Productivity Commission calls for higher immigration rates to wait for more infrastructure

The Productivity Commission has taken aim at pre-pandemic rates of immigration, calling them “unsustainable” in the face of an “inability or unwillingness” to build the infrastructure to support would-be migrants.

It has also called on the Government to remove visa conditions that tie a migrant to a specific employer.

The Commission made the statements in its first draft inquiry report since former BERL economist Dr Ganesh Nana took the helm of the government’s economic think tank.

The Productivity Commission was set up in the early days of the John Key National-led Government and is officially tasked with providing “advice to the Government on improving productivity in a way that is directed to supporting the overall well-being of New Zealanders.” The inquiry was announced by Minister of Finance Grant Robertson and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi in May.

Ganesh Nana is chair of the NZ Productivity Commission, which has released a report calling for the Government to ditch rules that tie migrant workers to a specific employer.


Ganesh Nana is chair of the NZ Productivity Commission, which has released a report calling for the Government to ditch rules that tie migrant workers to a specific employer.

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As part of this inquiry, the Commission has asked the Government to change the law to require governments to “explicitly consider how well New Zealand can support and settle more people”.

The report comes as the Government continues to weigh up when to reopen the borders, while confusing the sector further with its so-called “immigration reset”.

“To ensure immigration contributes to the productivity and wellbeing of New Zealanders, governments need to build the assets and infrastructure needed to support a growing population, in preparation for the number of new residents, ahead of time,” Nana said.

The report said that the “disconnection” between other policy areas has meant that migration has outstripped the ability of public infrastructure to cope with it and added to “burdens for the wider community”.

In addition, the Commission has called on the Government to ditch current rules that tie migrant workers to a specific employer.

“Visa conditions that tie migrant workers to a specific employer should be removed. Allowing Migrants to move reduces the risk of exploitation and permits them to find jobs that better match their skills and experience,” the report said.

The Commission also called for the Treaty of Waitangi to be reflected in immigration policy and institutions.

“The Treaty was developed and signed in response to immigration, and directly refers to immigration. The Crown also has a duty to actively protect Māori interests,” the report said.

“The Treaty of Waitangi was New Zealand’s first immigration document,” Nana said. “The preamble of the Treaty, and the duty of active protection, demonstrate that there is a Treaty interest in immigration policy, which should be reflected in policy and institutions.

“Migrant workers have made a positive contribution to the growth and development of Māori incorporations and iwi-owned businesses. Māori will have views on the importance of such workers to their exercise of tino rangatiratanga and the advancement of iwi and Māori goals and interests,” he said

“Māori workers may also be disproportionately affected by immigration’s effects on wages, employment and conditions at an industry or local level.

The Commission also said that it is exploring options to “promote migrants’ commitment to New Zealand”. Options it is considering are recognising efforts to learn Te Reo and “limiting rights of return for permanent residents who re-migrate”.

The Commission is calling for feedback on the report to be submitted by Christmas.

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