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David Hargreaves says with the NZ borders closed, now is when we should be having a national discussion on migration and population - so why aren't we?

David Hargreaves says with the NZ borders closed, now is when we should be having a national discussion on migration and population - so why aren't we?

Opportunities are not always obvious - perhaps that's why they are such opportunities.

The closure of New Zealand's borders while the Covid crisis rages has actually provided us with an opportunity to tackle the much vexed question of migration/population. But there's no evidence of any appetite from the powers to be to start the national conversation we should have on this subject.

I've argued for some time with anybody who will listen that this country should have a population strategy.

We should, as much as is possible decide what the ideal sized population is for the size of our country and the type of country we aspire to be.

The general impression I get - and certainly it's one seemingly pushed by commenters - is that we have enough people now. Indeed, some would like to see us REDUCE the population from here.

But okay, let's take for arguments' sake that we decided that 5 million was enough, then just that mere decision would then inform what happens once the borders open again.

It's the ideal time now to be getting our heads around this.

Migration and population growth have forever it seems been treated as something that just happen. 

We don't have control over who decides to reproduce and when, nor do we have any control on the whims of Kiwis who might decide to develop wings and fly off overseas (in non-Covid times), but we do have control over who comes into the country.

It seems to me we've never looked at inbound migration with the kind of dispassionate detachment it actually needs.

It invariably becomes an emotional and a political issue. 

Really it should not be at all.

What we need to do is first decide what sized population we want.

What do we want?

Then we decide what we 'want' from a migration policy. What is the purpose for allowing migrants to come into New Zealand. What do we as a country want to achieve by having migrants come in?

As I say, this always seems to become an emotional, emotive issue. When it shouldn't.

The one area where it becomes somewhat different is refugees and what approach is taken there. I take that as essentially separate from the overall migration question. I think New Zealand needs to be seen to 'do its bit' with refugees. But in reality the numbers would not be that great, assuming we don't decide to take proportionately more than other countries. And I honestly wouldn't mind - if that's what we decided. But let's make that decision. Let's not do it ad hoc.

And ad hoc-ery has been the problem with migration. It's something that's just been allowed to happen. The previous National Government, without ever really stating as such used migration as a way of juicing up our GDP, although of course it did little for our per capita GDP.

The current, now outgoing, coalition Government has for the most part resisted meaningful change to the status quo. Large numbers of migrants continued to come in prior to the virus outbreak.

I'm not at all unsympathetic to those in industries struggling to attach the right levels of skills, or indeed those willing to do menial jobs. 

We are stuck with Kiwis

At a very basic level though we should as a country be aiming to gainfully employ every person that's born in New Zealand. It's not good enough to just put some people on the scrap heap as 'useless' and bring in workers from overseas to do jobs instead. The point is, you are stuck with people who are born here and giving jobs to overseas workers at their expense is only going to make those who might find themselves outside the NZ workforce more like outsiders. 

It's just too easy to say, oh, I can't be bothered training these people up, let's bring ready-trained people in. 

Does it mean we don't let anybody in? Well, no. But let's decide - based on the population size we want, whether we can afford to let specific migrants in and what we want to achieve as a country by letting them in.

That's might sound quite selfish. But our borders are one thing we as a country do have some control over. And likewise the size of our population.

What happens if we don then get a 'brain drain' of people starting to leave the country in big numbers again? 

Well, I think look at that situation when it arises. If we are losing large numbers of skilled people on what looks like a permanent basis then sure, some rise in inbound migration - in a very specific way - could be looked at.

It's the use of the word 'specific' that's important here. 

'Accidental immigration'

What we have had in New Zealand in recent years has been large scale population growth via 'accidental' immigration.

I'm just throwing some ideas around here. I don't claim to have all the answers on this subject.

But it's a subject on which there does need to be a national conversation. We've never properly had one. NOW is the ideal time when migration is to all intents and purposes on hold.

Will we as a country take this very unusual opportunity that has present itself then, and have that conversation?

Well, it doesn't look like we are doing so to date does it?

Perhaps this is something the next Government might give proper consideration to. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

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There is no discussion because whenever someone brings the subject up, the Left call you a racist, xenophobic white supremacist and seek to have you cancelled. Nobody dare speak at all anymore.


yep. And where our pathetic msm on this? Nowhere to be seen.

Every politician is terrified that the more recently arrived voter and the prolific underclass breeding group will not give them the big tick at election day if they dare mention the problem.

The Greens and Maori Party are the affects their philosophy and people the most -- they should be shouting about it.


all the major parties are now targeting the immigrate voter you have over 40% in auckland , that is a lot of votes to give away in the biggest electorate.
only the maori party have called for stop to immgration at the levels we had

That's assuming migrants want the population to keep increasing at a rapid rate. I'm not sure that's true.

Without tighter visa restrictions, businesses witnessing a drop in profits due to COVID have a greater incentive to replace Kiwi workers with migrants to reduce their wage bill.
More students and workers than ever facing economic mayhem in South America and Asia will happily migrate to our low wages and high living cost economy; ours is not (yet) as bad as theirs.


"Capitalism prefers a labour surplus made up of a tamed and anxious reserve workforce":)
Trust me politicians will never talk about it and if they do, they wouldn't implement it. So, what do we do, boot em out.
Bring new ones. TOP has some good answers.

If TOP do have answers, it's a shame their ridiculous property tax ideas make them unelectable.

There speaks a jealous palmtree rooted in much undeservedly valuable land.

Don't really care how valuable the land I reside on is. I have no intention of selling it. On the other hand, I also have no desire to pay tax, over and above the services provided for the privilege of living on my land. Especially when the $ value assigned to my land is totally out of my control and has been formed by policies I totally disagree with! What is TOP going to do with its' windfall tax take? Decrease taxes for overpaid economists?

