10 Oct 2009

Peters defends 'tsunami of migrants' comment

8:15 am on 10 October 2009

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is defending his use of the phrase a "tsunami of migrants" less than two weeks after the disaster in Samoa which has killed at least 143 people.

Mr Peters made the comment in a speech to the Grey Power organisation in the Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau on Friday.

Immigration is familiar ground for Mr Peters, who has repeatedly whipped-up the issue over the past 15 years.

A Radio New Zealand political reporter says referring to a "tsunami of migrants" on the national day of remembrance in Samoa is deliberately provocative - and surely designed to ensure maximum media attention.

Mr Peters denies that - saying it is a descriptive word, not restricted to recent events.

He says New Zealand's immigration policy is slack and it is changing the demographic character of the country in an unthinking way.

Mr Peters also questioned how large-scale immigration can be justified at a time of mass unemployment.

"For two decades we've seen aimless, goalless immigration policy - and it goes on. It's bent on maintaining consumerism, but where's the productive wealth that every other country would have as its corner post of immigration policy?"

Mr Peters also attacked foreign ownership of New Zealand land and assets.

Pancha Naraynan from the Federation of Multicultural Councils says Mr Peters' comments are baseless and ill-informed.

He says modern New Zealand is more open to the rest of the world, and it is inevitable that as the country interacts with new economies, its demographic will reflect that.