New Zealand Immigration

The latest figures show that net immigration into New Zealand was 71,932 for the year to 31st March 2017. This is roughly three times higher, per head of population, than currently for the UK. It is a huge political issue in the UK, but much less so in New Zealand. The issues are eerily familiar to one used to the debate in the UK.

On the one hand immigration places pressure on; housing, roads, schooling, healthcare. It is also widely believed to keep wages down for unskilled labour.

On the other  hand migrant labour is regarded as essential for the construction, agricultural and hospitality industries. And, of course, migrants do raise GDP and increase the tax base.

These figures come from arrivals cards, which is somewhat better than the UK questionnaire sample approach. However, it still requires the person entering the country to honestly declare the intended length of their stay.

A major factor here is the strength of the NZ economy relative to its neighbours. And the net figure is boosted by a lower Kiwi net immigration figure (“returning Kiwis”).

The biggest single source of immigrants is Australia, with which NZ virtually has a “free movement” agreement. So NZ is struggling with an economy that is strong relative to a larger near neighbour, in a way that is strikingly similar to the UK and the EU. Foreign students at NZ universities are also a significant factor, again just as in the UK.

There is a difference with the UK in terms of cultural assimilation, as the immigrants are overwhelmingly Eurasian or pacific islanders, coming into an overwhelmingly Eurasian and Maori population. Any problems in New Zealand are minor compared to those in the UK, where a significant proportion of the immigrants come from a significantly different cultural background, and may not even speak English.

So, New Zealand is faced with a very similar problem to the UK. Just as well that this is not a major political hot potato here; as there is no appetite to restrict the movement of people from Australia, or to prevent Kiwis from returning home! Current proposals tinker with the NZ points based immigration system, whilst everyone waits for the Australian economy to pick up. If only there was a realistic prospect of the EU economy picking up in a significant, sustained way.

Anzac Day

Today is the Anzac day holiday here in New Zealand, and also in Australia. It marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

2779 New Zealanders died in this campaign, about a sixth of those who served on Gallipoli, which was a military disaster. 44,000 allied soldiers died, along with 87,000 turks, and at the armistice in November 1918 Galipoli was still held by Turkey.

The day is marked here with dawn services of remembrance, at war memorials around the country; prominently featuring current and retired service personnel and their families. This is a major event in the New Zealand calender, whilst armistice day is not. Indeed, so important is the actual date, that the New Zealand government passed a law in 1949 to prevent the national holiday being “monday’ised”. It fell on a Tuesday this year, and Monday was a normal working day; even if many did take it as holiday to give themselves a long weekend.

As much as a day of remembrance for the fallen, Anzac day in New Zealand is also a day when New Zealand remembers its emergence onto the world stage as a significant entity in its own right for the first time. In 1919 the New Zealand prime  minister signed the Treaty of Versailles, giving New Zealand membership of the League of Nations in its own right. Australia was also a signatory, but not, for instance, India. In 1939 the New Zealand government would make its own decision to enter the Second World War.

UK General Election Coverage

Reports in the UK on Theresa May’s announcement that there will be a general election on June 8th has received rather different treatment in the UK than here in New Zealand.

UK newspapers and the BBC stress conflict. Whereas Stuff in New Zealand makes the point that the British Labour party supports the call for a snap general election. Incidentally the Stuff article is not on the front page. You find it fifth article in the “World” section. Discovery of a 3,000 year old tomb in Egypt was third!

Interestingly coverage of changes to rules for skilled immigration into New Zealand are the other way around.

The Guardian states the NZ government line in full, with just a short paragraph near the end to mention the Labour party opposition description of the changes as “tinkering”. The UK reader will probably miss the point that the NZ labour party is calling for more restrictions on immigration than are being proposed.

Meanwhile Stuff leads with Labour party opposition to the changes, calling it a “‘Callous attempt to hold power”.

Is there a tendency for news coverage, in New Zealand and the UK, to look for the sensational in their coverage of domestic stories?