An Immigration Government Policy Statement – as called for by the Productivity Commission – would help us to plan for future population growth and build the necessary infrastructure to support this.
The Productivity Commission’s Immigration - Fit for the future report recommends that Government develop a Policy Statement for immigration. This, alongside natural population growth projections, would help bring more certainty to infrastructure planning – something that Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa - the New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy says is needed.
The inquiry found that from 1900 to the 1980s, many more people were born in Aotearoa New Zealand than arrived here. However, since the 1980s birth rates have declined and migration has played a significant role in this country’s population growth. In fact, from 2014-2020, migrants grew our population more than any period since the late 1800s.
However, migration is highly volatile – responding to both economic cycles and changing policy settings. Free movement with Australia has enabled a particularly mobile population, contributing to one of the largest proportional diaspora populations in the world. In this context, having more certainty around migration policy is particularly important for New Zealand’s infrastructure.
Proper, long-term planning around immigration will mean we can better manage pressures on infrastructure and expand capacity where needed. It means we can invest confidently in infrastructure projects that are intergenerational. This includes the planning and delivery of core infrastructure like roads, hospitals, and schools, and local government’s supply of infrastructure-ready land for housing. Greater population certainty is particularly beneficial for local government in high growth cities, since they are responsible for a large proportion of the public infrastructure to support growth.
An Immigration Government Policy Statement – as recommended by the Productivity Commission could connect immigration and other policy objectives and align these with New Zealand’s economic and social goals and priorities. Different governments will have different goals and priorities but requiring governments to publish an immigration Policy Statement, alongside better data collection on population flows and regional movements, would help long term infrastructure planning.