Labour has labelled Prime Minister Bill English’s softening of proposed tighter immigration rules a backflip.
The Government in April proposed changes to visa rules that would mean migrants would only count as “skilled” if the job they were coming for paid more than about $49,000 a year.
There was also a suite of other changes, including maximum stay durations for low-skilled workers and visa stand-down periods among others.
Mr English now says, after consultation with businesses, the feedback was those rules were a bit tight.
“You wouldn’t be looking at wholesale change, we’d just look at changing some of the parameters,” he said.
Targeted salary bands for the regions and a different set for Auckland do not look to be part of the changes being considered.
“That demand for skills applies right across the country, Auckland and in the regions, and I think the extent of it in the regions, the strength of that demand, is surprising some people,” he said.
“But equally in Auckland . . . we’re going to need people in Auckland. They’re not an exception to the demand, they’re part of the strong demand for skills.”
The decision would be announced in coming weeks, he said.
Labour leader Andrew Little said the changes were a sign the Government never understood the problem and the initial plan was a knee-jerk response.
“The Government’s policy was a one-size-fits-all approach that failed to consider regional and industry variations, and their backflip shows that the wheels are falling off their economic plan,” he said.
Labour has proposed cutting immigrant numbers by tens of thousands, describing it as taking a breather.
The New Zealand Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association has come out in favour of the Government’s possible backtrack.
It said addressing skills shortages in manufacturing and other sectors needs to remain a core part of New Zealand’s immigration system.
“In particular, the 12-month stand-down after three years did not make any sense to businesses having to send quality workers back home not long after they completed the inevitable on-the-job training required to become fully productive and integral to their business operation,” chief executive Dieter Adam said.
He said using pay levels as a surrogate for skill levels was seen as sensible by some members, but others said it was “crude” and ignored regional pay variation.
The policy was initially announced as net migration into New Zealand passed 70,000 people for the year and complaints the influx was putting pressure on infrastructure, particularly in Auckland.
New Zealand First wants immigration slashed to 10,000 people, but says restrictions should target people moving to Auckland, not farms. NZN