11 Oct 2019

NZ First pushed for tightening of parental visa scheme

6:32 am on 11 October 2019

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the tightening up on who can move to New Zealand is a direct response to his party's demands during coalition negotiations with Labour.

Winston Peters

Winston Peters said the recent parental category visa changes are "precisely" what NZ First pushed for at the Cabinet table. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

That sits uncomfortably against the posturing of the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister who this week celebrated the lifting of the moratorium on the parent category visa.

In the last fortnight the government has announced three significant changes to its immigration policy.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme will be boosted by just over 3000 in the next two years, the government has overturned the family link policy that stopped refugees from Africa and the Middle East resettling in New Zealand unless they had family here and it's reinstated the parent category visa - but with a cap on the number of parents who can come in and a high income test for the child sponsor.

Speaking to RNZ, Mr Peters said the parental category visa changes that switch the financial onus from the parent moving to New Zealand to the child sponsor, and almost doubles the income test is "precisely" what New Zealand First pushed for at the Cabinet table.

"Where in the world can you decide to go and take your parents as well? That's the reality here,'' he said.

Only when a skilled migrant is living in New Zealand, who is critical to the workforce, and is in demand internationally does it make sense to allow them to bring a parent in, Mr Peters said.

"It is a significant tightening up of the parental visa scheme.

"It was a case of reminding policy-makers that that's how the policy began and it needs to be rigidly and properly implemented, and not ignored,'' Mr Peters said.

"What we had here was up to 31 percent of the so-called sponsors having left this country to go off to other countries, including Australia, and leaving the cost to the taxpayers.''

At last year's annual conference in Tauranga the party membership passed a remit calling for the introduction of a Respecting New Zealand Values bill - effectively a test for migrants and refugees moving to New Zealand.

According to Mr Peters that concept is nothing new to the party and is a position it's held for almost three decades.

"We've always believed a values test is important and will campaign on it at the next election,'' he said.

While his negotiating team did not ask for exactly that when it went into coalition talks following the 2017 election, Mr Peters said he and his colleagues did ask for some basic changes to immigration settings.

"If you don't get the number of votes you seek to get then you have to cut your cloth so to speak, but we did put up some fundamental basic talking points where immigration was concerned and those are being worked through in the first three years of this government.

"That's a fact and some are being reflected in what you're seeing now,'' he said.

"We asked for a proper re-evaluation of immigration into this country and in particular in regards to OECD reports pointing out New Zealand was not taking skilled immigration, in fact quite the reverse.

"All those things we took to the table and that's why the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, the parental category and the criteria to come to this country has been significantly tightened up and the figures are beginning to demonstrate that,'' Mr Peters said.

So it was a New Zealand First win?

Mr Peters said he doesn't see it like that.

For New Zealand First it's about upholding a nationalist approach, something Mr Peters said always existed until the "neo-liberal experiment unleashed itself on the idea that more immigration meant cheap labour''.

"Go ask the ordinary New Zealander how it's affected their house building, their access to health and education or whether or not they've got space on their roads anymore.

"All these things were meant to be part and parcel of a planned population policy but there was no plan other than to drive up consumption with mass immigration,'' he said.

"These are the days of the chickens coming home to roost.''

So do people stuck in traffic for hours in Auckland sit there blaming immigration?

"Well, they would if (the media) were doing their job over the last decade, that's precisely what they'd think.

"I hope there are people sitting in the queues in the mornings and the nights, because they're now two hours at both parts of the day, analysing how did we get to this and who is responsible.''

The New Zealand First annual conference is being held in Christchurch next weekend and Mr Peters heads to it following a week of troubling headlines for the party.

They include a party president resignation, leaked membership details and complaints about the way people within the party have been treated by the leadership.

But Mr Peters said he's not "remotely concerned about it, nor is the board or the rest of New Zealand First.''

"You've got a very small little group that is starting their own political party and getting an enormous amount of publicity from the media, even though they haven't started a party by the way, with material that is four, five, six years old,'' he said.

"The whole system has been changed, their behaviour is a crime, their behaviour is illegal and we're going to take action.

"As for New Zealand First we're in our 27th year, and we've come through the furnace of fire on many many issues and this is a mere bagatelle and we're not concerned about it,'' Mr Peters said.

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