No, their policy is revenue neutral. They propose implementing a $13k p.a UBI + flat tax rate of 33% combo, which effectively results in a tax free threshold of $39k p.a (33% tax on 39k = 13k = UBI).


If you watched any of the Maori TV election debates, you will see that the Maori Party candidates are very vocal on wanting reduced migration and employment opportunities given to locals.
Within the Green Party, it's a real live-wire, divisive issue; I think they avoid even discussing it because it opens up so many internal divisions.


Yes. It was hilarious watching the blow-back from Green Party faithful when James Shaw advocated an immigration rate of 1% in 2017.

brisket, you might want to rewatch those debates - the Maori Party were advocating employment opportunities for only one segment of locals. I would be careful with them - separatism by stealth. Interestingly there is a wealth of entry level employment openings.. just no one wants to take them up. All the bleating about an artificially calculated "living wage" has convinced many those same jobs are underpaid.

Its because they're mostly dead end, temp jobs e.g. fruit picking

I did say they were "entry level". They could lead to other positions. What you're actually saying is people are happy to stay unemployed, moan about RSEs and pick up the dole rather than actually do some work. Remember unemployment welfare is a tax payer subsidy - not a right.

No, that's not how unemployment welfare works - it is a right. Expecting people to uproot their entire lives and move down country for a seasonal job is perverse.

Yet we expect people to uproot their entire lives in another country, and move to NZ for a seasonal job? If its good enough for others to move to find work, why is it unreasonable to expect our local population to move a couple of hours away for a job?

Remember the "Work for the Dole" scheme National implemented? That's what it was about - the unemployed were compelled to follow the work. That got snuffed by Labour cos it was "demeaning". Same as drug testing - also snuffed.

If its good enough for others to move to find work, why is it unreasonable to expect our local population to move a couple of hours away for a job?

Because the cost of living is significantly different between NZ and third world countries? It makes economic sense for migrants to come here, suck up shitty conditions and return home with NZD. It makes less financial sense for an already struggling New Zealander to incur these same costs for little if any financial reward.

What an unmitigatedly ill informed and poorly researched opinion. Current JobSeeker benefit - $250. Work 40 hrs @ min wage - $758. Seems like a fair incentive to me. Even if the entire benefit was abated you'd still be $500/pw better off. Do that for the harvest season and you'd be 5-8K up.

And what about FIFO mining workers in Australia? Hardly third world workers being exploited. Plenty of people travel for work, and spend months away from their families in order to earn money. The difference is that a NZer could easily drive home for the weekend, unlike someone who has come in from overseas, or is in the middle of nowhere in Australia. Your attitude sums up the whole entitlement thing that the unemployed have - "oh, if its not easy for me, I don't want to do it, I'd rather be paid to do nothing"


Those Aussie workers make huge money compared to fruit pickers. A friend drove trucks in the 2000's and was making >$120k Aus.

Funny how those companies have no trouble filling those types of jobs, it's almost like the higher level of reimbursement attracts people. I wonder why a 3 month fruit picking job that pays 10k doesn't?!

interstate FIFO workers are disappearing in Australia, BHP and RIO tinto have brought in rules you must live in the state of the mine now

Unemployment benefit is most certainly NOT a right - it is absolutely a taxpayer funded subsidy, unfortunately there are many who DO believe it is a right. People can quite easily move around and follow the work - full time casual contractors do it all year. Follow the shuts and projects around the country.

It's a right in the same way superannuation is a right: they are entitlements. If you meet the criteria, you are entitled to them.

Conflating an entitlement and a right is incorrect. Neither NZS or JobSeeker are a "right". You may be entitled to one or the other but you do not have them as of "right"

You must be operating with a different sense of entitlement and a different meaning of right then - entitlements just are the things you have a right to. What definitions of both are you using?

That's really hard on your kids though.

What, like a chartered fruit picker?

Not at all, picking can lead to pruning, spraying, orchard management, management of contractors and others. It starts at the ground level and all those positions are based on experience and work skills learnt on the job. People have to start somewhere, but they have to be willing to start first.

Where's the incentive? There's a reason that fruit picking and pruning is dominated by migrant workers and backpackers

"Where's the incentive? " - the incentive is earning more as a picker than sitting on the couch pulling the dole. The industry is dominated by short term migrants because on the whole Kiwis are lazy. You may not like it but it's the truth

What did we do before we had migrant workers? Thats right, Kiwi's used to do it. I used to do it. I spent years picking fruit and vegetables for local farms. If you were a good worker you got promoted to the packing shed, which was better money. I don't remember it being hard work, just physical work. And there were plenty of young people dying for the work - I used to ring around everyone and leave my name down in case a vacancy came up. And I just watched an Aussie 4 Corners episode, where the fruit pickers were backpackers, young and slight English girls, who also seemed to have no problem with doing the job. The reason Pacific Island workers do the job these days is because young people think they are good for the job, or can't be bothered doing something that doesnt involve sitting at a desk Instagramming all day.

Yea that's cool, but we no longer live in those times where rents were low as were all other living costs. You can't tell me that picking fruit is a viable occupation - I've picked strawberries and can tell you it doesn't add up.

Fruit picking sure does not add up as a viable employment. I hear all the dollar rates quoted but the hooks are not mentioned. Like the unpaid days. Like piece rates and being given second pick rows where no one could make the minimum wage. And if you then ask for the minimum wage you are immediately out of a job. The examples are numerous.
Erratic earnings work well for you if you are 17 living at the hotel of mum and dad, with no outgoings. But if you are relocating and paying your own costs then it's an unreasonable risk.
Employers should "meet the market" and pay the cost to employ New Zealanders. job is dead end. Being unemployed is dead end. Being in a job gives you opportunity, contacts, self worth, a purpose and a chance to learn and get ahead.

This is what the nit wits who advocate the living wage fail to understand - it shuts out the many who are not economic to be employed at the min wage level from ever getting a start in life..

