Firstly an admission - personally I don’t want 10 million people living in New Zealand which is how many the current rate of immigration will deliver in 40 years. One of the things I love about coming back here from overseas is the fact that we have so much space. But that is just my selfish opinion, and this is a democracy. I’m interested to hear what other people think and why. 

Some people might want 10 million people living here, to recreate some of the buzz and culture that can be found overseas. Others might be happy to have 10 million, as long as they are the right 10 million – that is people that will make our country a better place to live in. 


Only if carefully managed does immigration actually lift the incomes of people in the host nation. And even then the evidence tells us the effect on our incomes while positive, is small. 

That leaves plenty of scope for a government to get it wrong and open the spigot to low skilled migration that does little but suppress wage growth, raise inequality and lift average but not median incomes. This is the legacy of the current government. And despite its belated attempts to improve the quality of migration – i.e.; the average skill level – there is little to suggest that a serious attempt has been made to stop the policy.

Indeed just a couple of weeks ago the Minister of Immigration pledged to meet labour shortages by letting in more people, rather than countenance wage rates rising. How on earth National expects wage earners to do better under its policy regime is a question New Zealanders need to ask.


As a strategy, sacrificing quality for quantity of migrants is a recipe for disaster for the most vulnerable people in society. Raising the supply of those people will suppress wage levels and will ensure that taxpayers have to pay more and more out through welfare benefits such as Working for Families. My question is how else are our own modestly-paid supposed to share in the prosperity that is evident in the overall GDP numbers?

It is highly skilled workers that create wealth and the sooner the immigration policy rediscovers this truth the better. The quantity mantra is not only putting strain on infrastructure, it is accompanied by wall-to-wall corruption in immigration practices. The troubles for the foreign education sector have already been well documented but there’s frequent anecdotal evidence around general immigration practices also being corrupt as desperate low skilled foreign workers pay off employers to falsify their reported salaries in order to meet residency requirements. There is no reason to believe the corruption is restricted only to the foreign student education sector.

Expanding the size of the economy through stoking the numbers of foreign migrants while the inequality gap is widened even further, and the modestly paid are trapped on wages below that require to live on, is a curious way to improve New Zealanders’ lives. It is of course a strategy to improve the incomes of some at the expense of others and so I would say it has to stop.

At the rate we’re going New Zealand will be changed forever, the things we value such as being a small but well-off society living in a land where our most precious commodity is personal space and environmental health, are being sacrificed at the altar of economic prosperity for some.

10 million New Zealanders by mid-century, with immigration of the sort we’re sponsoring, leaving many trapped in low paid jobs is not a New Zealand that I covet.

In fact even if migrants bring skills with them, and we can overcome the short-term infrastructure issues, there are still pros and cons to continuing to increase our population indefinitely. That is why the Opportunities Party agrees with economist Shamubeel Eaqub in calling for a population strategy.

But a population strategy has to begin with you deciding how many people you want living here. Just in our own office the disparity of views and reasons people have for their view has been so wide that it tells me we need to see what the public think, whether there’s any common ground out there on this.

It’s important to appreciate is that we don’t necessarily have to have population growth of anything like the current 2% per year in order for our per capita incomes to be rising – they are separate issues.

Here we go.

Fill out the quiz and let us know what you think our ideal population number is. Got more to say? Let us know in the commments below

Showing 30 reactions

  • Rose Lee
    commented 2017-05-05 11:03:04 +1200

    I personally dont want any more until the infrastructure is fixed
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-05-02 19:59:38 +1200
    You draw a circle around the UK , you get lots of people. Do the same around NZ you get seagulls.
  • Ciaran Keogh
    commented 2017-05-02 19:39:18 +1200
    Glyn! And England is a happy place for its overcrowding? It also took centuries for the population to build to that level and it has always had high density cities so it has a semblance of functional infrastructure – Auckland is one third the land area of Greater London with one twentieth of the population and our leaders cant even get the transport system right – if we are going to have more people living here we need to level large parts of Auckland and start from scratch and rebuild at a far higher density with an entirely different (vastly higher capacity) transport network.

    We also live in a land that is prone to regular natural disasters – these do not co-exist well with mega-cities – just wait until the big one hits wellington, and the effects of the Alpine fault on Christchurch – what the shaking doesn’t destroy the resulting southwards shift in the Waimakariri river will. And Auckland could have a spectacular new attraction at anytime – you can work around these things as a nation when the lives of a a few tens of thousands are disrupted but not when it happens to a few million. NZ is not a conducive place to house many millions – its geology is too dynamic.

