8 Nov 2022

Govt looks at Treaty interest in immigration policy

1:30 pm on 8 November 2022
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The Productivity Commission's report into immigration recommends the government should engage with Māori on how to reflect Te Tiriti o Waitangi in immigration policy Photo: 123rf.com

The government says one of the fundamental immigration questions it has to address is what input Māori should have into policy.

It will outline its response to the Productivity Commission's report into immigration in the next eight weeks.

The commission's inquiry began in June last year, and its recommendations included engaging with Māori on how to reflect Te Tiriti o Waitangi in immigration policy.

It also suggested the government should make regular policy statements on migration, ensuring infrastructure keeps up with the numbers of newcomers, and stop tying migrants to a single employer via their visa.

There have long been calls for Māori to have a greater say on immigration, from setting appropriate migrant numbers to what support new arrivals might need to settle in.

Minister of Immigration Michael Wood said the commission put forward four or five significant areas to explore, and one of the fundamental questions was the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in the immigration system.

"We have a treaty which effectively establishes New Zealand and establishes the way in which people live in this country. And Māori consistently express a view about these issues within the immigration system.

"I actually see some amazing work underway already between mana whenua and migrant communities. So I think if we get this area right - yes, there will be some complex issues to work through, but actually there are real opportunities to make sure that people who are coming to settle in New Zealand know this place, understand this place and that they are welcomed as we would want them to be."


Wood said the commission's calls for transparency and evidence-based policies were credible proposals and the creation of a Government Policy Statement [GPS] had "serious merit".

The government's formal response to the Productivity Commission would come before the end of the year and would set out which areas it wanted to explore further, he added.

That would include whether the government should signal long-term directions for immigration policy through a GPS or similar mechanism.

"One of the consistent calls across the immigration system is for us to have a slightly longer term view. People sometimes feel that decisions get made every few months and things chop and change, and that can create uncertainty.

"And while we do need to be responsive at times, I do hear what people are saying there. And the benefit of a government policy statement as for example we have in transport is that you basically say here's the direction over the next 10 years, sort of broken down into three year blocks. Here's what we're going to base our decisions on.

"And you still have room to manoeuvre within that and respond to particular circumstances, but people clearly know the direction of travel. So I definitely think there's value in exploring that and what the best mechanism would be for providing that certainty."

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