With a new Immigration Minister this week, could we please get some reality to bringing our people home?
People can probably still remember that sweet time where we didn’t have a World War Z immigration policy.
A time where New Zealand citizens were not walled into compulsory hotels, to prove they will not become the Undead and stalk our supermarkets at night.
It’s as if the entire Zombie Apocalypse film and literature phenomenon was one of Hollywood’s most accurate prophecies.
There’s concern from Minister of Everything Dr Wood that we are running out of recovery places. How many empty hotels could she possibly want?
We have had the extraordinary situation of seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands trapped here because their work visas ran out and the work ran out and they weren’t entitled to welfare, so they became pure charity cases. FFS grant them a year-long residency; we get our crops picked and pruned, the islands keep getting desperately needed remittances.
We also have a global pandemic the likes of which we have not seen for a century, which is pushing everyone who can come home, to come home fast. Whatever the Cabinet outcome of charging Citizens and Permanent Residents for the right to get back in to their own land, one thing is clear: immigration policy has gone right up the fu-fu valve.
In April 729 immigrants came in – over 500 of whom were citizens. 681 people left, over 600 of whom weren’t our citizens. Every month for the previous 12 months net migration was averaging 6,500 a month. Work that out.
Pretty much no-one who is not a Citizen or Permanent Resident is going to get approved to live here. It’s hard enough to get an exemption permit to even work here. And you can’t even get a ticket on the plane.
So far, Winston Peters’ wish to cap inward migration at 15,000 looks pretty do-able.
But the demand for our own people to come back into New Zealand isn’t going to stop. It’s been estimated that there are as many as one million New Zealand passport holders out there – and while many won’t come home, under the current global circumstances a lot more will. Historically our annual inflow of Kiwis coming back to New Zealand is about 34,000. That’s usually balanced by outflows, but won’t be now.
Now, I could reach for a great series of abstract nouns about “Welcome Home”….
…. something about the immigration surges we’ve taken in that have helped real people ….
… and weep buckets and wonder at the moral, social, and economic strength this gave us.
But there’s something more practical at hand. This new 2020 immigration surge by our own passport holders is a cornucopia of talent and capital that needs recognising fast in this elections’ policy platform. Precisely when we need it.
No, they are very unlikely to pick grapes. I can’t see changes to the seasonal worker quotas.
But the New Zealanders getting pushed out of Hong Kong by China’s crackdown, tired of the competition in California, the chaos of New York and Washington, and the disease and incoherence of the U.K., what do they bring? Well, they bring the capital of the apartment they just sold, the children providing the dynamism our demography desperately needs, and bring their highly networked careers from overseas firms. And they already understand us, and have the right to be here. They are us.
By and large, these are the people who got out, and made it. More than we did: so we need them.
They may well buy property and stabilise our local market prices, or choose to rent and in so doing still boost overall property demand. For a wealth economy driven on mortgages, that’s pretty important. They may have to change careers and do Masters degrees and support our universities.
Even before Covid19 started in earnest, we had a net migration balance of +11,000 over the past year. Well and truly a record high for several decades.
So it looks like it had already started.
It’s just possible that the effectiveness of the KEA network and others may obviate the need for major policy changes.
And we don’t need to be International Rescue for the super-rich to live here.
In every respect the economic and social devastation of Covid-19 around the world and locally is just beginning to hit. So it’s all hands on deck.
We need immigration policies that actively court these people to bring their networks, their career specialisations, their wealth, back to where they came from.