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The Government is likely to take a more hands-on approach to immigration when border restrictions are eased, says Greg Ninness

The Government is likely to take a more hands-on approach to immigration when border restrictions are eased, says Greg Ninness

New Zealand’s approach to immigration could be substantially different once the borders start reopening as we learn to manage and live with the threats posed by COVID-19.

While no major policy changes on immigration have been announced, apart from temporary adjustments due to the pandemic, recent moves by the Government suggest a more targeted approach to immigration could be in the wind, with the total number of migrants coming into the country each year being more tightly controlled.

The first hint of change came at the beginning of May, when the Government announced that the Productivity Commission would conduct an inquiry into current immigration settings.

This will be a broad ranging inquiry, looking well beyond immigration’s impact on the labour market and wages.

It will also look at social impacts and the effect migration-driven population growth has on demand for housing and other essential infrastructure.

Hopefully, it will give this Government and others that follow, a good overview of the economic and social impacts that immigration has, and how those impacts can be altered by adjusting the various levers that control immigration flows.

 But that will be a very broad overview.

More specific insights are likely to come from a ministerial inquiry into the seafood sector’s use of migrant labour, announced at the beginning of this month.

This issue came to public attention when the quarantine arrangements for overseas crews being brought into the country to work on New Zealand fishing boats hit the headlines, and it’s likely many people were surprised to learn how reliant the seafood industry was on migrant labour.

David Parker, the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, described the inquiry like this.

“The inquiry will do a stocktake of the current state of the seafood sector’s workforce and determine what a more resilient workforce – with a greater proportion of New Zealanders – could look like, and how this might be achieved.”

That sentiment was repeated later in Parker’s statement, which said: “This work will provide the information we need to understand where improvements can be made so the industry can be more resilient and more New Zealanders can have the opportunity to participate in the industry.”

That is a very clear and unequivocal indication of the direction the Government wants to take with migrant workers in the seafood industry,  with the emphasis on “a greater proportion of New Zealanders.”

At this stage, it is only the seafood industry that is under the migrant labour microscope, however the pandemic-related travel restrictions have highlighted the role migrant labour plays in a number of industries, ranging from horticulture and dairying to hospitality and healthcare.

It is possible that the model being used to conduct the ”stocktake” of the seafood sector could also be applied to other industries, and the subsequent reports could be used as the basis for introducing some sort of quota system for migrant labour.

That might mean an industry wishing to employ migrant workers on a substantial scale could apply to the Government, which would then appoint an independent panel to perform a stocktake of that industry.

If it was based on the seafood industry model, the panel would need to determine how many migrant workers the industry required, why not enough local workers were available to fill those roles, what could be done to attract more local workers into the industry and a plan put in place to achieve that.

An annual quota for overseas workers with the necessary skills could then be put in place, perhaps with a sinking lid to give it some teeth and ensure the plan to encourage more locals into the industry was actually achieved.

Such a change in the way migrant worker flows are managed could also have implications for that part of the education sector catering to foreign students.

The ability of foreign students to progress along the so-called pathway to residence by moving into the workforce at the end of their studies could be restricted to those industries that had quota available for foreign workers, perhaps with students who had studied or trained in this country being given preference to those coming directly into the workforce from overseas.

Such an arrangement could see employers and educational institutions working more closely together and perhaps a greater emphasis on vocational training.

This could also have benefits for intending migrants, providing a more streamlined pathway to residence with more certainty about being able to settle permanently in NZ, rather than having to keep renewing temporary work or student visas.

Of course it is possible that none of this could happen.

The Government may instead just politely receive the reports from the Productivity Commission and the seafood inquiry and decide to leave things as they are.

But that seems unlikely.

The Government's recent moves suggest that one way or another, it will be taking a more hands on approach to immigration when the borders start opening up again.

What that will mean for the numbers of people allowed into the country is anyone’s guess.

