With just days to go until the 2017 New Zealand election, one vital issue has been touched on gently by all parties, but largely neglected from critical conversation in major news media.
That conversation is migration to New Zealand and how reliant Kiwi businesses are on it.
While only three per cent of houses in New Zealand are bought by non-residents, Labour has said it believes this figure to be more like 13 per cent, without providing empirical evidence. The party maintains that New Zealand hasn't planned the housing infrastructure for migrants, and they're contributing to the housing crisis.
Essentially, however, we think this is a dressed-up way to defend migration cuts from the current 70,000 to less than 30,000 a year.
Cutting immigration to New Zealand only harms all of us. It'll do nothing to help the housing crisis – the tens of thousands of “low value” migrants Labour wants to prevent from moving to New Zealand aren't buying properties upon their arrival. It isn't immigrants that have pushed the average house price in Auckland over $1 million – that's because of New Zealanders, and New Zealanders alone.
In fact, two very important Kiwi industries rely on continually increasing immigration to provide for New Zealand residents: construction and logistics. That is, the two industries that put roofs over our heads and distribute goods to us.
A recent article from the Bay of Plenty region explained how building companies rely on skilled overseas workers for construction jobs, in order to fill the labour shortage so new build housing requirements can be met. This is a sentiment felt by building companies nationwide: we simply can't afford to restrict migrants from moving to New Zealand.
Similarly, food distribution services Bidfood, which services everyone from cafes and rest homes to the New Zealand Defence Force, needs to hire 700 new employees for its Manawatu operation – and much of them will need to be migrants.
Labour's plan to severely restrict migrant numbers to New Zealand would be disaster for Bidfoods, says its general manager Andrus Lei, as it already can't find enough labour locally. "We are trying every employment site you possibly can, we register with new ones every week, we are in the paper, we run permanent ads, we are getting leads from anywhere we can. But we're struggling,” he told The New Zealand Herald. "It's not a skill shortage, it's an availability shortage."
Countless other industries will depend on an active flow of migrants too. We in the building industry would be at odds without healthy immigration, because migrants are so valuable to us.