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Stuart Nash delivering the speech on immigration in place of Kris Faafoi. (Radio NZ/Dom Thomas)
Stuart Nash delivering the speech on immigration in place of Kris Faafoi. (Radio NZ/Dom Thomas)

The BulletinMay 18, 2021

The Bulletin: Immigration speech signals big cuts to numbers

Stuart Nash delivering the speech on immigration in place of Kris Faafoi. (Radio NZ/Dom Thomas)
Stuart Nash delivering the speech on immigration in place of Kris Faafoi. (Radio NZ/Dom Thomas)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Immigration speech signals big cuts to numbers, Sāmoa has a new PM-elect, and Judith Collins is safe as National leader according to Judith Collins.

Immigration settings will be very different when the border reopens, the government announced last night. In a speech actually delivered by minister Stuart Nash (immigration minister Kris Faafoi was sick) the government told businesses to prepare to employ far fewer migrant workers, and far more locals. Political editor Justin Giovannetti reported in our live updates that it follows plenty of other signals in this direction from the government. Here’s a set of key paragraphs about the proposed changes, and what they signify:

In recent weeks the Labour government has said that immigrants have been responsible for driving down wages and pressures on the country’s infrastructure and housing. Tonight, Nash made it clear that the high levels of migration seen in recent years is no longer welcome.

“When our borders fully open again, we can’t afford to simply turn on the tap to the previous immigration settings. That path is a continuation of pressures on our infrastructure … and downward pressure on wages. Since the borders closed, we’ve seen a reversal in the horticulture sector, for example, where there’s been a lift in wages to bring in local workers,” said Nash.

Nearly 5% of the country’s workers are on temporary visas, by far the highest level in the OECD. Thousands of those workers, including many in the healthcare sector, haven’t been able to bring their families into the country over the past year because of Covid-19 restrictions. In a sign of what’s to come, Nash said that won’t change. The government is instead creating a new exemption for foreign businesspeople who want to come here to negotiate deals in-person.

The speech was more about a direction of travel than a set of hard numbers to work with. But even within that, some observers were left confused at that lack of detail, reports the NZ Herald. As Stuff reports, there was no further clarity on either how quickly the direction would be implemented, or whether more resources would go to the under-pressure Immigration NZ – the latter question will be answered on Budget Day. Politik (paywalled) reported that some observers were left wondering where the “Kiwis first” workforce was actually going to come from. On The Spinoff, Bernard Hickey argued that a lack of migration planning generally has contributed to the infrastructure and housing deficit New Zealand now faces.

And finally, the numbers that give context for the policy reset: Radio NZ reports that immigration – in terms of people from overseas countries coming to live here – basically stopped over the last year. The net migration gain for the country last year was about 6k people – the year before it was more than 90k.

Sāmoa has a new PM-elect, but it’s not yet clear if she will actually get the top job. The Supreme Court issued two major rulings around the disputed election: The first involved striking down an extra seat given to the incumbent HRPP on the grounds of a misapplied MP gender quota, and the second was to cancel the snap election that had been called later this month. As the Samoa Observer reports, the HRPP plans to appeal those rulings, and that’s not to mention the dozens of petitions currently before the courts, which could see further seats change hands. But if the situation stays how it currently is, Fiame Naomi Mataafa from the FAST party will become the first woman to be PM in Sāmoa.

Judith Collins has declared her own safety as leader of the National Party, after another poor poll. She told Newstalk ZB that people were approaching her in the street, and in the Koru Lounge, and telling her she was on the right track. Newshub presented additional polling last night that suggested about a third of National voters gave her resounding backing to stay on, with another third not too bothered either way. If as it happens Collins’ position isn’t quite so secure, at some stage a challenger will need to take over – here’s my unscientific reckons on where the current contenders stand.

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The first quarantine-free flights between the Cook Islands and New Zealand begin this week. It’s a significant moment for the economy of the Cooks, especially with tourism being such a major share of income. The Cook Island News has a feature on the cautious optimism in the country, even though nobody is expecting a full economic recovery for years, given the disruption that is still likely from Covid.

Trade shoppers are still struggling to get timber supplies, reports Brent Melville for (paywalled) Business Desk. In some cases, stores aren’t sure when their next delivery is going to come in, and some big building firms have apparently started hoarding. The overall effect of this could well be a slowdown in house building, which will have further flow-on effects through the political economy.

A couple of good pieces about the current spate of Serious Fraud Office investigations into political parties, from observers who’ve seen their fair share of dodgy politicians. Radio NZ political editor Jane Patterson argues that it’s not the rules that need review, as some politicians have (perhaps self-servingly) suggested – rather it’s simply a case of political actors (allegedly) breaking long-established and clearly defined laws. And NZ Herald (paywalled) senior political correspondent Audrey Young suggests that the charges that have been laid show the system is actually finally working as intended.

Much has been said by politicians about the He Puapua report in recent weeks, and much of it has been clear and unmitigated bollocks. So to explain what it is and isn’t, The Detail got constitutional scholar Dr Claire Charters on the show, who said it is wholly inaccurate to characterise the report as government policy. But Dr Charters also criticised the government for not proactively releasing the report, and it’s hard to argue with the proposition that the government hasn’t really shown any clarity on what the report means.

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What if this was only the beginning? (image: Tina Tiller)

Right now on The Spinoff: Duncan Greive reports on a major international media merger that could have big implications for the New Zealand market. Justin Latif reports on warnings from Pasifika community doctors about confidence in the vaccine rollout. Brooke Fiafia from Auckland Action Against Poverty writes about her dream for a liveable income announcement in this week’s budget. Gareth Shute has a guide to which craft beer brewers are genuinely local and independent. Catherine Woulfe collects the best one-liners from the recent Auckland Writers Festival. And I’ve put together a somewhat helpful A-Z guide for terms that might be important to know ahead of the budget.

For a feature today, an interview with a highly significant and respected figure in the justice system: E-Tangata’s Moana Maniapoto has talked to Justice Sir Joe Williams, who among other achievements was the first Māori person to become a Supreme Court judge. They discuss his remarkable life, his family, and what drove Sir Joe to such heights. Here’s an excerpt where he discusses his gang-member brother:

And when I started working at Kensington Swan, he came and visited me. Walked past the reception to the lift. By the time he got to the litigation floor, they’d called the police. And people were just freaking out. I said: “It’s okay, he’s my brother. It’s fine.”

What I loved was he was proud. He said to me: “I’m really proud. You’ve done this.”

He died quite a long time ago. The lifestyle was too hard on him, and it was really hard on us when he passed away. Really hard. We still talk about him and it would be 25 years ago now. We still miss him.

Some big teams have been surprisingly poor to start the ANZ Premiership netball season, while the Northern Stars have surged ahead. They consigned the Waikato BOP Magic to yet another defeat, in the process claiming a fifth win from five games. In other recent matches, the Tactix managed to take down the Northern Mystics to prevent the gap in the ladder getting too wide, while the Pulse suffered a disappointing collapse against the Southern Steel, to leave their title defence hanging by a thread.

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