But Minister Parker’s statement about wanting a “greater proportion of New Zealanders” in the seafood industry’s workforce, is a pretty strong hint.

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69 Comments

Iron ore mining in Australia is very profitable. But it requires workers to spend long periods away from home. Working hard is tough conditions. What would be the chances of the Australian government allowing thousands of experienced Russian miners to be flown into the mines to work for minimum wage to preserve the profits of the mining companies. No bloody way mate.
Instead the mining companies have to pay what is required to attract Australian and Kiwi workers.
Why is the highly profitable fishing industry allowed to get away with this ?

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I don't know who this government works for but it certainly is not kiwis.

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Instead the mining companies have to pay what is required to attract Australian and Kiwi workers >

The days of the unskilled / semi-skilled rocking up willing to work in mining in WA and making a motza is not common anymore. Those days are gone.

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Political parties win elections based on how better they are in their messaging (convincing electorate that they are good for the country). it matters less how much work they have done or would do. In other words, it matters how smart they are in fooling people.
while a few readers on this forum make very good comments, majority of these comments would go waste.

Ah, cost of democracy is getting higher and higher. Unfortunately, other options are worse. So, what is the solution?

Educate our people. An educated society is better equipped to choose their leaders and less likely to be fooled easily by corrupt politicians.

Cheers.

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Which is why the republican party in the US, and right wing parties generally, want to undermine public education.

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Which is why the democratic party in the US, and left wing parties generally, want to undermine public education.

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Mmmmkay.

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It goes beyond the electorate. These days it seems more of an individual lolly scramble with whichever party throws the most lollies in your direction gets your vote - to he'll with the ramifications. But hey that's human nature and one if the biggest failures with democracies.

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Hallelujah.

Hopefully they also take a look at the IT 'industry'.

Hundreds upon hundreds of imports because it's cheaper for companies to bring in the skills than it is to train them up here.

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Bravo! At long last. The government is not tone deaf and blinkered after all, the power of public opinion does hold some sway thank goodness. On the face of it the concept, intent and direction looks laudable.

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Come on man. The government made an announcement about looking at it but no new policy - as they've done so many times before. Either its a review on an open ended time scale, or a working group or consultation process, whichever way the can just gets kicked down the road.

Open it up a bit an exacerbate the housing problems.

As for IT, the same situation exists in the US with the H1B permits. Cheaper offshore workers at the expense of local graduates repaying big tech.

Interesting we cannot get seafood workers nor fruit pickers locally with a growing number on Jobseeker benefits which allows retraining and other initiatives to get people in to work. It raises the question as to why foreign workers come here instead. Surely it can't be the wages.

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Your talking about very physical jobs and Kiwi's will not do it, especially when coupled with low wages. Hell I get seasick so no amount of money will get me out on a fishing trawler. Some jobs out there really are hellish.

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Yet they were offering up building apprenticeship training with Allport of freebies getting minimal uptake.

These days most millennials won't get their hands dirty and want to be Chairman if the board in 12 months.

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That's such absolute utter diatribe, yet still trotted out time and again.

I work with multiple millenials and they're farking awesome!

They work really hard, they're all super smart and best of all they're great fun to be around.

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I've employed a few. It depends very much on the job and the person. Get some money in the pocket and the attendance often slips quickly.

I guess that's why such a disproportionate number under 30 are were unemployed late last year based on the fact they have chosen to work in hospitality and retail. Obviously for those that work there it pays acceptably in the face of few other options.

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Rubbish Burnie. Ofrer a devent rate and NZers will line up

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Define a "decent" rate.
If the cost of wet fish goes up much more there won't be an industry as people wont be able to afford to buy it yet it seems we're willing to exploit those from other countries who are happy to have an income. Everything has a price where it becomes uneconomic or unaffordable. Housing case and point.

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Would not hurt one little bit for us to lay of the mass destruction that goes on in the oceans, anyway.

