for effluent disposal and stock water take etc), DOC had to be consulted, and had to support the consent in writing or make recommendations on any conditions they saw should be required in granting it. I have since been told that next time we go for renewal of it this will no longer be required.

I can understand why there is talk brewing about the use of licensing fees for environmental advocacy work. Fish and Game is a conflicted organisation by virtue of their purpose in relation to fish and game is to lobby for/protect introduced species, which some would argue is at the cost of native fish in some instances. Black swans have reached pest levels on some waterways.

None of the license holders I know believe that license fees should be used for legal challenges. Though no doubt there are some, elsewhere, that may not agree. :-)

Not a good precedent by the EC at all. Of course a community group ought to be able to challenge/appeal a council plan. The story makes me wonder whether funding was available/granted by the RC with full understanding that in doing so it would lock the community as a collective out of any appeals.

Yes, well DOC does report to a Minister, so that advocacy role as written into legislation was more or less a ruse.

Thing about legal challenges is that it is fully recognised that the costs are prohibitive for non-corporate entities. And as planners, we are unable to advocate on behalf of our clients attempting to defend nature in terms of the planning evidence we provide the Courts.


Another excellent article KW.

Does anyone know how much tourism is down overall?

Obviously international has stopped but how much has the local population picked that up? The folks that would normally spend tens of thousands overseas are no doubt still spending a big chunk of that money but they're doing so here.

Most people I've talked to are very much enjoying our country without the hordes from overseas.


The sad fact was the tourism, hospitality and travel industries became price-setters charging tourists the world so much so it was no longer economic for locals to enjoy the sights. They were priced out. It was cheaper to travel overseas. Now the tourism operators are lowering their prices and begging the locals to come and keep them afloat

The latest L3 in Auckland will undoubtedly have a nasty impact. Even if we are out of it on 26/8, it won't pick up again for a week or two after that.
Queenstown must really be hurting.

Have been listening to debates about the effects of globalisation and open borders on the agricultural sector from the POV of flows of seasonal workers.

Sheep shearing has become a global industry where shearers follow the sun and the seasons from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere shearing sheep as the go. Teams are in one place for 4 months then move on to America, then move on to Europe and UK, then back down to Australia and New Zealand. Covid-19 restrictions will convert 4 weeks out the 16 into isolation MIQ imposts. Or they will simply stay put on the basis it is not economic


Skilled Agricultural Contractors operating $250,000+ complex harvesting equipment; tractors with expensive onboard computerised systems that are dependent on skilled operators. These Ag operators also follow the sun and the seasons around the world. Highly sought after. Again there services in any one country has been about 4 months. They face the same dilemma as the shearing gangs

I hear there's a lot of unemployed pilots, in fact I saw one on TV working sorting mail and I've heard some are driving trains.

I'm pretty sure a person who knows how to fly a jet would pick up driving harvesting equipment pretty quickly.

But do they want seasonal work away from their families for up to four months, and where where going home for weekends is not an option.
Or do they prefer to have permanent work, where they can stay with their families? Was talking to a driver of some precision ag equipment whose tractor was GPS steered (so yes so far a pilot could do the job). I asked what they did while in the cab, considering they didn't have to steer the tractor. The answer was that they spend all their time looking back at the machine on the back of the tractor ensuring the depth of the machine was optimum for the type of plant it was planting. One thing they kept an eye on was if they needed to adjust the depth allowing for undulations in the ground - e.g. up 1% or down 2%, any other changes required due to variation in soils within the same planting area etc. This latter area requires knowledge and understanding of crops and soil structures. For those from a farming background it maybe an option to pick up one of the less skilled driving jobs. But it is not so much the less skilled job vacancies that is causing angst in the seasonal working communities, but the skilled vacancies.

Some former pilots have chosen to go dairy farming:

Unfortunately most governments are influenced by those at the top end of the salary scales who want to maintain high immigration so they can keep their employee wages low, all in the name of competition and free enterprise.

At the rate NZ is going I wouldn't be surprised if NZ ended up with a slightly inverted population pyramid (or rectangle) over the next few generations. Where natural and imported residents are having much few children due to the extremely high cost of living but we still keep importing wealthy older people (Or at least their stash cash) to keep the property ponzi scheme going.

A bit like this (link to NZ Stats):

Once you start looking at things like personal debt tolerance, or time (e.g. lost in congestion) as a scarce resource, importing huge swathes of population for wage suppression reasons becomes even more immoral.


Short term visa holders is one of the elephants in the room.
Surely as unemployment increases, kiwis have to come first.

