NZ will come to a ‘grinding halt’ if migration cut too drastically

EMA chief executive Kim Campbell has called out NZ First's immigration policy, saying it could have disastrous effects on the economy.

Employers and Manufacturers Association boss Kim Campbell has delivered a blunt warning to political parties as coalition talks get under way this week in Wellington: Tread lightly around immigration.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and his team of negotiators began official talks with Labour and National yesterday and those talks have continued today and are expected to run into the night.

Mr Campbell has raised concerns that some parties might be looking to make drastic changes to immigration.

He specifically calls out NZ First’s policy, which aims to reduce the net number of immigrants coming to New Zealand to 10,000 a year.

“If the number does become a reality, we’re going to see New Zealand coming to a grinding halt pretty quickly,” Mr Campbell says.

The most recent net migration data reveals the difference between immigration and emigration numbers eased in August to a net gain of 5490 people, down from 5800 people in July – adding up to 72,100 new migrants in the year to August.  

But it’s not just NZ First he’s calling out.

Under Labour’s immigration policy, it is estimated there will be 20,000-30,000 fewer net migrants a year.

Labour plans on limiting visas for “low-value” education courses, removing work visas for students without a job offer for lower level qualification graduates and plans to regionalise the occupation list to ensure employers higher Kiwi workers first.  

Earlier this year, the government changed what it will define as a “lower-skilled” employee and will restrict lower-skilled migrant employees to a three-year visa with a stand-down period before becoming eligible for a new visa.

Mr Campbell, who described the first round of National’s changes as “fine tuning” (before it further refining the rules in August), says it’s important to remember where New Zealand was not so long ago in this very debate.

“It was only four and a half years ago that we were pleading with people to come live in New Zealand.

“The old joke, about the last person leaving Auckland should turn the lights off, was almost a reality.”

He acknowledges that New Zealand’s growing population, largely due to immigration, is putting pressure on infrastructure.

But he says that is “just growing pains.”

“I would rather have growing pains than declining pains, where we’re just arguing over a declining pie,” he says.

“Let’s hope when people look at the realities on the ground, they will come up with policies that will at least sustain the growth.”

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