    Also there is no country on earth were a nation (and I mean the entire population) is better off because of population growth. It is usual that the opposite occurs. So if you really like crowds why not move rather than impose on the rest off us.

    And as for importing skills – once we used to train young people to do useful stuff – before roger douglas wrecked the place we used to be able to build our own dams and railway engines and manufacture cars and TV sets and whiteware and many other electronic products. Now it seems we can only train our younger generation to be lawyers and baristas and health and safety officers and real estate agents. We now need Chinese companies to collect our rubbish and Chinese state owned enterprises to fund and build our roads. We have become useless! We need to become both smarter and more self reliant – we have it made here but we don’t realise it let alone value it.
  • Glyn Jones
    commented 2017-05-02 19:00:13 +1200
    United Kingdom is approximately 243,610 sq km, while New Zealand is approximately 267,710 sq km. Meanwhile, the population of United Kingdom is ~64 million people (59 million fewer people live in New Zealand. I say more immigration but those with the skills needed.
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-05-02 07:30:48 +1200
    Population growth was percieved to threaten the very survival of some Pacific societies; indeed one of New Zealand’s moest eminent demographers (and an early Trans -Tasman migrant) W. D Borie went so far as to say in 1965 that: “to a demographer these Islands represent populations, however idyllic they appear to be at the moment, nearer the brink of overpopulation in the Malthusian sense than almost any other groups of peoples”
    in Polynesia growth rates exceed three per cent per annum; in some territories they have exceeded four per cent per annum. Projections have been made of future rates of population growth in the next two quinquennia for all the territories under review. 1 Excepting only French Polynesia, all groups have predicted future growth rates which exceed the recorded rates of growth in the last quinquennium. They range from 3.20 per cent to 3.60 per cent per annum (but in the case of the Indian sector of the population of Fiji they reach 4.25 and 4.20 per cent per annum) for the five-year periods 1962-66 and 1967-71 respectively. These last figures approach the theoretical physiological maximum.

    (Read as one of the 1962 Winter Lectures at the University of Auckland)
  • Alistair Newbould
    commented 2017-05-01 22:11:03 +1200
    Raewyn Scott and Phil Driver – dead on. “Freedom to breed is intolerable…….to couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action” The Tragedy of the Commons, Science #13, 1968 Garrett Hardin
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-04-30 16:25:01 +1200
    I agree with Ciaran Keogh. This is discussed well in Treasury Paper 14-10 [ignored by the media]
  • Peter Garrick
    commented 2017-04-30 14:54:23 +1200
    Picking a number is way too oversimplified. The reality is the population already here will keep growing so whatever number people are advocating will happen anyway, it’s just how fast.

    The following video is very good – ‘The Most IMPORTANT Video You’ll Ever See (part 1 of 8)’. At least just watch the first section on the effects of compounding, it is very illuminating. This needs to be a core component of this, or any discussion involving true leadership of this amazing country which is currently headed in the wrong direction (leadership is not happening with the current government).

    Constant economic growth as the base economic paradigm also must be discussed.

    Finally in my opinion, anyone who wants the population density solely for the economic opportunities should accept they are in the wrong country and move – there are plenty of places in the world with more intensity and larger economic opportunities. If however they truly want what NZ still has to offer but is losing fast as we expand too quickly without realistic cognisance of the tradeoffs of the current path, they need to work on creating economic opportunities to improve and capitalise on NZ’s inherent strengths.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-04-29 18:56:43 +1200
    Ray, it would be basic economics in NZ, too, if the system wasn’t rigged to favour tying up capital in housing, rather than investing in business and technology, paying a fair wage, and taxing that wage fairly.
  • Ray McKeown
    commented 2017-04-29 18:05:13 +1200
    Why would we want to be so crowded we can’t get a park at the beach or have to live massive apartment blocks. If there is insufficient labour supply pay more or automate more through increased capital. Isn’t that basic economics? The swiss and nordic countries aren’t rich due to cheap labour.
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-04-29 15:06:48 +1200
    Legatum ranks NZ as No1 in world today
    Means what exactly? Should we be silly and take that ranking at face value? My firend told me about coming to Christchurch in the 1980"s he was in Cathedral Square at midnight eating a pie outside Warners and he remembers thinking “God I love this place”. He doesn’t love it now.
  • Ciaran Keogh
    commented 2017-04-29 07:52:14 +1200
    The problem with allowing any growth in population is finding some way of increasing our export income in concert with the increase in imports that automatically goes with it – we have failed abysmally to do this over the past 3 decades and as a result population growth is making us less well off. It also means that for many people quality of life has decreased – - and this side of the problem has a long lag time – there is a lot we still have coming at us because much of it is buried in debt and as yet unfunded infrastructure requirements. Ever through for a minute where we will get the electricity from to supply to 2.5 times our existing population? Covering NZ in wind farms wont do it and we have run out of rivers to dam. And what about all the extra petrol the additional population will use? How will we pay for importing that – put more cows into our waterways? The average car requires the import of petrol with a cost equivalent to the export earning power of one cow. So simple equation if we have five million cars we need five million cows to keep them in petrol. Plus we need enough cows so that we can afford to buy the cars – the purchase of one average car requires the earnings from 40 cows. Nothing much else in NZ is earning any foreign income.

