The Government must cut back record immigration levels to ensure strained public services can get “a bit of a breather”, Labour leader Andrew Little says.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse is set to reveal a tightening up of New Zealand’s immigration system in a speech at Queenstown on Wednesday morning.
Immigration has been a hot topic in recent years, with parties like NZ First and Labour targeting the Government over the impact of record immigration on public services.
Speaking to TVNZ, Little said the Government needed to better manage how it issued work visas and ease the strain on Auckland.
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“We’ve got 42,000 work visas being issued, a lot of them for roles and occupations that could be done by people already in New Zealand, so that’s where we have to tighten up.
“We’ve just got to accept the fact at the moment with so many migrants settling in Auckland, Auckland is absolutely packed to the gunnels now – absolutely chocka.
“The price we pay for that is congestion, overcrowded schools, public services that can’t do the job anymore.”
While there was “no question” that certain industries like the construction sector needed more workers, Auckland could not sustain the levels of immigration it had seen in the last three years.
“It is putting too big a strain on the city, so we have to cut back…if only just so we can have a bit of a breather and catch up, build more houses, sort out making sure the schools aren’t overcrowded, sort out the transport so we’re not having the sort of congestion we’re having in our biggest city.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Bill English said the changes would be about getting better control and better matching immigrants with the skills needed by Kiwi employers.
However, English would not give an exact estimate on how the changes would affect net inflows of migrants.
“The changes are about controlling the flows, I’m just not going to forecast exactly what impact they may or not have because forecasts have proven to be wrong so often over the last couple of years.”
He pointed to changes already announced late last year and said Woodhouse would be announcing “further adjustments”.
In October Woodhouse cut the target range for the number of people gaining residence from 90,000-100,000 down to 85,000-95,000.
At the same time he raised the number of points required for residence from 140 to 160 under the Skilled Migrant Category and cut the number of places available for those who wanted to join family members here.
The capped family categories were cut to 2000 a year from 5500 and he temporarily closed the Parent Category to new applications..