The Opposition parties lined up yesterday to take a hit at the Government over immigration.
In doing so Labour and NZ First revealed a big gap between them on immigration policy.
Both agree we have too many migrants – but Labour would proceed much more cautiously in cutting the numbers than NZ First.
And new Stats NZ figures gave them both plenty of ammunition.
Simply, the number of new arrivals in New Zealand shows a staggering increase in the gap between permanent and long-term arrivals and departures since 2012.
New Zealand First Leader, Winston Peters, was quick to single out the 23,871 students who came here on student visas, predominantly from India and China.
“They are allowing a corrupt international education industry to thrive even though it is used by many overseas students as a ticket to residence – it has nothing to do with education,” he claimed.
But the StatsNZ figures showed there had been a decline in the number of student visas over the past three years by just over six per cent.
In fact, the growth in migration came from “white” countries — particularly Britain, France, Germany and, Australia using work visas.
Peters was having none of that though.
In an attack on two Herald journalists who made the point about the increasing non-Asian migration, Peters pointed out that both were “Asian immigrant reporters.”
“The main source countries for work visas are Asian countries – not the UK, Germany, Australia, South Africa and the US,” he maintained.
But though Labour was careful to avoid a repeat of its “Chinese names” attack last year on Chinese house buyers, Leader Andrew Little did agree with Peters that some of the education establishments hosting Asian students who then went on to get work visas needed looking at.
“There is an issue with some of the visas being issued to students,” he told POLITIK.
“There’s been a massive increase in the number going to private training establishments, and it is starting to look like student visas and the openness to international visas is a cash cow to, at least for the private training establishments.
“I wonder whether the quality of the education being offered to these international students is that high at all.
“I think there is a legitimate question to answer and investigating the quality of the education being offered and the students who are coming here.”
But Little is careful to focus Labour’s criticisms on the overall number of migrants coming into New Zealand, especially Auckland.
He says that work visas are the obvious area for Labour to look as it wants to cut migration.
“It seems pretty clear to me that there are work visas being issued for occupations and roles that we can fill here from within New Zealand and that’s what I want to have a look at.
“The bottom line is we just have to reduce that number.
“It is just too high for us to accommodate.
Little is arguing that the high levels of immigration are having a huge impact on Auckland.
“The immigration story comes up in most conversations I have with people in Auckland – about the impact that it is having; the impact on housing;’ the impact on schools; congestion.
“That’s where it is felt most acutely.
Little believes that, like housing, the Government has “completely misjudged” the impact of immigration in Auckland.
And that’s how Labour will play it; as the cause of population pressure on Auckland’s infrastructure.
NZ First, on the other hand, has never hesitated to point out the ethnic background of migrants.
Last month Peters complained that an employer in Opotiki was “blatantly cutting out New Zealanders for a job at his service station by requiring a fluent Chinese speaker.”
Overall, he says NZ First wants to cut the number of migrants to 10,000 a year.
He would also require that skilled workers were bonded to work in regions for five years before they could relocate to cities such as Auckland.
Debate on immigration will not subside this election year.