Massive Overhaul Of Immigration Has Been No Easy Task

Massive overhaul of immigration has been no easy task for Cunliffe (New Zealand)

by Iain Gillies
Tuesday, 12 December, 2006
New Zealand Herald

Developing new policy in an area as contentious as immigration has been a tough ask for Immigration Minister David Cunliffe, requiring the most comprehensive overhaul of law for 20 years.

But he is now at the point of drafting legislation for Parliament next year, motivated by the pressures of international competition for skilled workers, the threat of border security risks and Labours post-election agreement with New Zealand First.

Mr Cunliffes goal is to facilitate the entry of high-value migrants and smooth their integration into society, while lessening security risks from undesirables.

Globalisation has been a key issue, forcing nations to compete increasingly for labour skills and talent in an environment of ageing populations and declining birth rates.

People are also more transient; demonstrated by the fact that one in five New Zealanders was born overseas and that 16 percent of people born here now live in another OECD country.

While developed countries naturally want to pick and choose the best talent, migrants are also choosy wanting good career opportunities, an attractive work-life balance, good health and education services and a safe environment.

The devil if there is one in Mr Cunliffes proposals is in the detail, hence the initial reservations of groups as varied as the Council for Civil Liberties, the Greens, United Future and Business New Zealand.

Controversy has focused predictably on effective border controls and enforcement, including powers of search and detention and biometric identification.

Mr Cunliffe soothingly strives to placate such fears, saying the Beehive has already heeded initial concerns.

These assurances sound just a bit glib and the nation needs to be satisfied with what it is buying into. For a new system to endure beyond the terms of the current government as it is mooted Helen Clarks ministry needs universal acceptance of its pro-posals and not just enough support to scrape through Parliament.