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Own goal likely if NZ uses immigration as a political football: Peter Townsend

11 Jul Own goal likely if NZ uses immigration as a political football: Peter Townsend

It is also clear that it is going to continue to be blatantly used as an election tool for the forthcoming general election.

Regrettably that means that sound immigration policy is likely to be compromised by short term political agendas and self-interest. 

Because of our extraordinary circumstances in Christchurch over the past six years, we have relied very heavily on short term and permanent immigration, domestically and internationally.

It has bolstered our workforce and materially assisted us to recreate our city. In just the last three years, we have had record migration which has significantly changed the cultural mix of Christchurch.

It is important to note that at present, 70 per cent of all inbound immigration in our region is not rebuild related.

Most migrants are being employed in the underlying fast-growing and diverse regional economy.

The recent Canterbury Development Corporation economic update demonstrates that our region needs five times the long-run average of historic inbound migration to meet employment and economic growth projections.

Given that, putting a brake on international migration would seriously compromise our economies in the future.

Our dependency on continuing strong levels of immigration across all sectors of our economy should not be underestimated.

Export education brings welcome overseas students into Christchurch and is an important part of our diverse economy.

These students provide a significant economic contribution, and they also pave the way for high skilled permanent migrants to either stay in New Zealand, or come back after finishing their education.

The Colombo Plan of the 1970’s which attracted high calibre students from Malaysia, particularly to Lincoln University, is a very good example of that. That legacy lives on.

The unemployment rate in Christchurch city is 4.9 per cent; excluding the city, the unemployment rate in wider Canterbury is 2.7 per cent.

That level of unemployment is too low to be sustainable in a growing economy, and the key solution to this problem is robust domestic and international migration.

Migrants do not come to New Zealand, and to our region, at the expense of local employment opportunities.

They come to New Zealand to earn, to spend, to contribute and to create opportunities, not to stifle them.

It is hard to believe that locals looking for jobs in our region cannot find them with an unemployment rate of 2.7 per cent.

It is also hard to accept that we can continue to grow our regional economy without the ongoing support of new migrants.

It is exciting to see Christchurch becoming an increasingly diverse, multi-cultural city with people of different nationalities coming here – many because of the rebuild – and wanting to stay here to enjoy one of the finest lifestyles available anywhere in the world.

A major driver of the political posturing around immigration, is driven by the obvious capacity constraints in Auckland.

Christchurch and Canterbury should not get caught up in that problem.

As a region, we welcome international migrants and domestic migrants, including our friends from Auckland who are living in a stretched community with stretched resources.

Here, we have all the fundamentals for good living, and plenty of capacity for others to join us.

We have realistic house prices, an abundance new office accommodation, hospitality offerings second to none, and good infrastructure. ​

Let’s take the politics out of the migration debate.

We need stable, positive migration policies and strategies that will stimulate our economy, enrich our communities and satisfy our employment requirements.

It will be a travesty if immigration as a political football, ends up resulting in an own goal.

– Stuff full article

“It is exciting to see Christchurch becoming an increasingly diverse, multi-cultural city with people of different nationalities coming here, ” says Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend.

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