Oh that's nonsense. Do you want NZers to be richer or poorer? If it's the former, then you want wages to be as high as possible.

Yes no job is a dead end. But so is working 3 jobs for sh*t wages, just to get by - like many people do in the richest country of the world, the USA.

What we need are good, highly productive jobs and not these low level crap jobs with hardly any hours that are on offer most of the time these days.

Read the the article that's on's main page right now on under employment. And then tell me it's easy out there. don't' get rich by regulating that your labor is more valuable than it is.
Why do they need three jobs when plenty have only one?
Because what they have to offer the employer is not a scarce resource.

I'm not arguing it aint easy. But is easier if you have a skill that is a little bit scarce.


Importing labour may be good for the employer, but devasting for society as whole.

Someone still needs to harvest the food, milk the cows, shift the sheep (and shear them) farm beef etc. We also still need supermarket workers, cleaners, hospitality workers, aged care workers etc etc etc. Not everyone wants to drive a desk for a living - and our economy shouldn't be driven by their meullings

Precisely- we need people to do those jobs. Because we need then, we should also ensure that people doing those jobs are able to have a decent standard of living on two full time incomes (houses that don't make them sick, enough food, access to healthcare including dentistry). Do you think that's the case at the moment?

There are people who are on more than the median wage who have those issues as well. Are you suggesting we should ignore any skills matrix and just pay everyone 60 - 70K a year regardless of their skills? If you think that works have a look at Greece, or Pinochet's Argentina. I don't disagree rentals need sorting (the warrant system is a good idea). Food and healthcare (including dentistry) are inextricably linked and a healthy diet need not be out of reach - look at our population, high incidence of obesity yet children don't get fed??!! It's about priorities and responsibility.

“Pinochet’s Argentina”????

How many Boomers were bothered about minimum wage concept ? They went ahead to qualify themselves, grab the first available job, grew in that, qualified more and then went on to earn more and build wealth and prosperity for themselves and their country.
May be we should go to Back to Basics of Life ?

How many Boomers were bothered about minimum wage concept ? They went ahead to qualify themselves, grab the first available job, grew in that, qualified more and then went on to earn more and build wealth and prosperity for themselves and their country.
Immigrants are no different. They are ready to struggle for a better future for themselves and their families.
May be we should go to Back to Basics of Life ?


I think the answer is that people didn't need to worry so much about what the minimum wage was. I have relatives who worked in factories back then and labour was so scarce that factories were having to compete for workers, so would offer higher wages to get you to quit the job you already had and come work for them. You could also buy a house on a big section in the main centres and raise a family on a single factory wage. If we had those conditions now I don't think people would be so bothered about minimum wage now either.

Did you know that teachers were paid the same as politicians back then? Don’t think that boomers had it all together back then like they continually pat them on their backs and say they do. They were not smart, they simply lived in a society that was fair. We sadly will never experience that again.

You're close Swing. We boomers, yes I am one, simply didn't know any different. I don't agree with nor like the criticism that so many are so quick to level at us. We didn't manipulate the system to work for us as we are accused of. Indeed it is exactly the same today as it was then - we relied on our politicians to look after us. Sadly the generations of politicians that have stepped up since the 60s and 70s have been so self serving they have essentially corrupted the country for later generations. So instead of blaming the boomers and demanding policies rooted in jealousy, the generations today need to be demanding a higher standard from their politicians and the media. Questioning and challenging at every comment.

Exactly what are the policies “that are rooted in jealousy” are you suggesting that generations of today are demanding?

Capital gains tax, wealth tax are two.

Both will take a theoretical value of what you own and levy a tax bill based on that value. When prodded the Pollies admitted that if the value falls, there would not be any rebate based on the loss of value. Rank jealousy - you have more than me you should be taxed on it. Even unto detail it is unfair. They are about re-distribution of wealth, but not to the people who need it, but to the pollies.

Yeah Maori Party policy on immigration seems sound. Pity about their wacky policies on Maori!

You must see a different Greens party to me. I see a party that wants to advance statism in NZ. All the policies are more government or are surely designed to make things worse until more government intervention will be accepted or demanded.
Restricting immigration and assisting the labour market function as it should would be an unthinkable solution to them or maybe they think NZers should sacrifice to help as many immigrants as they can enjoy a better life, who knows what real motivation is. I think they are as good at lying to themselves as they are to the electorate. They support immigration because their base demands it.


All of Auckland's problems relate to the huge unsustainable immigration numbers started by John Key's Government and carried on under Labour. It is not exactly rocket science why Auckland roads are like a carpark most of the day, hospitals have trouble coping and why there is a shortage of housing.
Winston promised to "cut immigration to the bone" in the last election. He had no intention of tackling the problem. If high immigration and a large population makes a country wealthy, then countries like Bangladesh would be rolling in wealth !!

Agreed, just look at this Bangladesh train in rush hour. The joys of overpopulation!

Full Bangladesh train.

Auckland's problems relate to population growth but many of those who move into Auckland are from zombie towns in NZ. They are looking for jobs and a some excitement. Admittedly many Kiwis leave Auckland - the elderly to cash up and retire and the young to go to Australia because housing either to rent or buy is too expensive.
Reduce immigration for a few years; cut the Auckland accomodation benefit; see what happens. [My guess what would happen - instead of living in a $1.2m Auckland house I'd be living in a $750k house.]

Lots of $750K houses in Auckland would be great to see. It wpuld knock a big hole in the poverty problem for a start.


It was Labour who singled out one particular ethnic minority by screaming the "Chinese sounding names" last time. Left's hypocrisy is one of the main reasons why it is nearly impossible to have an adult conversation on immigration.