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https://www.tec.govt.nz/rove/rove-news/rove-news-december-4-2020/moment…

Since July, close to 14,000 new apprentices have started a new apprenticeship, up from about 7500 in the same period last year. More than 17,000 learners, compared to about 12,500 previously, have also begun TTAF programmes in industries critical to our economic recovery.

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Well to be fair my impression of this government has been both negative & pessimistic. Just for once tried to be positive & optimistic about something. Regrettably, if to take it on past fanfares, your points are likely the more accurate depiction. Hence my qualification, on the face of it.

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I remember working for Telecom (Spark) back in the day and there were hundreds and hundreds coming in from India (Infosys) on temp work visas, they never left. I generally don’t have a problem with skilled migrants but this is done explicitly to keep salaries low. 2 years, they are residents, in 5 they are citizens and off they leave to Oz for better pay. While we genuinely want to live here, raise family here and build NZ but our wages are kept constantly low. They rather pay an immigrant 60k who is desperate to get out of their home country than pay a kiwi 90k. The cycle repeats.

NZ herald article today: In 2019, 4462 new IT jobs were created, 3683 IT professionals visas were processed.

The company I work for this year sponsored so many post study work visa holders to work visas. Last year there were no pay rises due to COVID. This year is long term employees were given less than 2% raise. Let’s do this, lets reset this industry among others.

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From what I see half of government is run by DataCom so I think they've pretty much got a knife pressed into our back on IT.

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What role(s) at Telecom / Spark are at 90k?

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Hundreds upon hundreds of imports because it's cheaper for companies to bring in the skills than it is to train them up here.

Yes, but now it's not overwhelmingly difficult for many people to train themselves in IT specializations through online education. If you're the type of person who invests in yourself, you're likely the type of person that employees want.

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And that should encourage employers to invest in new people, because it's easier than ever to train them (in IT particularly). You can get someone started on the job and give them a few months to figure out a language using Udemy courses or whatever. Earn some loyalty from your employees.

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Somehow we have managed to create and underskilled and overqualified workforce by not transitioning enough locals from study to work in their field of study.

Our businesses and government parrots the global importance of STEM education without actually making sure those graduating with such degrees have enough pathways to gain industrial training.
The competition in the handful of technical STEM roles in our job market is rather fierce with locals having to compete with experienced migrants.

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I doubt there is a single unemployed IT Graduate very much. This is a capacity issue, we cannot turn out enough IT grads for the amount of IT work we have in the country.

Training yourself is a great idea, and as others have said if you able to prove your capability then you will be very employable. One note of caution however, IT is not for everyone, being able to pass courses on-line and understanding more complex, integrated systems design are not the same thing.

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This.

There's just so much work and so little people ready to do that level of work. It's also really easy to say train locals (believe me, companies are trying especially post-COVID and some have some great programmes encouraging Maori and Pasifika into tech too), but some of these roles require a good level of maths and logic, and perhaps our education system is not developing enough people with the right foundational skills to work in these industries. For example, we recently completed a complex project some of the team were working remotely from Belgium and Spain. It's not all about migrants being cheaper; you need the right resources to do the job.

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Agree but since the bubble opened this year, I have lost 3 brilliant IT ex co-workers to Australia for better pay. How long can you cope with low to no pay rise. The downward trend/ stagnation of pay started with GFC (that was the first excuse) and has never really come back up again from my experience. I agree we need immigrants in IT. I know we certainly don’t need that many. My brilliant IT co workers, all senior have been replaced with 8 study to work visa holders. They will be the first to admit they never came to study. They came for residency. This is not right. My friends didn’t want to leave, they just couldn’t afford to keep taking 1-2% pay rises. Loyalty means nothing these days. Cheap labour is everything.

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Australia is going to swallow skilled workers. Not only in IT, but also construction and healthcare. But, out of curiosity, what kind of IT were your colleagues in? I have seen people getting 30-40k pay rises when counteroffers start happening. So I think some businesses are rising. Those who don’t will get caught in a world of trouble when they soon find out they will have to pay the replacements more for less skill and the work output suffers.

