ACT propose return to pre-Covid immigration settings

The ACT Party today released its economic proposals - including a promise to scrap the Government's upcoming immigration overhaul in favour of going back to the pre-Covid status quo. 

Fewer work visas are expected to be issues in low skilled employment areas.

Immigration spokesperson James McDowall said his party would "dump Labour’s 'once in a generation' immigration reset". 

"Immigration reform may be needed in the future, but right now we need certainty," McDowall said. 

The Government in May signalled plans for what it called 'once-in-a-generation reset' of the immigration system, saying it was determined to keep the tap tight on migration once borders reopen.

Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said the Government wanted to move New Zealand away from relying on low-skilled workers to attracting those with higher skills.

At the time, he said the reset would be about "managing the benefits and impacts of immigration as one of the levers for achieving the outcomes we want for New Zealand’s economy".

"This means getting the right mix of people and skills to ensure we're meeting our economic objectives, minimising pressure on our infrastructure – such as housing - and ensuring Kiwis have job opportunities."

McDowall said ACT would return to pre-Covid immigration settings "as soon as public health conditions allow" and would speed up residency for highly skilled people.

"New Zealanders need certainty from their Government," he said.

"Businesses, farmers and growers needs to bring in the skills to grow, or in some cases even continue. As a farmer, I know first-hand the struggles our rural sector is facing. We can’t get enough milkers, pickers, or pruners."

"ACT is committed to giving business and our agriculture sector the certainty over skills shortages by returning to pre-Covid immigration settings when the public health condition allows for it."

The Government has been under pressure over migrant workers and skill shortages, some saying there was a lack of a clear pathway for them. 

At the start of this month, there were nearly 10,300 expressions of interest for the skilled migrants residence visa. Priority for allocation to an immigration assessor is given to those earning more than $106,000. But even once an application's been selected from the pool, it can take up to two years for residency to be granted - up from nine months in 2018.