Immigration consensus far away

Immigration is often in the news, and we can expect to hear much more about it as we head into election year.

Political parties will all be keen to convince us their policy is the best, there will be shameless appeals to those with extreme views and it is easy to predict with reasonable certainty most pre-election discussions on immigration will generate more heat than light.

That is a pity because now New Zealand's population has reached five million, it seems a good time to take a cool, calm and practical look at such things as how well existing policies are working, whether we are treating those who come here well, whether the existing level of immigration is putting too much pressure on services, what would be best in the long term and how we might plan for that.

Commentators have drawn attention to the lack of cohesion in immigration policy and have been critical of the increasing number of temporary work visas issued to low-skilled workers without the infrastructure to cope with the population boost. At the same time, it has become more difficult for such workers to become permanent residents.

The recent kerfuffle over the status of those in arranged marriages does not bode well for a consensus-building approach to the whole subject of immigration.

From May, Immigration New Zealand staff tightened up guidelines making it harder for those with arranged marriages to get visas to visit their partners.

Responding to the controversy, this week Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway said a new process would allow a spouse to arrive with a three-month culturally arranged marriage visitor visa.

Then couples will be able to live together and demonstrate to INZ that they are in a genuine and stable relationship.

It has been reported that about 1200 people have been declined visas since May because of their arranged marriage status and there may be another 1300 people denied a partnership visa who might want to have their applications re-examined.

Before this announcement, New Zealand First's Shane Jones had been ramping up the rhetoric on this issue, suggesting the Indian community's concerns over his comments were a "Bollywood overreaction".

He had defended INZ's May stance saying that immigrants had no legitimate expectations of bringing their whole village to New Zealand "and if you don't like it and you're threatening to go home, then catch the next flight home".

Another situation which the Government may need to examine is that which has arisen in a Queenstown case.

There, a domestic violence survivor fears she may be forced to leave her two young children behind to return to her own country. Her application for residence visa, under the domestic violence category, was turned down because she cannot prove she would face stigma in her home country or be unable to support herself financially.

Her ex-partner will not let her return to her country with her children and she said INZ told her it could not consider the children in assessing her application.

She is appealing the decision to the Immigration & Protection Tribunal, but if this fails, she might have to seek a Family Court relocation order which, if granted, would allow her to take the children overseas.

In the meantime, her work visa is due to expire on Christmas Eve.

She is seeking a renewal of that visa while she waits for the tribunal to reconsider her case.

We hope that will be straightforward and that the tribunal will take a more holistic and compassionate view of the situation which does not ignore the trauma to both the mother and the children which would result from any enforced separation.

Forcing the woman to leave would punish her and her children for her decision to leave an unsafe relationship. That is surely not the message New Zealand wants to send about domestic violence.



Massive immigration lowers wages, as immigrants are brought in to do jobs for less than kiwis would do them for.

It also puts pressure on housing, healthcare, education and infrastructure, as systems designed to cope with smaller numbers fail under a quickly-rising population.

The numbers I've found suggest that New Zealand has accepted more than 800,000 immigrants in the last decade alone, nearly one fifth of our total population!

No wonder out teachers can't cope, our houses are unaffordable, our hospitals are a mess and our cities are in virtual gridlock!

Are kiwis so useless that we're not able to do these jobs ourselves? Are we so without skills and abilities that we need to bring in hundreds of thousands of people to look after us? Are we THAT useless and pathetic?

I don't buy it.

It's about time we adopted a "nightclub mentality": the place is full, we're closing the doors, and nobody else is coming in until we have the place in hand for those already inside.

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