Labour must get complex issue of immigration right

EDITORIAL

Labour has established a clear point of difference from the government and targeted an issue that could become a key one in September’s election with the announcement that the party plans to curb immigration.

Labour’s campaign manager Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford said the party was planning to do this to curb Auckland’s rampant growth and creaking infrastructure. The details of the policy have still to be confirmed.

Fellow Auckland MP Jacinda Ardern couched her words carefully, saying she wanted people who chose to make Auckland their home to have their best shot to live in an affordable home, move across the city with ease and swim in a healthy environment.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse acknowledged immigration was contributing to Auckland’s growing pains, but said National had no plans to make big changes. He made a good point in saying immigration is a complex issue with a longstanding trend of internal migration to Auckland, a recent trend of Kiwis not leaving New Zealand and Kiwis coming home. The main problem is that so many of the immigrants are targeting Auckland.

There were 71,333 net immigrants in the year to February of whom 57,150 were bound for Auckland. The city’s population increased by 120,000 in the past few years. There is no doubt that Auckland’s infrastructure struggles to cope with the increase and the effect on the housing market, although it finally shows signs of slowing, is nothing short of catastrophic.

But there are complications in a policy to reduce immigration. A large number of the 71,333 are people on work permits whose skills are needed or who will fill seasonal jobs. Trying to steer immigrants away from Auckland has proved almost impossible and that is probably the nub of the problem. Labour must get it right or the policy could actually end up hurting it.

A large number of Kiwis will support an immigration cut, even if it is not always for the right reasons. There are votes to be gained here, possibly even enough to change the government.

Labour has established a clear point of difference from the government and targeted an issue that could become a key one in September’s election with the announcement that the party plans to curb immigration.

Labour’s campaign manager Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford said the party was planning to do this to curb Auckland’s rampant growth and creaking infrastructure. The details of the policy have still to be confirmed.

Fellow Auckland MP Jacinda Ardern couched her words carefully, saying she wanted people who chose to make Auckland their home to have their best shot to live in an affordable home, move across the city with ease and swim in a healthy environment.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse acknowledged immigration was contributing to Auckland’s growing pains, but said National had no plans to make big changes. He made a good point in saying immigration is a complex issue with a longstanding trend of internal migration to Auckland, a recent trend of Kiwis not leaving New Zealand and Kiwis coming home. The main problem is that so many of the immigrants are targeting Auckland.

There were 71,333 net immigrants in the year to February of whom 57,150 were bound for Auckland. The city’s population increased by 120,000 in the past few years. There is no doubt that Auckland’s infrastructure struggles to cope with the increase and the effect on the housing market, although it finally shows signs of slowing, is nothing short of catastrophic.

But there are complications in a policy to reduce immigration. A large number of the 71,333 are people on work permits whose skills are needed or who will fill seasonal jobs. Trying to steer immigrants away from Auckland has proved almost impossible and that is probably the nub of the problem. Labour must get it right or the policy could actually end up hurting it.

A large number of Kiwis will support an immigration cut, even if it is not always for the right reasons. There are votes to be gained here, possibly even enough to change the government.

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