Is New Zealand becoming xenophobic - TOP

It is election year, so Winston Peters has resumed his long-standing anti-immigration stance. This year his case is helped by the fact that the Government has made mistakes on immigration policy. But we need to remember that immigration can be positive, if managed well. We need to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater as they have in the US and UK where anti-migrant sentiment has scared off the talented people that can make our country a better place.  

Immigration can be and often is positive for an economy – so long as it meets quite specific conditions. The effect is seldom large but it is positive if done right. That means there’s plenty of scope to do it wrong. In 2017 there can be little doubt that National is doing it wrong – and has been now for a couple of years. When it was first elected and the global financial crisis gripped the globe, National wound up foreign immigration. That provided a welcome buffer to the international downturn. But National did not turn the spigot off; indeed it opened it further and let the quality of economic migrants slip.

Here’s our take on foreign immigration. If they increase New Zealanders’ incomes fine, if not then no thanks we don’t need that type of immigrant (refugees excepted of course, that is a totally different topic not covered here). That’s the framework for thinking about the migration issue. Of course they must pass the various tests as per the points system – re English language andrespect for our constitution, etc. But their economic contribution is what’s vital – if people can make us all better off by filling true skill shortages or starting businesses then we should welcome them with open arms.

Firstly, it is beholden on us to determine if the evidence supports this – are wages rising in those areas where shortages are claimed and despite that, are skill shortages persisting? Or is it just that employers can’t get the numbers at the prevailing wage? We want wages to rise – this is what “trickle down” is, it’s how wage earners participate in an upturn, how all boats rise. And importantly we want the most profitable companies to be expanding & leading that trend. We don’t want to be facilitating an economic expansion based on low or falling wage rates. There is some prima facie evidence that this is happening – take a look at dairying, cafes, retail.

So for employers screaming they need more workers,  we would need to see evidence of higher wages being paid before that argument would be credible. We certainly shouldn’t see permanent migration happening in industries that are at or close to the minimum wage.

Over the past few years it has been common for migrants to work for less than a living wage as a path to residency. In particular we know the foreign education sector has been corrupted from beginning to end and part of that is the wage rates at which those students are working their 20 hours per week at. Increasingly there are instances of migrants even working for less than minimum wage – a situation that benefits no one. Given the way Working for Families and the benefit system works it would be crazy for many Kiwis to take these jobs.

The evidence that immigration has become a tsunami since 2014 is here.


In essence, it leapt in 2014 as fewer New Zealanders left and more foreigners arrived – and over the subsequent 3 years it’s remained at these rates of around 1.5% of total population per annum. Now numbers themselves are not the full story. While more migrants put pressure on infrastructure, I’m sure we would welcome 2% population growth if they were skilled people that could establish businesses and build their own houses. Sadly we know that this hasn’t been the case, as discussed above.

It’s important to differentiate this evidence-based issue with immigration, from the xenophobic-based approach to immigration that Winston Peters and NZ First have had forever. Peters has always been against immigration – for as long as he’s been around – and even when immigration was well under a third of what it is now. In the past he’s used mainly ethnic assimilation arguments to mount his argument & clearly these appeal to the xenophobes and racists amongst us. For example:

A pamphlet issued by New Zealand First in 2003, with a message from Winston Peters opining that New Zealanders are being squeezed out of their country by the arrival of hundreds of Asian ("Third World") immigrants. The pamphlet blames the Labour Party immigration policy for this. It notes the rise in crime levels and "Third World" diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. At the time net migration was contributing 1% per annum to population growth.

Next a speech by Peters in 2005 when net immigration was averaging around 1300 per month (15k per annum) or under 0.5% of the population – about a third of what it’s been lately.

We are being colonised without New Zealanders having some say in the numbers of people coming in and where they are coming from. This is a deliberate policy of ethnic engineering and re-population.
Winston Peters

2005 speech on immigration policy, entitled Securing Our Borders and Protecting Our Identity.