Okay so let’s have a conversation about restarting the mass migration of Chinese into this country who unknowingly may have been inoculated with their country’s completely unproven, potentially dangerous, potentially spreadable vaccine? Are we going to be okay with that? because there was mass outrage in Papua New Guinea and blocking of inoculated Chinese workers arriving in their country. I suspect many countries around the world will feel the same.

I have no problem with stop people coming from PRC post-COVID if the majority of the NZ public feels uncomfortable and unconfident. I am a Kiwi of Chinese decedent, and my personal interest aligns with NZ's. The real question is, do you see me as Kiwi or just another yellow guy with a Chinese sounding name when raising a question like this?


A bit unfair to blame solely the left. The right and MSM consistently cheerlead for more immigration for cheap labour and to benefit landlords and speculators.


Yep. National and Labour are peas in a pod on this issue. Too scared of whinging employers to change anything.


that and both get a LOT of donations from vested interests.


Exactly. Both major parties are equally to blame.

They also know that slowing immigration would ruin the mirage of 'economic growth' for NZ and therefore the 'sound economic management' of the major parties. This is despite the fact that immigration hasn't resulted in significant per capita GDP improvement. The media are also to blame for not calling them out and parroting overall GDP growth instead.

Just listen to the lobbying by the horticultural and agricultural industries of late.

I suggest we vote out both labour and national and bring new set of politicians. TOP looks good.

I'm not blaming the Left for the policy, I am blaming them for shutting down the ability to have a rational, constructive debate about the issue.
I shall quote a relevant op ed in The Australian today on the subject - "It seems that Politically correct censorship has developed into forced speech, where the left demands that dissenters denounce those accused of incorrect behaviour, as though denunciation proves the innocence of conservatives who are otherwise presumed guilty. The President would not play the game. As a result, the left media accused him of being racist. The term is now used whenever progs meet an argument they cannot win. It reduces public discourse to the lowest common denominator so that people do not have to think about weightier matters of state.

What I'm saying is that you've ignored that it's done by the right just as much as the left.

The right shut down the debate regularly by saying things such as reducing immigration would 'bankrupt XYZ industry', or 'destroy the economy' etc. They use the economic threat to prevent any meaningful change and sway public opinion.

You framing it as solely as a leftwing issue shows either your inherent political bias or a painfully large psychological blindspot.

But at least the Right are putting forth an argument and are therefore having a conversation, even if they don't listen. It might be shutting down any policy change, but its not shutting down the debate. This is quite different to just calling people racists, seeking to have them fired from their jobs and their social media accounts terminated, and thus making people too scared to even speak on the subject. The problem is that its no longer socially acceptable to be against immigration - so there is nobody to challenge the Right who are pro-immigration for economic reasons rather than social ones.

BS, it's exactly to shut down debate. It's the supposed threat of economic impoverishment that they hold against people to stop people opposing immigration. The media then parrots the line until people accept that we 'need' immigrants because MSM news reporter said so.

On your second point, how many people have lost there jobs in NZ for saying we need to reduce our immigration rates? I'm openly against high rates of immigration for a myriad of economic and environmental reasons and I've never encountered any of these issues.

My memory may be playing tricks on me, but wasn't it National parroting the xenophobia rhetoric when Labour identified a certain group of people having a tax free, speculation party, at NZs' expense?

And so do the right if you say you want to limit migration in order to reduce demand on current housing and bring prices down. Can't win on either side. No wonder its not politically palatable...


"If we are losing large numbers of skilled people on what looks like a permanent basis then sure, some rise in inbound migration - in a very specific way - could be looked at."

If we are losing skilled people, then simply importing skilled people from overseas to plug the gaps won't solve the problem. Middle-class incomes have not kept up with living cost pressures. Government tax thresholds haven't been adjusted in years. Are your living costs still what they were a decade ago? Surely we have to look at why skilled people are leaving and work on that, rather than just plugging the holes when they appear without tapping the infinite, wage-suppressing labour pool that is 'the rest of the world' by default.

Low effective wages, high living costs, marginal healthcare,mediocre education facilities, expensive housing, poor employment prospects, a reliance on primary production, a diminishing heavy manufacturing base and the outsourcing of employment by what's left, clogged and dysfunctional transport systems in our big cities. What's there not to like??


We have lost the willingness and ability to train young people on the job. Not helped by the fact that these days we funnel them all into University, where they spend years learning academic theories but gain no relevant work skills. Then because they have a degree, they expect to be paid more than the average worker. So its easier to simply import migrant workers who already have the work skills, and who do not expect to be paid more than minimum wage (or lower, depending on how good your immigration agent is). Constant pressure on the bottom end of the wage scale, means that there is less pressure to pay people more further up the chain. Skilled Kiwi workers (few and far between that they are) then become the low cost migrant workers for other countries like Australia and the UK to import, due to our own low wage conditions.


I blame the rise of HR departments, to a degree, and the rise of credentialism.
Most jobs in the world aren't taught by any institution, you have to learn them by doing. But HR departments expect to find someone with years of experience in that very specific field.
It's amazing how blind employers can be to the fact that actually, jobs can be learnt. Of course it's a risk when you take someone on, several months potentially of low productivity before they're really good, but businesses should be able to absorb that. (Of course many can't in our hyper-leveraged age.) But I can tell you how frustrating it is to be unemployed, as a motivated and educated person, and to be turned down by employers who assume --despite having completed a post-graduate education and worked in professional fields -- you'll struggle to operate an Eftpos machine, because Eftpos machines are not on your CV...

The reason employers have become so risk averse to hiring non-experienced workers is because its too hard to fire the ones who don't work out. If you didnt have to worry about being dragged through court and fined for firing someone who didnt even bother to turn up to work or turned up too drunk/stoned to perform the work, on the basis that you "didnt follow due process and give them 3 written warnings blah blah blah) then you might be willing to give someone a chance in the beginning.

