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Black-box immigration policymaking should be made transparent

Passengers moving through an airport with a plane in the background
31 May 2022

The Productivity Commission today released its final findings and recommendations from its inquiry into New Zealand’s long-term immigration settings.

“Immigration policy has profound effects on families, communities, businesses and those who aspire to call Aotearoa home. Yet immigration policy appears to be decided in a black box, shielded from the public scrutiny and robust policy assessments required of most other public policies,” says Commission Chair, Dr Ganesh Nana.

“The Commission found that migrants bring diversity and much-needed skills to workplaces across the country,” says Dr Nana. “They play an important role in creating job opportunities for New Zealanders, and in contributing to New Zealand’s economic development.”

“Improving the country’s languishing productivity is a long game. This is often at odds with how successive governments have run the immigration system: reactive to short-term pressures and sometimes conflicting priorities.”

The Commission recommends a number of changes to promote a longer-term system focus, and to improve the quality and transparency of immigration policy.

A key recommendation from this inquiry is to issue an Immigration Government Policy Statement (GPS). The GPS would require governments to set a clear strategic direction for immigration policy. Governments would also be required to specify how the demand for temporary and permanent visas would be managed to reflect the country’s capacity to settle more people and how it would invest, if necessary, to expand that capacity.

“A GPS would have improved the transparency around the Government's recent immigration rebalance announcement, by including how policy changes would affect the expected number and composition of migrants and the planning range for residence visas," says Dr Nana. “It would have explained how its objectives in immigration related to its other objectives for education and training, and investments in infrastructure overall.”

“Much of the Government’s immigration rebalance announcement so far has focused on the temporary visa system. Immigration policy should be clearer about the likelihood prospective migrants can achieve residency under the points system (the Skilled Migrant Category). The points system needs to be more effectively linked to the residency planning range.”

The Productivity Commission’s report makes 24 recommendations to Government. Read the report here or the short overview here.

About the inquiry.