Greens would cap migration at 1% of population

6:07 am on 18 October 2016

Anti-immigrant rhetoric has prompted the Green Party to release its new, population-based immigration policy.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw speaking after Budget 2016.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw. Photo: RNZ/Elliott Childs

Party co-leader James Shaw said it would put a cap on overall net migration at 1 percent of the population, including returning New Zealanders.

He said that would help to smooth out numbers from year to year and avoid massive spikes.

Mr Shaw said under the policy, immigration numbers would have been about half what they have been this year, but in other years the numbers could rise.

The policy comes after moves by the government last week to reduce the number of new residents, including cuts to the number allowed into New Zealand under the Family Category.

Mr Shaw said the aim of the policy was for better planning, and less hostility towards immigrants.

"The debate around immigration is kind of being captured by those voices who are just simply anti-immigrant, and we really want to make sure that doesn't happen.

"We know that immigration is becoming more of a concern for people and in my experience the vast majority of people aren't concerned about immigrants, they're concerned about the impact on house prices, and infrastructure."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw, left, and Labour leader Andrew Little at a climate march in Auckland.

Mr Shaw and Labour leader Andrew Little at a climate march in Auckland earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Alex Ashton

Labour prefers flexibility on immigration

Labour's leader Andrew Little said the two parties were not poles apart on immigration, in light of the Greens' new policy, but questioned whether there should be a set, rigid number.

Labour has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Greens, primarily to work closely together to present an alternative government.

Winston Peters at the Bridge run.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

But Mr Little said Labour would prefer to be more flexible on immigration, to allow for changing economic conditions.

"That's the problem when you set an upper target as some other parties are talking about, or a percentage of the population, I think that has rigidities in it that you don't get to manage immigration to meet needs as they change from time to time."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who has long argued for cuts to immigration, said finally he and the Greens were in agreement.

But he was scathing about what he called their "Road to Damascus".

"The Greens have always stood on a pedestal, looking down their noses, claiming the high moral ground as New Zealand First warned that immigration was strangling our public services, cutting Kiwis out of jobs, and helping push house prices up."

Mr Peters said only a month ago the Greens said they were not 'rushing into any decisions on immigration', and the new policy was a major turn around.

"The party that claims it's for as much diversity in the population as we can get reveals there are problems with a soaring population.

"Who will call who racist and xenophobic now?," he said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs