Govt ill-prepared for immigration boom - survey

8:33 am on 21 June 2017

New Zealanders overwhelmingly favour a cap on immigration, with many saying the country is unprepared to cope with a surge in numbers, according to a new survey.

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More than a third of those surveyed in the UMR poll viewed immigration favourably, with less than a quarter against it, and 41 percent of those surveyed saying they were unsure.

But many thought the government was ill-prepared to accommodate the swelling population over the next few years, with housing, transport and health services under pressure.

UMR research analyst David Talbot said more than half the people surveyed thought New Zealand was not prepared in these three areas.

"On housing, even 59 percent of National voters thought we're not prepared.

"Fairly strong signals there, even from people you'd expect to be a bit more forgiving, raising concerns about New Zealand's preparedness."

The survey of 1000 people (PDF, 1.9MB) was carried out in May. It found more than half of those surveyed supported the idea of a cap on immigration, with people of all ages and political stripes broadly behind the idea.

Many respondents said lots of foreigners coming to the country drove down wages and wage growth - and created "immigrant suburbs", which caused divisions between New Zealanders.

But AUT researcher David Hall said it was important to separate the problems that people associated with immigration from immigration itself.

"Immigration has effects on things like housing and infrastructure, but it can also create supply, in so far as migrants are a necessary part of the workforce.

"The relationship between these things is always more complicated than it seems."

Mr Hall said there was an overall broad 25-50-25 split among respondents - with a quarter of people strongly for or against immigration, and the middle majority holding more measured or indecisive views.

He said a similar trend was observed in similar surveys in Britain before Brexit.

But Mr Talbot said he did not see that kind of anti-immigrant sentiment in New Zealand.

"I think what people are saying is that we're not anti-immigration, we just want to see it managed in a balanced way, and currently it's a bit off-balance."

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