Hive News Thursday: National drops 4.5%; Net migration at 100-year high; Migrant welders paid NZ$3/hr

Shopping in Newmarket. Copyright Lynn Grieveson / Hive News

Housing and migration are shaping up as the big issues in next year's election and this week's figures show the Government faces a huge task to convince the public that new housing supply is growing fast enough to keep up with the fastest population growth from migration in over 100 years.

Statistics New Zealand reported yesterday that net migration rose again to a fresh record high of 70,354 in the year to November, up from October's record high of 70,282. Net migration's contribution to population growth is now running at over 1.5%, which the Reserve Bank has pointed out is the highest level in more than 100 years. It is also three times faster than the migration rate into Britain, where it was a key factor in this year's Brexit debate.

Economists and the Government have been expecting net migration to moderate towards its long term average of 20,000 per year by 2021, but the usual flow of net migrants to Australia has dried up in the wake of the end of the mining investment boom in Queensland and Western Australia, and temporary work visa and student visa numbers have surged over the last three years.

In recent months the number of Indian student has eased because of tougher English language requirements and a crack-down on fraudulent applications, but has been more than offset by strong numbers of temporary work visa migrants from Europe and South Africa. Student and temporary work visas have risen to total of 186,558 in the three years to November 2016 from 93,682 in the previous three years.

Yesterday's figures showed Indian student numbers were down 37% or 3,998 for the year to November, but South African, German, French and British work visa numbers rose by 3,004 for the year. The continued and surprising flow of net migrants from Australia to New Zealand is also offsetting the fall in students. A net 1,830 New Zealanders and non-New Zealanders migrated from Australia to New Zealand, which is a turnaround from a net outflow of 38,846 four years ago. Temporary work visas rose another 11% to 41,242 in the year to November.

Net migration to Auckland was almost 35,000. Add in natural population growth of around 10,000 a year and Auckland is growing at a rate of almost 900 people a week.

Meanwhile, this week's building consent figures showed less than 10,000 dwellings were consented in Auckland in the last year, which would be enough to house 30,000, given an average household size of 3 in Auckland, which is itself already higher than the national average of 2.7.

New report of migrant abuse

Meanwhile, the unprecedented scale of the temporary work visa and student visa migration is spilling over into the area of migrant abuse. The Auckland University report showing widespread migrant abuse from Dr Christina Stringer fired up the debate, but a report last night by Michael Morrah will add fuel to the debate.

He reported on how four Indonesian welders had been working at a Napier sawmill for as little as NZ$3/hour under 'specific purpose' visas for years. They had been living in a container on site for as long as 11 years, without access to their passports.

Morrah reported the investigation had prompted Immigration New Zealand to review the 'specific purpose' visa arrangements.

"They're employed by the offshore employer, not ours. So we can't dictate the employment conditions or the wages that they're earning," assistant general manager of Visa Services Geoff Scott was quoted as saying.

Winston Peters commented on the record high migration figures yesterday, emphasising his approach in election year.

"The government has settled on migrant labour as a cheaper option and migrants as a more compliant workforce, stifling fair wages and driving down New Zealand workplace conditions," Peters said.

"At the same time there has been a growth in workplace abuses, and demands on unsuspecting immigrants to pay upfront for jobs – often the unscrupulous employers are from their own countries," he said.

"New Zealanders are being side-lined with a government hell bent on adding to the population to boost consumptive growth, as opposed to working on increasing productivity for long term economic gains."

National down 4.5% post-Key

Roy Morgan last night published the results of the first poll taken since the December 5 resignation announcement by John Key. About half of the poll was taken after Key's resignation announcement and over the period where the new National leader was being decided.

The monthly poll of 872 voters taken from November 28 to December 11 found support for National fell 4.5% to 45%, while support for Labour rose 5.5% to 28.5% and the Greens were unchanged at 14.5%. New Zealand First fell 0.5% to 7.5%. The Labour/Green coalition would therefore be at 43% to National's 45%.

Roy Morgan's Government Confidence Rating fell 10 points to 131 points with 58.5% of voters saying the country was headed in the right direction, down 6.5% from a month ago.

In other economic and political news...

Nick Smith yesterday announced proposals to strengthen the laws around apartments and townhouses to improve disclosure for buyers and the performance of body corporates. Here's a lot more background on this in my September 18 opinion piece and here's the full discussion document on the Unit Titles Act Review.

MP Todd Barclay was re-selected overnight as National's candidate for Clutha Southland, despite a challenge.

Have a great day. Tomorrow's email will be the last for the year and will include a full Summer's worth of weekend reads and the latest on GDP figures due later today.