A column by well known economics commentator Shamubeel Eaqub that was made public today, suggests that immigration is an uncomfortable subject to discuss. It comes at a time when immigration numbers are pushing 70,000 people and property prices in Auckland continue to sky rocket. It comes at a time of almost daily debate among politicians about what to do to fix the problem. And it suggests that nothing simple that can be done about the hot potato that everyone is passing around, but which few seem to have an idea of what to do with.
Actually there is. There is nothing wrong with discussing immigration and in the near future we will have no choice. But before we do, let us get a few things clear now:
- We are talking about people wanting to move to New Zealand of their own free will. This is quite different from refugees and asylum seekers, whose cases for coming to New Zealand are quite different.
- Every nation has to have this debate at some point and a failure to do so may have us ending up like Britain or France, with a large disgruntled immigrant population that was not planned for by central and regional authorities.
- And if we don’t have this discussion the changing geopolitical landscape will force us to have it before very long. So let us start it now, on terms friendly to New Zealand.
The above three points might be stating the bleeding obvious. However there is a lot of deliberate misinformation out there, that is being deliberately fed into the conversational mix to suit certain agenda’s. This is happening against a backdrop of a rare alignment of the political moons in progress – how often do such a broad range of politicians implicitly agree with New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters that immigration is not sustainable?
Normally the Greens and the Labour Party are at pains to point out their tolerance of diversity. They talk about letting more immigrants into New Zealand, pointing to the rich kaleideoscope of ethnicities in New Zealand and their contributions to our society. But when the number of immigrants arriving each year is the population of some of our smaller cities and the building industry cannot keep pace with building houses for the existing population even their outlook is changing, albeit rather grudgingly.
Let me be honest here. I want New Zealand to remain a beacon of tolerance and diversity. Immigrants do add richly to the social and cultural fabric of our nation. They teach us as much about ourselves as we teach them and the world at large. But for New Zealand to maintain the living standards it does and still be that beacon of tolerance and diversity, immigration has to be kept to a level that our economy and environment can sustain and right now that is not happening.
Every house we build needs as a requirement of various Acts of Parliament a driveway, running water, sewerage and storm water disposal and electricity connections. Somehow that needs to be connected up to existing networks. Do we build outwards or do we go upwards to accommodate these people. All of this costs ratepayers money to maintain. The waste that comes from these households also has to be disposed of in a responsible manner and right now that is not happening.
So let us make immigration sustainable because it will be New Zealand at large and everyone living here who will end up paying if we do not. But to do that, we need to have that honest conversation.