Govt is insisting on a 'kiwis first' policy. But it can make things difficult in some areas outside of main centres. e.g. a small provincial employer notified local MSD office they had a few vacancies, and asked MSD to assist to find unemployed locals to fill the positions. The proviso was the person(s) had to pass a drug test. MSD referred one person only. And that person never answered their phone when the employer tried to contact them.

We just have to try harder at this. Not just give up on these people and import more low skill people from overseas.

This is an anecdote, but we've yet to see data to support it robustly.


Excellent article Keith. Hard to disagree.
One minor disagreement is with the statement "It was New Zealand that showed them that potential pathway to citizenship". I would say many were duped by unscrupulous agents or educational institutes and NZ shouldn't pick up the tab.


The Earth (& especially NZ) has enough resources to meet every genuine human need.
All humanity needs to be happy is a widespread compassionate perspective of life.
Most poverty is caused by bad leadership, oppression, and a confusion of values throughout a country.
It would be interesting to hear from strong Maori voices on the immigration issue - as the tangata whenua. Given most NZers are either Maori or descendants of the British colonisation - these are the 2 people groups who hold the dominant cultural values - Maori values, The Treaty, & the Judeo-Christian ethic. Against this are the new era Spoonleys who advocate a full multicultural high immigration model viewing NZ some kind of South Pacific melting pot.
Another driver is the NZ Govt which has been elevating India as the top target for International education as they have a high demand, & an English language base.
If anyone dares advocates immigration to be lowered or to be in line with the current major NZ citizen groups - then you hear the cries of racism.

And Māori have long pointed out that immigration policy was set down in the preamble to the Treaty of Waitangi;

Her Majesty Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom has deemed it necessary, in consequence of the great number of Her Majesty's subjects who have already settled in New Zealand, and the rapid extension of Emigration from both Europe and Australia which is still in progress, to constitute and appoint a functionary properly authorized to treat with the Aborigines of New Zealand for the recognition of her Majesty's sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands.

And their argument is that, "...Māori leaders abide by the agreement of their ancestors to allow immigration into New Zealand from the countries nominated in the preamble of the treaty, namely Europe, Australia and the United Kingdom. But, for any variation of that agreement to be validated, they expect the Government to consult them as the descendants of the Crown's treaty partner. The Human Rights Commission endorsed that position with its recommendation to government that the Treaty of Waitangi should be considered in any decisions on immigration policy."

But of course, that has not happened.

Very interesting- thanks Kate.
I guess the new age Globalisation pro-high-immigration advocates would revise or re-interpretthis historic part of the Treaty and say that we must place it in a modern context. Modern context = ‘must not favour immigrant groups similar to your own country’s ‘

Has Spoonley ever acknowleged that

Implicitly, through promoting multiculturalism & NZs need for skilled labour outside the UK & Aus etc. and little mention of the Maori view in much of the research.,%...

That's a shocker. There is specific mention of Aucklanders views (as a unique grouping), but none about tangata whenua views.

Don't know. Doubt it.


In the limited research available, Maori are overwhelming in favour of much lower levels of immigration (myself included). Unfortunately it doesn’t fit the woke narrative of many on the left and is thus ignored by them and obviously also ignored by those on the right who benefit economically (at least in the short term) from mass migration.

Yes, interesting how the doctrine of tolerance gets itself tied in knots - eg the promotion of the unquestioning acceptance of cultural groups into our society /(which is fine insofar as to treat all
People equally) , then some of the more fundamentalist versions of those groups actively demonstrate and promote views/values which are in total opposition to a liberal western value set.

MB - define genuine need.

But given unfettered population, you have to be wrong. And given exponentially-increasing draw-down, you have to be wrong too.

Shelter, food, safety, geographical freedom.
Seems we have enough food

Then there’s human ingenuity for the future: hydroponics, vertical gardens, clever vertical housing etc

You haven't read my posts much then?

Food globally is the process of turning fossil energy calories into food ones - fossil energy being a finite resource.

Then there's aquifer depletion, soil loss, nutrient loss, erosion, phosphate and rainforest draw-down, plus no end to population increase. Solar energy is what lands perpendicularly; sq/m per high-rise doesn't work too good. Alle same those who think cities are greener than spread-out; physics overrides every time. And ingenuity runs into thermodynamics - it's where I live; trust me

If we had to we could probably grow most of our food in our NZ backyards - those of us with 500m + section.
With no energy other than seed procurement, & manual labour. The sun & soil doing all the work.
Yes overpopulation a problem & large corporate food production controlling the supply chain and crushing small family farms, orchards etc. Humans too clever for their own good, eg scale of economies dehumanising food production..