    The The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise is dead but we haven’t got the autopsy report. Infill housing has killed our leafy garden suburbs, our kids can’t afford to buy houses, employment for many people needs to be subsidised by state assistance so that families can afford to live. The whole population growth thing is running on huge subsidies from the existing population – the Auckland and Wellington infrastructure investment programs are there to fund growth – so existing taxpayers are paying for infrastructure capacity to house and transport yet arrive migrants.

    And the last thing regional NZ needs is all of Auckland’s unwanted (both migrant and resident) population. We have inadequate services for them, they are by definition the least employable andIa can’t see how bunging a whole lot of people who don’t want to be here can help regional NZ be a better place. Most of Regional NZ has not caught the Auckland disease yet, so please Aucklanders don’t impose it on us.
  • Michael Addidle
    commented 2017-04-29 01:02:10 +1200
    Support up to 10 million, but more distributed amongst the provinces. Auckland can only have more people if it grows upwards and improves its infrastructure!
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-04-28 16:24:15 +1200
    Something between 4.5 and 5 million people feels right to me. I’ve always felt that this size is just big enough to play an important part in the world, but also small enough to not suffer from the same systemic issues or make the same mistakes as larger countries. I disagree with those who want to have a larger population to make NZ more “interesting” – mimicking other countries is not what we should aim for, in my opinion. I see a real chance for us if we learn to let go of the growth-at-all-cost way of thinking and change our economy to one of quality and value, not quantity and being average. Stemming population growth early, repairing the damage done so far and turning the ship around will allow us to produce premium goods and services that we can sell for premium prices on the world’s markets – let others be the mass producers and learn the lesson the hard way. We are a multicultural society living in a unique ecosystem, we (or our ancestors) have all come here for that reason, and that’s one of our biggest assets. Let’s not water it down with mass production of mediocre goods and mass immigration of semi-skilled or unskilled workers.
  • Blacky Sue
    commented 2017-04-28 14:31:32 +1200
    More people is bad. The good thing about is space. .
  • Tam Irvine
    commented 2017-04-28 14:15:37 +1200
    I support an increase in our population to 10 million-ish (it’s an arbitrary figure) because I want New Zealand to be able to retain and re-attract New Zealand’s large diaspora. I think one way to promote this would be to allow New Zealand to grow to the point where the ‘bright lights’ of overseas are, comparatively, less attractive. I would hope that an increase in population would allow for greater participation/enjoyment of culture, sports and science; as well as provide better employment prospects for the ambitious. It may also increase New Zealand’s ‘clout’ internationally and result in greater bargaining power when dealing with the wider world.

    However i’d only support such a huge growth in population if it was provided alongside better civic planning. I’d want to see greater intensification of housing and investment in common utilities (such as sensible transport infrastructure). I, like many others, wouldn’t want to see our country paved over and want to see our most beautiful places publicly available (as opposed to being privatised by the wealthy).

    I also support a selective approach to immigration where an increase in the allocated number of refugees is balanced by an increased stringency in other forms of immigration. Hospitality workers pumped out of our laughing stock foreign education sector need not apply.
  • Tam Irvine
    commented 2017-04-28 14:08:11 +1200
    I support
  • carl scott
    commented 2017-04-28 13:25:15 +1200
    We should be capping our population at 4 million. One thing which is very noticeable is that immigrants are the ones mostly calling for more immigration. New Zealands ecology is hugely sensitive to population and especially the often poor placement of infrastructure.True New Zealanders dont require huge amounts of money brought about by the splatterfest of immigration and dairy farming. We are presently living in gridlock, with failing infrastructure and an environment that is about as toxic as you could get. Anyone who thinks we should have 10 million people here probably hasnt got a clue to whats really going on. Every problem the world has is based on over population. I would hate to see NZ become like the rest of the world who have long ago gone past the point of no return.
  • Wayne Drummond
    commented 2017-04-28 11:24:56 +1200
    Seems like alarmist positioning to me. This policy belongs to Winston from memory. He rolls it out like a religious carpet every election. Gareth must have catnapped a couple of Winston’s pussies to be pushing this barrow. Very Interesting graphics with absurd scaling showing a curve to support the overall growth of population over the 40 years. But at a rate of migration (assuming its nett) of 80,000 new migrants would add 3.2M over 40 years. To achieve a population of 10M those of us already here need to increase our current population by an additional 1.8M. REALLY….
    This courtesy of

    4,792,851 is the current NZ population as at Friday, 28 Apr 2017 at 11:15:27 a.m.
    New Zealand’s population is estimated to increase by one person every 3 minutes and 37 seconds.

