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Tighter migrant laws set to hinder the regions

18 October 2016


The Government’s efforts to trim the number of migrants getting residency are expected to hinder growing regions and economies such as the Bay of Plenty – according to a Tauranga immigration expert.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse recently announced major changes to the Government’s New Zealand Residence Programme, which will cause a dramatic shift in migrants’ eligibility criteria and the total number of places available for residency.

As of October 12, Immigration New Zealand has reduced its target for the number of residence approvals from 90,000 - 100,000 (the target for the previous two years), to 85,000 - 95,000 over the next two years.

However, the changes to the number of places available in the capped family categories has been significantly reduced by more than 60 per cent (2000 per year, down from 5500).

In addition to the reduction of places in the family category, the Family (Parent) Category Pool has been closed until further notice.

Harris Tate Lawyers Associate Michelle Carabine believes these changes will have widespread implications – not only for the big cities, but the regions too.

“The bottom line is there will be less skilled employees to fill job positions for which New Zealanders are unavailable.

“Potentially this could impact negatively on employers who depend on skilled migrants to fill gaps in their work force. In the Bay of Plenty, a prime example is the horticulture industry,” says Michelle, a lawyer who holds a Graduate Certificate in New Zealand Immigration Advice.

Statistics New Zealand figures from May 2016 showed a net increase of 1307 people moving to the Western Bay of Plenty in the year to March, the highest figure since at least 1990.

More than 124,000 immigrants entered New Zealand in the year to March, while 56,450 emigrated, resulting in a net gain of 67,619 people, the highest net figure in at least 26 years.

Michelle says while a reduction in these figures could put upward pressure on wages locally, it has the potential to help ease house price pressure.

“Statistics from the reserve bank have identified that higher migration rates are related to higher house prices, so there could be an easing of house prices.”

And while the pause to the parent category is expected to be temporary, with the Government hoping to review and re-open it in the middle of next year, it may cause many of the migrant sector to seriously reconsider New Zealand as a viable option to settle, adds Michelle.

To enter under the parent category, a person must prove they or the child sponsoring them to come to New Zealand has enough income to support them financially.

Last year, 5739 people were given residency under the parent category. It has ranged from 4401 to 6364 during the past decade.

“Migrants who have settled here intending to bring out family members, such as parents, will now no longer be able to do so in the foreseeable future.

“This will put pressure on migrant families whose plan it was to be united and could result in some migrants deciding to return to their home country.”

- Published (partly) in The Bay of Plenty Times on October 17, 2016. 
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