In the same 2005 speech, Peters put his xenophobia to the fore again with, 

We have now reached the point where you can wander down Queen Street in Auckland and wonder if you are still in New Zealand or some other country.
Winston Peters

So let there be no mistake Winston Peters is acutely racist in his resistance to immigration; he profiles migrants by whether they look different to “us” or not. That of course is the same approach Enoch Powell took in the UK during the 1960’s with his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech that incited Britons to racial hatred. Most recently Peters has again sought political capital by his attack on journalists of the New Zealand Herald because of their ethnicity – which he blamed for their bias in reporting. He went further on Q&A just this week to argue the problem with immigration is ethnicity and when asked why, he made the leap to alleging that ethnicity:

“matters a lot, it matters as to what they believe, it matters as to whether they’ll support our laws, respect our human rights, respect our flag, respect our conditions, and above all have some understanding of the indigenous culture that we’ve got…”

Winston Peters is alleging that it’s ethnicity that determines whether people will have the same view as him on these issues – it’s not a matter of choice or preference of the individual. That is one of the strongest expressions of racism possible - It is often referred to as profiling - concluding what someone's views are simply by their ethnicitiy. It is aweful.

The point with all this is that Peters and his party NZ First are recidivists when it comes to the ethnic nature of immigration. He simply does not like immigrants that are not from countries he doesn’t approve of.

The Peters approach to immigration then is rooted primarily in his racial preferences. While New Zealand has let immigration of late get out of hand for the reasons cited earlier, Winston Peters attempts to piggy back on these arguments but fails to disguise the fact that at source he is extremely anti-ethnic diversity. His ideal is a New Zealand of Maori and British Commonwealth settlers, there is no place in New Zealand apparently for others – because as a result of their ethnicity they do not share his values. So to Chinese and Indians for example Winston Peters is openly hostile.

That is unadulterated racism, but of course in 2017 he’s trying to disguise his prejudice as the same call for curbs on immigration that many of us are making. One should not be fooled by the deep racism that drives Winston Peters. For the sake of one’s own humanity it is important that voters are not swayed by the Peters rationale for curbing migration. It is nothing to do with race or ethnicity; it is simply a matter of whether the people we’re getting are enhancing our well-being. We have been multicultural long before Winston Peters dragged his racism centre stage.

Irrespective of the Winston Peters prejudice which never changes, immigration policy absolutely needs an overhaul as the National government has facilitated a substantial drop in the quality of economic migrants and allowed the numbers to run on well past when the sector was providing a buffer to the global downturn. The resultant suppression of local wages is an unacceptable price to pay.

Showing 11 reactions

  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-05-12 20:47:25 +1200
    Please note ‘start businesses’ not buy them! Some serious monitoring is needed. BTW at present between 60% to 80% of all investor migrants are Chinese but under 2% Indian – something somewhere must be wrong given Indian’s success in building businesses in UK and USA – we are missing an opportunity.