    This is based on the estimated resident population at 31 December 2016 and the following forecasts:

    one birth every 8 minutes and 45 seconds
    one death every 18 minutes and 20 seconds
    a net migration gain of one New Zealand resident every 6 minutes and 10 seconds.
    The forecasts are based on recent trends and do not necessarily reflect actual population change.

    The population clock is based on the estimated resident population and does not correspond to the census usually resident population count or census night population count.

    The estimated resident population is derived from the 2013 Census usually resident population count, with adjustments for people missed or counted more than once by the census (net census undercount), residents temporarily overseas on census night, and population change since census night.
  • Steve Cox
    followed this page 2017-04-28 08:30:14 +1200
  • Raewyn Scott
    commented 2017-04-28 07:45:54 +1200
    THe real conversation the entire human race needs to have is how we prosper while we DECREASE our population of the world. We have to expunge the word “growth” from our minds as this planet, which is the ONLY one we have and ever will have cannot continue to be exploited in our never ending quest for it, groans under it all.
    The ONLY reason NZ is experiencing the growth it is, in my view, because it is perhaps the last civilized country left in the world with a seemingly low population and a pretty much open door to other coming in. If the were able to get into Aussie as easily, that is still where they would be going.
    I seek now the political party with the guts to begin to address the issue of population decrease in a civil manner, rather than wait till the pressure is so great we again resort to war. I believe the technology and robotics we are so afraid of could be used to maintain us while we slow down our birthrate and reduce our numbers.
  • Bruce Snowsill
    commented 2017-04-28 01:50:44 +1200
    We need to slow down immigration until the infrastructure catches up. Either that or restrict new arrivals from living in Auckland for the first 5 years.
  • John Greally
    commented 2017-04-28 00:23:41 +1200
    Legatum ranks NZ as No1 in world today for living, real wealth, beauty, etc. We got there with migration, not walls. The main election issue last council elections in Upper Hutt was doggy poo. Would we even know it if things were actually good here? Worth sharing? Thanks to migrants too?
  • Katharine Moody
    commented 2017-04-27 21:27:00 +1200
    I’m thinking the only way to ‘pick a number’ rationally would be to have somehow quantified our nation’s carrying capacity. That said, it seems we have exceeded our carrying capacity (whatever it is) – given evidence of infrastructure deficits; the perilous state of our freshwater resources; traffic congestion; hospital wait lists; household over-crowding; growing numbers in temporary accommodation, etc. So it seems to me where we have gone wrong is that we need to first lift our productivity before we grow our number – otherwise we cannibalise our own wellbeing. The cost of growth is exceeding the returns – only a lift in productivity will reverse that trend, I suspect.
  • Ciaran Keogh
    commented 2017-04-27 21:01:48 +1200
    No one seems to consider the macroeconomic consequences of increased population in NZ. The simple fact is that our export economy is not increasing at the same rate as our population and this means that we each have less to spend over the border – to make up for this foreign exchange deficit we must borrow and sell assets offshore both of which lift our ability to spend in the short term and depress it in the longer term.

    Also each new permanent arrival in NZ will be eligible for superannuation and free education and health care and social payments – the whole of life cost of these will be between $0.5 and $1million per person. A large number of the current crop of migrants will never contribute through taxation or through wealth generation sufficient to meet these costs. End result is there is less for everyone.

    A large number of industries relies on the cheap labour that current immigration policy provides. This needs to be seen as a subsidy to those employers as they do not meet the full cost of employment of immigrants the NZ taxpayer picks up a large part of it. Without the inherent subsidy these jobs would be revealed for the uneconomic proposition that they are. NZ already runs one huge employment subsidy scheme – working for families which is nothing other than a way of keeping unskilled labour costs down at the taxpayers expense – it doesn’t need another.

    Another consideration from personal experience with having employed highly qualified migrants is that sometimes the cultural gap is too wide – some can’t cope with working with female staff particularly senior ones, and try sticking with the requirements of the Employment Relations Act when discussing work issues with someone from a cultural background that considers “face” as being paramount – it can be awfully confronting for them.