Well said K.W, an inconvenient truth many find unpalatable and incompatible with their argument

" Skilled Kiwi workers (few and far between that they are) then become the low cost migrant workers for other countries like Australia and the UK to import, due to our own low wage conditions." - what many people seem to forget is the core reason why countries import labour - Work Ethic.. pure and simple. We import RSEs because they are probably double the productivity of the average unemployed NZr. Aussie imports NZrs for the same reason (much to the dislike of Aussie unions), This group of workers are all there for the same reasons - work hard, get paid well (comparatively) and repatriate the money home. The comment above by ydab encapsulates the reason why primary producers use RSEs here.. our own workforce in waiting are poorly motivated, self entitled or just plain lazy - or a combination of all three

Yeah, so just write them off forever I guess aye? They can sit on their arses in their paid for houses, have another hit of 'P', go out stealing later. Great.

OR we could not take this easy option, get them off their arses and into work. But hey that would require effort when there's 5 billion people who would happily come here and work for next to nothing right?

The easy option is for them to get themselves off their couches without coercion. I don't know if you've ever employed people from the MSD referrals but both I and my partner have - nothing but a nightmare. Poor timekeeping, absenteeism, in a couple of cases theft, pisspoor productivity. It takes a brave employer to take on someone sent by MSD. I suggest you gain some experience in the situation before disparaging those who have regular dealings in the industries

I don't disagree, I imagine having a lazy useless employee would be a nightmare.

But you still haven't answered the question, which is: What are we going to do about it? And I'm suggesting importing endless poor, low skilled people from overseas is not the answer.

Perhaps we need to get tougher with those who won't work? Cut off their benefits or what have you?

The conversion should be haven before immigration policy is the social policy.

The current social policy is the cause of the current immigration policy.

However, would anyone imagine any possibility of Labour solving this?

..Ill fill in while we wait.
NZ should adopt the foresight of the one child policy (unfortunately now abandoned in favor of 'there is enough room in every other country around the world to take us).

NZ birth rate is well below replacement value - if we didn't have immigration we would be shrinking. China's too, which is why they relaxed the one child policy. True for all developed countries. Best way to limit population growth is to educate women and give them good life options. Population control is not the world's biggest issue though - its occurring naturally. And even if there are too many people for planet Earth (which there probably are) fast shrinking is not great for a society (see Japan).


Neither is fast growth- See Auckland infrastructure, quality of life etc.

A lot of us here would be quite happy with a plan for maintaining/slightly reducing population. I don't see a huge benefit in our massive population growth driven by immigration.

NZ birth rate is well below replacement value - if we didn't have immigration we would be shrinking

Agreed but the answer to our low fertility rate isn't the current 1.5+% per year population increase from net migration. Migration at sustainable (lower) levels with skill-targeting should be beneficial for the economy and wider community.


The NZ birth rate is 11.75 per 1000 population and the death rate is 6.8 per 1000.
Accordingly, the NZ population would continue to increase for many years without any net migration.
A birth rate below 'replacement rate' (i.e.a birth rate of less than 2.1 babies per woman of child bearing age) can take many years before it leads to a decline in population.
Given that NZ's birth rate is only slightly below replacement rate it would take about 60 years before population growth became zero.

Thank you for an informed comment. Is it true that immigrants are more likely to have children than the native population?

Be careful of the word 'native'. Someone somewhere will get their knckers in a twist!!


I think the low birth rate would likely improve if we had less immigration. High house prices combined with high rents are likely contributing to a delay in both family formation and childbearing I know plenty of people that would have had kids earlier and probably had more if housing wasn't such an issue.

That is nonsense - recent immigrants have much higher average birth rates than the locals .

Right, but it could be a chicken and egg situation- its plausible that if there weren't so many recent immigrants, then the birth rate for locals would be higher.

Do you also think the weather would be better if there weren't so many recent immigrants ? no less plausible or based on evidence than your hunch I think ..

Well no, because the number of people there are in NZ doesn't really have an effect on the weather - unless you've got a hypothesis for how it does?
Here's the hypothesis for how immigration might affect birthrates: immigration, absent any increase in supply, is a contributor to high house prices. (More people = more demand). This means that young couples are likely to experience delayed financial independence and housing stability, and there is pretty good evidence that delayed financial independence delays family formation, as does lack of housing stability

My point is that is just a hypothesis - as you say . You can theorize whatever - but it has not been shown to work like that anywhere in the world.
One rich society with high immigration barriers and low immigration levels is Japan - they have one of the lowest birth rates anywhere.

In fact one could theorize the opposite as well ( fewer migrants - less childcare service available , more casual jobs available etc. etc. - women choosing to have fewer children ). I am not saying this is correct - just another hypothesis like yours , neither more or less plausible.

Yes, it is just a hypothesis. As for Japan, that case doesn't show that my hypothesis is wrong. It could be that they are facing the same problem (low birth rate( for different reasons, or for the same reasons but with a different cause.
The main issue is not so much immigration, but financial stability (and how immigration plays into that). But there is pretty good evidence that the easier it is for younger people to earn enough to move out of home and get themselves into stable housing, the more likely they are to have children younger (and more of them).

" As for Japan, that case doesn't show that my hypothesis is wrong. " - true ; but you can reference exactly zero cases that show you hypothesis is right. One is not enough but is rather better than zero ...

" But there is pretty good evidence that the easier it is for younger people to earn enough to move out of home and get themselves into stable housing, the more likely they are to have children younger (and more of them)."
What evidence is that ? It must be awfully easy for young people to move out and earn enough in India and Africa ( not .. ) .

Birth rates are largely function of culture and not economics ...

There's evidence from England (which is a lot more like NZ than the other places you mention) that the overall effect of high house prices is a decrease in fertility rates. However when I went to find it I also find an article that refuted those findings, arguing pretty much your position, so you might be right after all. If you're interested I can post the links.