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Essen, who is providing 40k rise please? I’d like to apply there myself. One was an dev ops engineer and other 2 software devs. In their 30s heaps of experience and really good quality output. The software devs were given 10k counter to stay but not much more. It was nowhere enough to match AU pay. Anyways my question is why wasn’t this 10k offered during their annual review and only given as a bribe to stay? So the company agreed these devs were more but did not want to pay them what they were worth. Leeches! For the hourly rate they charge. I’m sure management is lining their pockets.

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No one is openly giving that pay rise. It’s resulting from a hire pressure auction when employees resign, people will realise shit will hit the fan at the original employer, counter offer then counter counter then final counter, and then a third party comes along desperate and tops them all. It’s just like NZs property market. There is a meme doing the rounds in the Salesforce and Azure space that if you don’t get multiple counter offers you never really resigned in the first place. So, my advice to you and your friends, would to be open to looking at alternatives and be prepared to resign to test your market value. It’s not that management are leeches, it’s that post-GFC people valued job security and didn’t test their worth as openly as they should and there was little wage growth. If that means taking your skills to Australia or elsewhere, go for it. In fact, there’s Aussie firms that will hire you and you can continue to live in NZ. Back yourself and your ability.

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So it's end of 2000 and son is about to earn his Computer Science degree and is looking around for a job. UK company comes in and interviews the best students, offered job to him in London, and he's still there 20 years plus later, having worked for many large companies. He'd like to come back (he's been saying that for a few years) but not willing to take the poor salaries offered for his experience.

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Absolutely right JC.

However what you can't train online is 3-5 years experience.

And if our companies couldn't get their grubby mits on cheap imported labour those people that trained online would be able to get a job and get that experience.

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Helen Clark's knowledge economicy hasnt delivered. What we have is more and more tertiary qualifications with fees and loans attached that could be better dealt with through cadetships internships or apprentice ships.

Interesting to note ERO yesterday lauding improved NCEA pass rates for Maori especially and others yet at the same time by comparison our students are plummeting down the global rankings for numeracy and literacy against their peers from other countries. What that suggests is our education system is not delivering against international standards rather it supports the no on fails philosophy that's invaded the country.

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That is only part of the story in IT .
Once locals are trained ( and it does happen quite a lot .. ) they leave for pastures much greener overseas , temporarily or permanently.
No regulation will ever be able to stop that ( and nor it should really .. ) .
So importing skilled people will always be needed ; we should be glad they are keen to come here.

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We wouldn't leave for overseas if we were paid properly for our skills here in NZ.

Employers in NZ haven't quite cottoned onto the fact that it's cheaper for them to pay 30% more to existing employees than to pay 90% more to recruit and train a new employee for every person that leaves because of a miserly 1% payrise. Give a 30% payrise, keep staff, and use that institutional knowledge to grow the business and become a MNC.
But that's just NZ businesses. Mainly short term thinkiers.

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Many young people will leave NZ regardless of the pay. It's our culture of OE. NZ is remote and has a small population - great for kids, families and oldies - less so for 20s/30s.

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radius wouldnt be the only company to take a hit on their balance sheet due to border closure forcing them to recruit locally and pay a decent wage.

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I am surprised hospitality businesses are finally admitting in public that margins aren't sufficient in their sector to attract locals with the promise of higher wages to fill the vacancies.

Access to cheap labour has allowed the industry to flourish in such a manner that number of hospitality businesses in NZ has grown faster than NZ's population by just over 2.5x since 2011 (23,300 in 2020 vs 18,000 in 2011).

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Thats because half the hospitality industry doesnt make money from selling food and beverages, they make money by selling visa sponsorship. These businesses only need to make enough money to cover cash costs, or even a slight loss, as the owner of the business pockets tens of thousands of dollars a year in cash paid by their employees as payment for their visa "costs".