    The final one is that no one ever checks on the motivations for immigrating to NZ but again from personal experience I have found people come here to get away from career or personal crisis. NZ is an overly trusting environment and we are all to easily taken advantage of. My first experience in employing migrant staff was to make a written job offer to a person seeking to move to NZ and find that all they wanted was the letter – never saw or heard from them again – and no one from Immigration NZ ever checked that they had taken up the employment offer. I will bet a bundle that we get more than our fair share of incompetents and mediocrities who couldn’t hack it on their home turf and think they will (not unjustifiably) get an easy second chance in NZ.

    NZ needs to get smarter not bigger.
  • Kathy Fielding
    commented 2017-04-27 20:46:46 +1200
    Why don’t we reference numbers to the NZ birth rate currently about 60,000 births a year. Do we want immigration numbers each year to outstrip the birth rate. What are the implications for meeting the needs of expanding numbers and what is needed by way of planning not only for housing (where most of the focus lies) but also for education, health, transport and support needs for the elderly. While increading the poplusltion number paying tax increases the take without policy planning continuing to open the flood gate benefits neither those here or those coming in .
  • Richard Morris
    commented 2017-04-27 20:28:22 +1200
    This is a simplistic overview as I see it. Commercial banks are lending flat out creating more and more money for the same property over and over again. Increasing our money supply without a corresponding increase in goods or services. This has to have a major inflationary effect. As I see it our current government is using immigration at large levels to increase goods and services in our economy to offset the inflation “the most unfair TAX of all as it preys most on the thrifty and those on low and fixed incomes.” Surely if we took the right to create money away from the commercial banks through fractional reserve lending and gave it to the government we could chose whatever immigration policy we wanted to suit our demands for skills etc.
  • Matthew Prebble
    commented 2017-04-27 20:22:33 +1200
    I’d personally like this issue to be less political as it inevitably leads to situations expressed in the UK and USA, and provides Winston Peter’s with more fuel. Agreeing on a maximum carrying capacity is a good idea (Note: don’t forget the 1 million NZers who live abroad, who could move back in international crises). I don’t know how you would come up with a figure (probably based on environmental factors more than anything), but if you don’t want politics to become more and more ugly, where immigrants are blamed for everything, then something has to change. I think immigration issues will also stop us from forging bipartisan links between the right and left politics, which are rapidly diverging further and further apart along lines of wealth distribution. I’ve been working with the Swiss lately, and even there conflict over immigration led to the abandonment of a Universal Basic Income (now an essential policy for an increasingly automated world), which originally saw support from conservatives (who liked that it would reduce the expensive social welfare bureaucracy, but said that we would support it “if we were an island” HINT), and progressives (who strove for wealth redistribution). Both sides of politics agreed that dealing with the increasing need to take on immigrants, both skilled migrants (Swiss are increasingly dependent on this due to an ageing population, much higher than NZ; but also the massive push for high tech industry- sound familiar) and refugees (human rights obligations), would cost society too much. So, we really need to somehow settle this, and urgently.
  • Janet Buckton
    commented 2017-04-27 17:48:31 +1200
    Who are these unskilled migrants? Are they family unification people from pacific island or refugee communities? Are they students who didn’t finish their courses? Are they rich people who don’t work at all? Are they people who came to work here but now don’t want to go back? Did they come here when we short of a skill but we are no longer short? I only ask because we need to know how easy it would be to say ‘No’ to someone. It would be easier to say no to an Englishman who wanted to be a barista in Auckland than it would be to say no to the 16y old cousin of an Afghan refugee who wants to be a Barista in Taihape.
  • Nathan S Nathan
    commented 2017-04-27 17:33:43 +1200
    What is skilled migrants. Few Days back I took a taxi & the driver was Pakistani Construction Engineer. I have been driven by Doctors. I know of a programme tester who is flipping burger & the husband is a ethnic chef. I can give you hundred of examples like this. We give skilled migrants residency. They come here racism prevents them from getting a job. They find better paying job in Aussie & move on. I know of few Indian/SriLankan drs who after getting NZ practising licence have moved on. Our senior Drs don’t want skilled specialists moving into their territory. I can go on. If we want skilled migrants our attitude to them have to change.
    You talk of corruption. I am reminded of the Indian students who were deported for fake documents. It does not happen without connivance in NZ immigration department. I understand if you know the right agent for the right price you can buy NZ residency.
    Immigration policy should be non partisan. Not changes every time a election comes around. The Department needs a shake up.