6 Mar 2012

Migration changes 'brutal' to Pacific people

7:46 am on 6 March 2012

A Pacific community leader says Government plans to cut back on family migration to New Zealand are brutal and will cause hardship for working families.

A briefing paper to the Immigration Minister says Cabinet has agreed to scrap the category for sponsoring siblings or adult children to come to New Zealand to live.

The parents category will fast-track applications from the wealthy and make it harder for those on low incomes.

Auckland Tongan Advisory Council president Melino Maka says that will hurt working Pacific families who can't afford to pay for childcare.

"It's often that we bring in a family member to help the working parents to give a better life for the children.

"I think that the Government needs to acknowledge that, before they start hammering us with this type of policy."

Melino Maka says claims the changes will reduce the drain on welfare payments are an insult to the huge contribution by Pacific migrants to New Zealand's economy.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy is defending the changes which he says will save about $40 million a year in welfare benefits and attract more skilled and self-sufficient migrants.

But immigration lawyer Richard Small says it's an over-reaction that will create hardship and encourage overstaying by Pacific people already here on short-term visas while caring for relatives.

He says there needs to be a public debate about the contribution of so-called low value migrants, who can save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in health costs by caring for sick relatives.

Mr Small says there are savings in terms of welfare dependency in having a complete family here, "so that New Zealand citizen and resident family members can attend extra hours of work, pay mortgages or attain higher education, basically to get out of the poverty trap."