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Also a back door way of importing brothers, sisters and other in-laws as "trained" staff with "certificate" qualifications (which can be bought in their home country or faked) in cooking ethnic food from their country of origin.

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So a few dodgy businesses pocket the quick unreported gains, workers across the sector get lower wages, costs of infrastructure and social services of new migrants get passed on to the broader tax base, and dodgy businesses in other sectors join to profit off the Ponzi (export education, retail, etc.).

We may have very well cracked the case for the Productivity Commission.

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Well done.
At 0.0001% of the time and cost of the Commission.

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Wow talk about slow, this should have happened years ago and had it not been for a Pandemic it still wouldn't have happened. Lets wait to see the actual outcome before getting excited, remember they said they were going to lower the numbers coming in and did the complete opposite. I have zero expectations from this government now so its getting hard to be disappointed.

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Yes, Labour and NZ First both election campaigned in 2017 on lowering immigration. But the actual result was a record number of immigrant visas issued - over 150,000 in 2019 compared to 120,000 in 2016. Can't trust this Govt as far as you can kick them. The only thing that saved them from having to own record net migration numbers was that more Kiwi's left for Australia again.

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My question is: If Labour and NZ First campaigned on lowering immigration, why did Immigration NZ completely ignore that and carry on approving visas? It's convenient to blame the Government, but we have unelected bureaucracy that is unaccountable.

Really, what can the Government actually do to lower immigration? "Yes hi INZ, please lower immigration numbers" "Hi Government, sure okay bye" *ramps it up because INZ are probably National voters*

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I find it interesting that many commentators blame INZ. Surely this is a case of the tail wagging the dog. It is for govt to enact relevant legislation and the appointed minister to ensure its implemented. Is our employment legislation so much in favour of the employee that a minister can't sack the CEO and any next level down employees. Maybe its time for separate govt employment regulations.
Now we have Fafooi obtaining advise on what to do with children of immigrants who already hold some form of residency. I think he he was touted as one of the better Labour ministers.

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The John Key "Rock Star" economy was totally based on getting cheap labour into NZ, boosting production, but along with ingraining a low-wage low-productivity economy. Now we are paying the price with thru the lack of housing for the increase in population, plus no investment in the infrastructure needed.

So Covid might prove to have a silver lining in forcing us to re-think our reliance on cheap foreign labour. I say Yay to that!

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The John Key "Rock Star" economy was totally based on getting cheap labour into NZ, boosting production, but along with ingraining a low-wage low-productivity economy.

Not just Lord Key and the Gnats. For all NZ govts in the past 20+ years. Why? Immigration is easy to boost GDP figures, particularly for consumption. It makes the govt look like good managers of the economy. They can hold up the GDP figs like a report card and say 'look. this is how good we are.' The sheeple gobble it up while not understanding that GDP per capita is going nowhere and the requisite infrastructure / quality of life share per capita is going backwards for the immigrants and existing citizens.

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It hasn't forced us to rethink the future of manufacturing though, we're still happy to import from overseas, in many cases, goods made from our own raw materials, MADE with cheap labour in other countries. Think of the climate mileage on that for a minute.

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I don't know Greg, marginal businesses are already baying for low wage semi-skilled labour to be let through MIQ. Industries built around those labour models will fight this tooth and nail because it's life or death for them.

I expect this fight will be ferocious with years of media stories about how some corner cafe or farm can't hire people so now they have to cut pies off the menu or cows can't all get hugs after milking. In the best New Zealand media tradition those stories will never mention what wages are nominally being offered but they will get published by desperate media outlets being spoon fed by industry bodies.

This one could be brutal.

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Very soon the day might come when AUS says "sorry Kiwis...no more...we are sick of being a back door entry point for the masses of the unsuitable you choose to import or breed and then re-export to us"

The politicians here just don't appreciate is how big a risk their open door and stupid immigration polices are to our freedom with AUS.