Re: young families. Has anyone ever noticed the prevalence in the "hard done by can't afford stuff" stakes are invariably populated by people who loaded up their debt limits then decided to breed and suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of the ledger? IT'S THEIR CHOICE!! No one held a gun to their heads, (maybe someone should have). They are the victims of their own dismal decisions. Recent article in "Stuff" today about a "poor hard done by family" who were supposedly trapped in a rental.. with 3 kids!! What do they expect??

Hook you are clearly are from a different generation where you have not been in the same situation
Try renting today raising 3 kids in an Auckland rental paying 450-600 pw and also trying to save a deposit for a $800k home
All by earning an average houseold income

Simply maths says it is difficult... leave your narcissistic comments elsewhere

Maybe get the housing thing sorted out before the three kids arrive? $800000 properties have been created by government policies of deliberate population growth.

There's a fairly small window of opportunity (for women anyway) if you want a family. Getting an education, finding a partner and establishing a career takes quite a few years, if you have to wait to afford housing it's probably too late.

EDIT: Ok the birth rate of longer term citizens would improve.

Now that is a different statement - and pure speculation .

This is certainly true as a Millenial. Kids with my partner are on the radar but I would never dream of having children without first owning a property. Imagine saving up the deposit for your first home while also feeding kids on these wages! Shudder.

I can't be alone there in wanting to own a house to make a home before having kids. If house prices increase faster than incomes due to sustained demand pressures and a non-zero portion of the population wants to own a home before they have kids then they'll inevitably have kids later.

There are of course lots of other factors statistically relevant for this decision:

Education (particularly for mothers) results in less kids, Millenials are the most educated generation alive
Dual careers - less time for kids so less kids - more couples doing this in this generation than previously.
Advancements in healthcare - people tend to have less kids when less of their kids die before reaching adulthood...

Japan's population sure is shrinking. Works well for them actually.


This is one topic both the leaders have avoided scrupulously. Even Winston is rather silent.
It is no more a hot button issue, with Covid acting as a moderator to the immigration speed.
May be this will come up some time in 2022 ?


We are doing nothing more than dividing our wealth between more and more people.

the last census data is not out yet, it really noticeable in parts of auckland, having a kiwi accent can mean you are the one that stands out
More overseas-born people live in Auckland than in any other region in New Zealand, Statistics NZ said today. Results from the 2013 Census show that 39.1 percent of Auckland residents were born overseas


I still haven't bought into the "diversity is our strength" narrative in Auckland. After living all over the country, Auckland easily has the least sense of community I've encountered. Correlation or not? Personal observation and I'm not saying there isn't other contributing factors.


I think Auckland’s high level of diversity has meant that no one really has anything in common – except diversity.


That is a result of Multi-culturalism now meaning the formation of separate ethnic enclaves and groups rather than the integration/assimilation policies of the past.

it is the only city of any size in NZ - obviously it will have less sense of community . I do not think diversity has that much to do with it.


I can remember Glasgow and Newcastle having a strong sense of community. Large cities with moderate levels of immigration.

Adding immigrants is like adding nutmeg - a small amount is delicious and brings out flavout but too many and it is inedible. Auckland council and various charities spend plenty of money and time on trying to keep xenophobia at bay by holding various multi-cultural festivals and activities. It would be much easier if we just took in about half the number of immigrants. Of course that is a massive generalisation - it depends on language, cultural and religious diferences. Where Auckland is lucky is in having such a diverse range of immigrants: UK, India, China, South Africa, etc etc. If our immigrants were all of one type then there would be problems.

nothing is same anymore - not even nostalgia.


The ideas you have put out have been thrown around and discussed to death – however both National and Labour have ultimately paid scant attention while Immigration NZ merrily carries on in their own mad world.

I, along with many others, have sadly responded by giving up on the issue.

The numbers on temporary visas and those awaiting on residency applications are now quite staggering and have effectively swamped the machine and the country.

Maybe throw it all out and start over again – it’s been done before - refer the 2003 government “wipeout” of applications to clear the decks.


the worst discussions i have is when i say auckland is now to crowded for my liking, too much traffic, too many people at places, cant find a park, i get told this is bliss compared to where i came from and you can get more in yet, and last one was a Londoner.
i tell them in my younger days it was nothing to travel from south auckland to waiwera or parakai (without all the new motorways) only took 1/2 as long as now, used to head to the beach and plenty of space to play beach cricket without bothering people
yet if i talk to a born and bred aucklander they say the same as me i guess soon we will be outvoted and a minority anyway


And don't forget, that while National shut down the parent visa rort, Labour ressurrected it under the "be kind" banner.

Why we feel we have to do this is beyond me – however a small saving grace is it’s limited to 1,000 individuals a year and the sponsoring children need to be reasonably high earners (which brings the word "rort" to mind).

well you need someone to send the kids to school so you can go overseas and earn a living while not paying tax here.

parents and kids should have the right to live together... in their country of birth.

To ensure that our immigration system is fit for purpose in the 21st century, TOP’s first
priority will be to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry. The Commission will evaluate the
success of New Zealand’s immigration system in addressing skill shortages, consider the
social and economic impacts of high net migration, investigate systemic issues and
recommend policy changes.

A royal commission just delays things and then its long list of recommendations are watered down or ignored. Just take the issue of skill shortages - it is simple to define a genuine skill shortage - the employer is willing to pay. So to judge success look at the IRD returns for immigrants and those earning less than an average NZ salary are not skilled. Unfortunately that would include me. But paid well above average and providing a needed skill is my wife's stepson who arrived after the Christchurch earthquake as a consultant design electrical engineer with a decade of previous experience; his NZ employer flew him and his family to Christchurch, provided accommodation and paid him generously. He is still there. Skill = Pay. It doesn't need a royal commission.