500m2? Most calories in the human diet come from grains. Try growing a years worth of wheat + all the other dietary requirements, for a family on 500m2?

Switch out grains and throw in some spuds.

As I do actually grow much of what we eat, I have a pretty good idea the amount of land it takes to feed a family. Something around the 150m2 mark gives us our potato requirements for 10 months of the year. Grains of course are separate to that, as we don't only eat potatoes. Not sure many urban sections have even 150m2 available for food garden.

Agree. the issue is/will become many countries in the world are competing for skilled migrants in time. Our natural resources are tapped out and in many cases we will need to retrench to be economically and environmentally viable - the science is clear if we want these higher level environmental incomes changes must occur. The future then lies somewhere else if we want some form of higher value growth or income to support those that are here, plus they are getting older. I my view its going to be tech and IT across a number of fields - primary industry and others - F and P healthcare, A2 milk etc. The issue becomes that to succeed in these industries the level of skill required keeps climbing rapidly. Many simply won't be able to master these levels i.e. we can't all be rocket scientists. This is already starting to manifest itself across the globe with growing disparity between those who have these skills and ability and those that don't in income, wealth and power. Its the new big conundrum we as a species will need to face and there are no easy answers but it does need to be addressed and recognised.

@Jack. The term "skilled" is used far too freely. For sure that Filipino farm manager is an asset. But when first he came to you several years ago he had never been on a New Zealand type farm.
Ditto Irish tractor drivers on your 500K machine.
Not so hard to do the same for New Zealanders. You just need a plan (and pay appropriately.)

Keith Woodford

Do you ever get any cut through with the heavy hitters in Wellington?

Next question is what forum best serves as a platform to get cut through. Under MMP there are 50+ list MP's that don't have constituents to whom they are answerable, nor, constituents who can get into their ears

Some senior civil servants and some Ministers (or at least their PA's) do read


Thomas Piketty holds that an annual population growth rate of 1% equates to a generational population increase of 35%. So allowing 1% immigration, 50,000, will result in an increase of 1.75m over one generation or thirty years, without allowing for the natural increase from our base population of 5 million. If the base were to also increase by 1% we could be looking at a population of 8.5m by 2050. If it did nothing else it would blow our climate change projections out of the water.


No one...
mass immigration.

Its why Winston was the king maker. And will not be this time.

Won't be this time because mass immigration is gone, at least in the short term, because of covid?

Averageman was saying Winston was voted in because he promised to curb excessive immigration, and he will lose this election because he didn't keep that promise.

Good article Keith.
I’m puzzled as to why it’s not been openly discussed by journalists/ politicians as to our policy on immigration... too many toes being stepped on?!

I suspect they want to keep their jobs and their employers, like most businesses, like the idea of high immigration / low wages.

Journalistically .....
You can't attack poverty
You can't defend riches and wealth
You can't attack immigration because any attack is seen as racist

Yep, good article and important discussion.

As far as I can tell, there is no one to vote for who is campaigning on slowing down immigration. The left love it because it's all about 'being inclusive' and 'loving and kind' and so on. And to them, to even hint at reducing immigration is of course, racist.

The right love it because it props up their businesses and keeps wages low. And they regularly trot out the "Kiwis don't want to work" type BS.

It isn't immigration, per se, it is the level of it, now re-word that.

The New Conservative Party has an immigration policy as discussed below.

When 40% of Auckland residents are born overseas, who and what do you think they will vote for

Thanks Keith great article.

Resources, infrastructure availability, integration and assimilation all need to be discussed at a national level.

Nga mihi.

I work at a university and i see that almost 99% of our students come to NZ because of easy path to resident visa and citizenship. There is nothing wrong with that approach. United States has been attracting talent from all over the word through US universities. However, there is one big difference between US universities and NZ universities. While a majority of masters and PhD students (in STEM) in US get scholarship, NZ Universities charge tuition fees. Due to scholarship offerings, US attract top talent whereas NZ does not. Anyone who can pay tuition fees can come to NZ universities (low quality students). In my opinion, that is short sighted because these students end up getting resident visas and then citizenship. CEOs of many top tech companies (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Zoom, etc.) in silicon valley, all came through US universities and now contribute to US economy.
In dollar terms, tuition fee for PhD students is about 8K and so for a four year programme, we are offering resident visas for 32K.

Also results in academics complaining of pressure to compromise standards, so we get degree inflation because we cannot risk applying standards of mastery to providers of chunks of money.