    More controversially there are differences between cultures. So Caribbean and Pakistani immigration to the UK in the 60s and 70s was to a similar extent and they entered similar jobs (that UK natives were unwilling to take!) and Enoch said West Indians were the problem. Well half a century later the West Indians are just part of the UK with considerable inter-marriage but the Indian Muslim immigrants are living in ghettos. But culture is only an average and most of the immigrants I meet are happy to leave behind aspects of their culture of origin and almost desperate to adopt New Zealanders ‘Fair Go’ and acceptance of diversity culture. We just have to be more welcoming. And to stop numbers reaching the point that we have what Prof Spoonley call ethnic precincts (OK it depends on the size off the precinct – not the 96% Bengali school pupils that we had in my old East London neighbourhood.)
  • bob Atkinson
    commented 2017-05-12 20:26:38 +1200
    “reciprocal visitor working visas” – I can’t see too much problem with them so long as they are supervised and capped appropriately. We don’t want so many that unemployed Kiwis stay unemployed but short term work with seasonal fruit picking seems OK. It depends on the reciprocal – I really doubt there are that many Kiwis doing similar short term work abroad. Note a visitor’s working visa is a temporary visa so any mistake at setting the target is soon resolved.
    You rule out family reunion. This has a social value but little economic value so by your criteria you would do the same as the Nationals and freeze it. Capped and fully funded it would be acceptable – no more getting superannuation on the cheap nor the health benefits for free (as Gareth says half the lifetime medical costs are spent in the last 18 months of life.) Could also be restricted to areas of NZ with ample housing.
    Read to see why reform of immigration is critical. Not for our economic benefit (although it would help) but simply a matter of right or wrong.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-05-12 16:06:03 +1200
  • Michael Addidle
    commented 2017-05-09 06:09:17 +1200
    “Our immigration policy will reduce the overall number of migrants coming to NZ” That is more of an effect than a policy, and gives the impression that your “bottom line” is anti-immigration. Increasing the skill level required is a policy, which as an immigrant myself appeals to me. Immigration is likely to decrease as a result of increasing the skill level. But if it doesn’t, so be it…
  • Gayle Somerville
    commented 2017-05-09 03:43:58 +1200
    I would like to see work permits for any job that pays minimum wage scrapped, if they only pay more, and can get kiwis into work. I agree that migrants need to learn more about protecting our seafood, but they are brought up to believe that the ‘tragedy of the commons’ applies to all food not on private land. Education is needed about protecting breeders, as part of the ‘illegal’ talk. More education for new migrants.
  • Paul Thomson
    commented 2017-05-08 19:55:54 +1200
    NZ doesn’t have a constitution, really. What is called a constitution is a “pick and mix from historic precedent” affair. The government can drive a truck through the holes in our constitution, and often does, running over citizens who happen to get in their way.
  • Katharine Moody
    commented 2017-05-08 18:56:12 +1200
    I think it is also important to understand a Maori view on immigration and its relationship to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This by Ranginui Walker is an excellent consideration;
  • John Hurley
    commented 2017-05-08 18:33:57 +1200
    Tch, tch, tch. I agree with Winston Peters. This glorious ethnic diversiifying is only happening in a “shrinking pool of prime destination countries”; “you can’t become Chinese”.
    One of the messages of the alt-right is that a nation is like a corporation that looks after the wellbeing of it’s members (that has been quietly dropped by Wsetern governments). The other is that evolution has made us ethnocentric. However it is considered racist to suggest that an ethnic group have biases that favour their own.
  • Dan Johnston
    commented 2017-05-08 17:52:50 +1200
    For the most part Garth I like what you say generally. However, NZ does not have a Constitution as you state, that being an over-riding legislative piece that spells out rights and responsibilities as citizens; in practice have no “rights”. There is also a total absence of personal responsibility in NZ and that is best illustrated by the absence of any liability for negligence or incompetence. In fact I tell overseas friends the reason there is no liability here is that few are competent here. Further, all our laws go to maintain the status quo of the top 1% and there is no recourse by the masses. For example, the IPCA selectively picks what complains they see as valid and investigate, and even when they investigate, they are toothless. The Commerce Commission also “cherry picks” as do other established government enforcement branches. Examples abound and effectively and functionally there is no consumer protection in NZ. Our Police are a gang among themselves and they are supported by a judicial system that is equally as dysfunctional. Finally, we have a government that deals with a housing crisis by building more jail cells…… While I like some of what you say, I long ago concluded that NZ is too broken to ever be fixed, and any minor “tweeks” are just more of the same. In plain english it is now broken beyond repair. As for immigration, that has long been used by politicians of both colours (red and blue) as a means to falsely inflate the GDP of a failing state that has been in serious decline for 60 years. That decline, both absolute and relative, only slows during periods of high migration. Unfortunately, the total absence of central and local planning in NZ has brought about a housing crisis, which now cannot be even addressed by anyone. Whatever is done will be too little (no pun intended), too late.
  • Ryan Iglesia
    commented 2017-05-08 17:49:40 +1200
    As an immigrant myself, I deeply support TOP’s immigration policy. I finally found a party that is willing to work for smarter immigration without having to be xenophobic. Keep up the good work!

    As for the comment of Peter Williams, it’s true that the various cultures do not “fit equally well” in New Zealand but as our country can attest, despite our cultural, religious and traditional differences, we are able to coexist peacefully and live in prosperity—-and in the end of the day, that’s what really matters!
  • Peter williams
    commented 2017-05-08 17:18:56 +1200
    Leaving Winston aside, the argument that all races fit equally well into NZ is false. One of the main points of contact between Pacifica/Pakeha folk is the sea shore, the quintessential NZ experience. It is an undisputable fact that many oriental immigrants (note, not all Asians, eg excluding Indians) have no regard for marine life; scrapping even the limpets off the rocks and taking baby snapper even when it is explained that this is illegal.
    And another example. Some time ago I read that the Muslim community in Auckland wanted to have the public baths somewhere closed for one night so their women could swim unobserved.
    It is these sorts of conflicts between “traditional” NZ values and the values of some immigrants that fuel so-called racism.