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The political effect here of no longer having automatic right to Aus residency would be interesting.
I suspect our politics would become more belligerent -- ATM Australia provides an escape valve for the pissed-off.

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Australia wont close the door to Kiwis . Kiwis are a strong labour source who assimilate extremely well into Australian society- NZ and Auatralia have similar tax, education, health, language and criminal systems- basically they fit right in and minimal effort is required. Having kiwis migrate means less "other migrants" that Australia needs to spend money on assimilation services for.

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For now. For how long?

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So Kiwis going to Australia is good and a positive but other nationalities coming to NZ bad, they’re destroying this country. Sounds hypocritical and racist.

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The issue of foreign deep sea workers is complex. Surely working off shore on a fishing vessel is not the same bringing foreign workers into NZ. Once they have finisher the tour of duty they fly home. This is very different from nurses, builders, teachers, and hospitality workers. Over the last 150 years NZ has always needed and welcomed foreign workers. In the past we got the 10 pound poms. These days the workers pay NZ$16000 to buy a visa. What is more they work harder than the Poms and do not engage in our politics. Please let them come in you are welcome in my town.

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dp

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"NZ$16000 to buy a visa.". Who is paid? What visa? When I worked in Papua New Guinea and may have been considered a block to the advancement of middle level Papuan employees at least I knew my work permit (certainly not permanent) cost the equivalent of the salaries of two teachers. That would translate to about NZ$120,000. And it was renewed every three years. So I knew I was helping the people of PNG and I knew I was valued by my employer. If a business really needs a foreigner make them pay.

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If fishing crews fly in fly out and don't leave even a cent of their miserable wage here in NZ, it's not a business we need. .
Better to leave the fish in the oceans. Actually our oceans need the break anyway.

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""The Government's recent moves suggest that one way or another, it will be taking a more hands on approach to immigration when the borders start opening up again.""
The party is called "Labour"; if they can't stop the endless reports of exploitation of immigrant workers then nobody else will. It is embarrassing. It is wrong. It is beginning to give NZ a bad name. It is rewarding the lazy businesses rorting the system at the expense of honest businesses that attempt to train their workers.
Immigration should be something NZ can be proud of; where every immigrant is genuinely welcomed.

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If they couldn't or wouldn't do it while sharing power with the hon Winston Peters. Then they never will.

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I doubt it. I don't think the welfare of immigrants is their priority, at least for now. Those businesses requiring highly skilled migrants such as ICT can easily move a large part of their operations offshore. Kiwis may end up with fewer opportunities in that space as well.

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Yes I wonder where they will live? Don't we have a housing shortage....and sky rocketing rents, someone better tell them before they arrive. They can't go to the hotels, MSD and MIQ have those booked out.

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How did that racist English bloke who’s had a pop at David Seymour get into the country? When I came in I had to sign a form saying I wasn’t a racist. Oh the irony of an English immigrant ranting about the dangers of Maori owning half of their own country!

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This government is letting thousands of businesses go under by there total incompetence at both managing immigration and getting the hundreds of thousands of people off a state funded benefit.
Labour? doing nothing is not working at all!!!

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A significant number of our business models require low skill , lost cost labour to function profitability. I think we need to be very clear about the words we use, and not try and use words that disguise this fact.

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I think everyone here should be very clear on the numbers
NZ has 355000 on benefits only 100000 apparently work ready? The number of working holiday visa holders is down from over 40000 to under 7000 the government while maintaining a pacific worker cap of 14500 workers will only have 5000 in the country by next harvest season. Given the Hort, viticulture tourism and hospo industries are chronically short and there are over 40000 workers less than last year we are heading for a train smash. The economists say we are at full employment. In my industries if there are no workers to harvest crops the 80% of the industry employees who are well paid kiwis will not have jobs. Gluck with that. The ignorance of comments on this site of the facts is shameful.

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