Covers a lot of the issues in document already
The commission should be bipartisan and hold labour and national to account.
(there are many visa applicants that work in jobs receiving less than the average wage. In this case there needs to be a strong business case why migration is beneficial to New Zealand.)

If you are paying below NZ average wage (say $60k but varying with location) then there cannot be a business case that it is beneficial to NZ. Try to think of just one example of a full time employee working for less than $1000 per week who is both essential to NZ and not replaceable with a Kiwi on a rational wage. The only one I can think of is an ex-colleague from Papua who came to NZ for a few years as a missionary o convert us to 'Assembly of God' - but even then you have to believe Christianity is good for us.

Exactly I agree.
That’s the intention of the policy.


Well, it's a valid point
Immigration policies impact everything internally - to simply sweep it under the rug and ignore it is basically ignorance

If you think about it, it's likely the root cause of a lot of current issues we face around the country!
- housing affordability, currently 9-10x income in AKL - one oof the highest in the OECD
- rental standards
- water and wastewater treatment systems
- education system
- Transport system

of course the right wing Key's and Collins love it because it increases demand for products and services their co-horts provide - lining their pockets, but it also creates downstream issues that cannot be resolved quickly or effectively

It stems from a lack of vision of 'what' our NZ should be from a top down perspective and that starts with a long term vision & strategy,
Not short term 3 year election-winning promises...

I don't see a 20, 50, 100 year plan from ANY party,
with such short sightedness it is no wonder that macro issues like immigration get ignored in favour of short term wins and point scoring

Immigration is the elephant in the room that no policitian wants to mention.....

You mention the right side of the political aisle but not the left. They love immigration just as much. For them it's all about 'inclusivity' and 'being kind'. But also, of course, more people to tax.

No Davo, both parties are ignoring the elephant in the room, but the Auckland bubble started with National opening the floodgates for immigrants and foreign cash and pushing up rents and house prices
At one point there were 1,000 ppl arriving each week into Auckland even when the housing crisis was (finally) acknowledged
I was born in Akl and could not find an affordable house <$700K for over 2 years during this boom time (other than apartments or 2 bed granny flats or bad housing in bad suburbs)
which basically means if you wanted a semi decent home 1 parent had to work full time just to pay the mortgage and the other has to work to pay living costs

National will never get my vote again as they favoured immigrants, landlords and home owners over NZ born families, but that does not mean I align with Labour or the Greens by default

No, it really didn't. Revisionism at its finest. Prices took off in the early 2000s and the only thing that stopped them was the GFC. They increased faster under Labour pre-2008 than they did under National up to 2016. This sort of tribalism solves nothing - both parties have failed to address housing costs in Auckland and it is a 20 year old problem that no one will want to solve as long as it keeps people feeling richer and spending money they probably don't have.

Well if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, how about housing started bubbling as soon as they started securitising mortgages...
I mean that is basically how the GFC occurred and QE + easy money jumped into 6th gear

Compounded by population growth, it's no wonder things are now as they are


I'll skip my own opinion on what the population ought to be and my opinion on what makes a immigrant a positive for NZ. What is blindingly obvious is that without some form of population plan almost all the other govt policies are jeopardised: houses, roads, harbour bridge/tunnel, teachers training, employment/training of mental health workers, building hospitals, supplying Auckland with water (how can Watercare be blamed when population growth was so much faster than planned), CO2 emissions, etc.


No one voted to go from 4m to 5m. It just sorta happened. Movement in Awk has been ruined by it as the council has not kept up.

Without a binding referendum law and then the referendum isnt this discussion on this a waste of energy. The Polies jus do as they please.

We also went from winter to summer and back again without a vote - just sorta happened . Shell we hold a binding referendum to address this ?

Not against more people. Just the unplanned way that has created the mess we have now.

Well worth a watch Tuariki Delamere if the link works

they are the only party to tell the truth at the moment, i hope they keep going and sooner or later they will make it into parliament


Why aren't we having the conversation? Because whether it's Labour or National in charge, short termism rules supreme.
Keep pumping the housing bubble it's the opiate of the people. Massive immigration is a big part of the bubble pumping.
No one should take anything Labour says about 'transformation' seriously at all.

I think realistically we need to have an immigration plan that is aligned to an infrstructure plan..

Infrastructure takes 5-15 years to plan, approve + build, so if you overwhelm it, it cannot be fixed quickly,
People should not blame councils for not building enough infrastructure -

it is just that government is not managing the influx of people against the forecast population growth used to build infrastructure

The REAL issue is incontrolled demand fuelled by poor policy, which results in strain on infrastructure - not the other way around

We 100% need a LONG TERM immigration policy that is aligned to infrastructure so we buy time to upgrade our current infrastructure accordingly

As soon as you say 'infrastructure' the politicians say we need skilled builders from overseas! How other countries manage to build is never explained.


For one, if we need skills to build infrastructure from overseas, why are the top 5 occupations issued the most temporary and permanent visas are chefs and cafe workers.

Are we building infrastructure and houses out of gingerbread?

Others on top of the list are retail supervisors, tour guides and tech support workers. Some high-functioning economy we’re building here with an army of low-skilled workers and our politicians walk away by lying to us with a straight face!


You've hit the nail fair and square on the head Advisor. The skills shortage list is created by businesses lobbying INZ about the difficulty in finding staff. Many of those lobbyists have a vested interest - usually importation of their countrymen/compatriots. I have first hand experience of a company that got a particular Trade qual added to the skills shortage list - all he had to do was advertise for three months and get no applicants. He did this by printing an artificially low pay rate - no one applied and hey presto - on the skills shortage list. INZ are that insular they believe what they're told without independently checking - that's how we get chefs and cafe workers on the list, companies game it.. i.e must speak Mandarin

On the issue of immigrants importing and/or employing (via student pathway) their own countryman, I could point you to one Vietnamese tiling contractor in Auckland. Has 15 Vietnamese employees, only one of whom speaks english.

