Yesterday, the Minister for Immigration, Michael Woodhouse announced a raft of new measures to tackle record numbers of migrants coming to New Zealand. The measures come amid a stagnating and high house prices.
But what was this: An act of desperation? An act of cynicism? An act by a party that is scared of a wily old foe? The timing suggests it could be a combination of all three.
For years Winston Peters and his New Zealand First party have been a consistent clarion for more sustainable levels of immigration than the 71,000 migrants who flooded into New Zealand last year. National has hit back each time, accusing New Zealand First of wanting to stifle growth and of being xenophobic all the while ignoring the very socio-economic issues that are being fuelled by the rapid population growth.
I have no problems with immigration and nor does the New Zealand First party which I support. Without regard to race or reason for coming, if people want to come here and contribute constructively to New Zealand whether they are on work visas, as tourists, let them. If they want to live here long term as law abiding New Zealanders, let them. Where the problem lies is being able to continue this without the quality of life that those already in New Zealand and those that have lived here all along, enjoy being eroded.
Determining what constitutes a sustainable immigration flow is a tricky question and the answers no doubt depend on what is intended to be gained from the data, its modelling and subsequent outputs. If we are simply looking for a rate of immigration that can be maintained for say a generation, perhaps statistical census data, coupled with regional data sets pertaining to the environment is an appropriate way to go. Geographic Information Systems software can do this in a temporal and/or spatial manner, and other applications can do statistical manipulation.
So, how does this relate to National being scared of Mr Peters? The data sets already exist and National has had eight years to use the data to attempt some modelling, and draw up appropriate policy based on the outcomes. The party might well argue that this is what it is doing now.
But after three terms, knowing history does not favour – with the exception of Keith Holyoake, four term peace time Governments, one cannot help but notice the cynicism of the timing. Now it is election year and National has had three terms in office and is seeking a historic fourth term. It has enjoyed years of riding high in the polls and watching Labour slump to consecutive defeats. It has built itself up on a centrist mandate that former Prime Minister John Key obtained in 2008, renewed in 2011 and again in 2014. Mr Key created a common man image that worked well for him, but has come unstuck on current Prime Minister Bill English.
Come 24 September if this attitude of National continues, the party could very well be in a state of shock, unable – and perhaps unwilling – to admit that perhaps one Winston Peters was right all along.