Politicians eye immigration concerns as a vote winner

EDITORIAL

Immigration could become more of an issue for next year’s election, which is threatening to be a close one. If it does, it will add to New Zealand First’s chances of being a kingmaker.

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler questioned the way New Zealand was selecting immigrants in his statement on Thursday, when he cut the official cash rate by 0.25 percent to a record low.

Labour has begun to focus on the issue, pointing out that work visas were granted to 209,440 foreigners in the past year. Of course, the effects of immigration, plus sales of land to overseas interests, have been cornerstones of NZ First policy virtually since the party was formed.

The issue has gained traction in a week that the Labour-Greens alliance finally started to gain some momentum, even though its rise in a poll to 44.2 percent was an increase of only 1.8.

The regions look like becoming a battleground on this issue. Andrew Little promised free university education for graduates prepared to commit to a public service job in a regional area, and Winston Peters has been doing a successful heartland tour, attracting 300 people to a meeting at Rangiora last week.

Peters remains the shrewdest operator on New Zealand’s political scene and with his party sitting at 8 percent, and the gap between the two main blocs likely to narrow as election day nears, he could well decide the next government — barring any major switch in party support.

It is 20 years since the first MMP election after which Peters kept the country waiting for weeks before deciding to go with National. He sticks rigidly to the policy of not discussing coalitions until after the actual election.

John Key, in the week he turned 55, was not panicking and pointed out that polls can change a lot in over a year (and the pollsters were well off the mark in 2014).

In some ways immigration has more potential to attract votes than the housing crisis, which remains largely centred on Auckland and surrounding centres. All party leaders will be watching the public mood closely in the coming months.

Immigration could become more of an issue for next year’s election, which is threatening to be a close one. If it does, it will add to New Zealand First’s chances of being a kingmaker.

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler questioned the way New Zealand was selecting immigrants in his statement on Thursday, when he cut the official cash rate by 0.25 percent to a record low.

Labour has begun to focus on the issue, pointing out that work visas were granted to 209,440 foreigners in the past year. Of course, the effects of immigration, plus sales of land to overseas interests, have been cornerstones of NZ First policy virtually since the party was formed.

The issue has gained traction in a week that the Labour-Greens alliance finally started to gain some momentum, even though its rise in a poll to 44.2 percent was an increase of only 1.8.

The regions look like becoming a battleground on this issue. Andrew Little promised free university education for graduates prepared to commit to a public service job in a regional area, and Winston Peters has been doing a successful heartland tour, attracting 300 people to a meeting at Rangiora last week.

Peters remains the shrewdest operator on New Zealand’s political scene and with his party sitting at 8 percent, and the gap between the two main blocs likely to narrow as election day nears, he could well decide the next government — barring any major switch in party support.

It is 20 years since the first MMP election after which Peters kept the country waiting for weeks before deciding to go with National. He sticks rigidly to the policy of not discussing coalitions until after the actual election.

John Key, in the week he turned 55, was not panicking and pointed out that polls can change a lot in over a year (and the pollsters were well off the mark in 2014).

In some ways immigration has more potential to attract votes than the housing crisis, which remains largely centred on Auckland and surrounding centres. All party leaders will be watching the public mood closely in the coming months.

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