A top chef may be worth $200k pa - for example Jamie Oliver. Given the choice between a $200k chef and $120k brain surgeon then we should let the chef in. There is no other way of comparing skills than what employers are willing to pay.
INZ with its skill list is trying to do what the Russian communist planners used to try to do and they failed. Those russian bureaucrats were far brainier than our INZ bureaucrats.

You can possibly find a chef in New Zealand paid 200K. Two even. But after that ?


It's an important discussion and needs to be had.

NZ needs a population strategy aimed at maximising growth in net welfare (welbeing) per capita.

This means considering in on a maximising gdp/capita growth basis but also taking into account effects like those on house prices & the need to build additional infrastructure, and the additional air & water pollution.

As the article indicates we dont want immigration simply pumping up total gdp growth and causing significant externalities.

You could have a rural work visa that gets you a pathway to citizenship.

adhockery reads more easily than adhoc-ery, I think.

The 2 main New Zealanders are NZ European 64% (born) (European 71%), and Maori (born)16%. Asian & Pacifica the next 2 groups. Christian 37%. So we do have a national identity & form.
But there is an ideological drive to force NZ into a full on multicultural mixture disregarding Maori tangata whenua and the NZ Europeans/Asians/Pacifica who have lived here for many generations. So it’s ideological as well as economic.

Wont happen because migration is the easy option for politicians and the most profitable for the vested interests....joe public will carry the cost until such time as they wise up and vote to stop it.

OMG someone actually reads our comment streams! Brilliant David, have you sent your article to our political leaders (with a link to of course)?

And while I agree with 99% of the comments above in principle at least not one mentions the obvious reason why there needs to be a cap on population - resources. The ability of the land to support the people who live off it. Auckland's water woes tell us that that region is already exceeding its population capacity. When do we start recognising the fact that the land is being poisoned by too many people, and when this becomes obvious, how do we dial it all back to a level that is sustainable?

1500 refugees is OK as insignificant, partners and children of NZ born citizens also OK. Maybe 1000 more in very specialized jobs or extremely wealthy people which would add up to about 5000 PA. Pathway to residency through work or study- forget it. Mothers, uncles, sisters etc of "new" NZ residents- no way. Economic migrants- try your luck in HK or Singapore. Also "new residents" who commit a crime or collect welfare within 10 years go straight back to where they came from, regardless.

Those 'partners' of NZ residents / citizens add up to well over 10,000 annually and I cannot conceive of stopping Kiwi citizens falling in love. However many relate to recent citizens getting 'traditional' wifes from their country of origin. Reduce immigration and that 'well over 10,000' would eventually become 'about 10,000'. I think the current ~40k could be reduced by half but it would then get difficult.
I do not agree with your 'collect welfare' idea either. It would be cruel to send back say a highly skilled (say surgeon) who obtained residency and citizenship and had children in NZ but then developed a serious illness such as cancer. On the other hand I became interested in this topic when immigrants were arested for importing drugs - they had been resident for 9 years but had never made a tax return. The failure to match residency visas with IRD returns is sheer stupidity. I wrote and asked and was told it was because of 'privacy'. It should be standard practice just to help track the corrupt employers and trap the dishonest.

Didn't know that many Kiwis marry foreigners. I happen to be one. Maybe spouse should be financially responsible for partner (as in USA) for 10 years. Agree with your post and am happy to pay tax to contribute to sickness benefit for genuinely ill immigrants or anyone else who is ill for that matter but not unemployment benefit.

Excellent and wise post. Thank you.
As to why the politicians won't go down this track when much of the population would - beats me.

Lack of courage is the first thing that springs to mind in answer to this question however perhaps it is kinder to say they simply don’t know how to start and lack the motivation to find out.

Thanks David, for raising this topic again. I believe that 'perpetual population and economic growth is unsustainable'. That when I am asked what is an ideal population for New Zealand, my answer is, 2 million! That is not my true belief but can start a conversation on this topic. And that is what your article is mainly about.... NZ having a national conversation about a population/immigration strategy/plan that would be best for New Zealand. We don't have control over what other countries do, but we could become a model country in this area for other countries to emulate and improve upon. Getting rid of plastic earbuds and fruit sticker labels is just playing around at the edges when the heart of the matter is that humans are overwhelming their host planet.

Gareth Morgan and Shamubeel Eaqub have also called for a population strategy.

The UN have a whole division that studies global population, trends etc. But they dare not say anything about a global population plan because it contradicts one of their basic human rights, which is people should be allowed to have as many children as they want. In countries like the Phillipines and Indonesia, having a large family is your super scheme as there is no government welfare system to look after you when you are old. eg out of 8 children, 2 may die before the age of 5, 3 may be born useless and that leaves 3 do work and support mum and dad in their twilight years.

Worth repeating from Lapun.
".... If you are paying below NZ average wage (say $60k but varying with location) then there cannot be a business case that it is beneficial to NZ. Try to think of just one example of a full time employee working for less than $1000 per week who is both essential to NZ and not replaceable with a Kiwi on a rational wage..... "

"At a very basic level though we should as a country be aiming to gainfully employ every person that's born in New Zealand."
I been doing business from last 15 years and only found two or three good locals. They become sick on Monday or Friday!!

Not only is there no conversation regarding our high volume of immigration, the main parties don't even have policies covering the issue. So I will just vote in the referendums and leave the rest blank.

Some parties have policies covering immigration. And a willingness to talk about it as they have less to lose than status quo blue-red. Fringe parties might not get a seat in parliament but the digit on screen at the end of election night that reflects your vote means something.

What a great article. EVERYONE, let's insist on having the conversation. If we do not have it soon we will be drowned out of any future debate by a "new" NZer majority, most with a vested interest of getting friends, family and cheap (slave) labor to our shores.