Thousands sign petition for a “Pathways to residency”


In just a few days thousands of Kiwis have signed a petition to give migrants stuck in New Zealand who had made New Zealand their home a pathway to residency.

Sign the Action Station petition here

What follows is a short background paper on how the crisis for migrant workers was created and what the humane solution is.

How the crisis for migrant workers was created

New Zealand has trebled the number of workers in the country on temporary work visas over the last 15-20 years.

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There are now at least 250,000 workers here on temporary work or student visas comprising around 10% of the workforce.

Entire industries now depend on these workers.

Each year, around 250,000 new temporary visas are issued to replace those leaving.

New Zealand has traditionally needed around 40,000 new permanent residents each year to replace the loss of people overseas – primarily to higher-paying jobs in Australia. As a consequence, one in four New Zealand-born Kiwis now live abroad and one in four resident Kiwis are foreign-born.

How the promise of permanent residency was used to entice migrants

The chance of getting permanent residency is the dream that is used to entice workers and students to try their luck in New Zealand. On average around only one in five are able to do so.

New Zealand developed an export education system with promises of residency as part of this process. Today there are over 100,000 fee-paying students – making up 15% of all tertiary students who are paying between $20,000 and $50,000 a year for their undergraduate courses. Many schools in upper-class neighbourhoods have also become dependent on foreign fee-paying students.

The desperate desire of many of these students and workers to become permanent residents is being exploited by employers, educational institutions, and the government to boost their incomes.

Many work visas are also tied to particular employers. This has been a recipe for an explosion of cases of migrant exploitation. Migrant workers feel trapped whilst they are hoping to transition to permanent residency.

The situation for those who have come to New Zealand has been made worse by the fact that the government has trebled the number of migrants being given temporary visas of one kind or another whilst keeping the number being transitioned to permanent residence more or less the same. The competition for places has dramatically increased as a result.

How the possibility of becoming a resident was reduced after migrants came

Successive governments simply kept raising the bar to qualify by increasing the difficulty of gaining a permanent resident visa. Job categories that previously would qualify a migrant to transition to permanent residency were simply eliminated and the qualifying income and skill levels required were increased without any warning.

Over the last three years, this was made worse as the Labour-NZ First government secretly cut the number of people being given residency by 25% to around 30,000 a year. Now, even very-skilled and highly paid jobs no longer qualify for residency. It doesn’t make any sense. For example, we need teachers and nurses, but they no longer qualify.

At the same time, the number of temporary visas granted has continued to grow.

For employers, the ability to continually access more and more temporary workers willing to work for minimum or sub-minimum wages has also suppressed wages in these industries for all workers. There was never any incentive to raise pay, provide the training needed to hire local workers, or put in the extra effort required to get young people used to a work regime.

The workers and students here on temporary visas were essentially lied to. They were promised a transition to permanent residency to entice them here, only to have the rules changed on them after they arrived. It was a terrible betrayal of trust by Immigration NZ on behalf of the New Zealand government.

We now have tens of thousands of people who have been living, working, and raising families in New Zealand for a decade or more having to renew their “essential skills” or “graduate job search” visas periodically to do so.

The “normally resident” Kiwis who should be able to become residents

They are what the government has been calling “normally resident” visa holders who deserve the right to be given a pathway to residency.

Many Pacific workers who came here a decade more ago and also made New Zealand their home but may have overstayed their original visas deserve the same chance.

We have to collectively take responsibility for the terrible situation that now exists for vulnerable migrant workers living in our communities.

The Covid-19 crisis gives us a chance to fix the problem we have collectively created.

We can’t replace the workers and students now here for the foreseeable future. In fact, it would be a mistake to return to the over-reliance on temporary work visa holders again in the future.

What “pathways to residency” can look like

We need to create a new “pathways to residency visa” that allows the government to guarantee permanent residence to migrant workers already here once certain conditions are met. As an example, this was done for dairy farmworkers in Southland on Essential Skills visas after five years service.

We can choose to use the pathways to residency visas to incentivise people to go to the industries and sectors of the economy that need them without tying them to particular employers which has been proven to lead to super-exploitation.

It makes sense to offer those workers already here pathways to residency if they desire it.


  1. A strange article for strange times.

    The debate needs to be about death to real democracy and ‘gifts’ when International students obtain political positions of power that are supposed to be for student advocacy, do nothing, then ‘donate’ their way out of censorship, which has occurred in Australia when the student seemed to fail to do her duties for 3 months and the hard work was to get more international students into Australia rather than the actual duties.

    Sydney university meeting in ‘chaos’ after student makes personal donation of $50,000

    Let’s look at the above practise going forward…. people enter politics after ‘CV’s’ with political appointments at low levels, work their way up, but do nothing… We already have Dr Yang in NZ,

    The moment a Chinese spy decided to defect to Australia

    Increasingly migration is being used politically by foreign governments that do not believe in democracy as well as by exploitative people traffickers to avoid NZ labour laws which are toothless for the most part.

    Less migration and concentrate on local issues of poverty and declining democracy and standards in NZ, that need to be addressed because the wheels are falling off neoliberal pay for bums on seats, slave workers, and the results from that are far reaching to the world going forward!

    • We also have to work out where the houses are coming from, as climate change makes it’s mark and increasingly we are losing housing not gaining them from natural disasters…

      High rise buildings and high rise housing make it worse when disaster strikes!

      Floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes….

      Napier flooding: Long-term accommodation for flood evacuees uncertain

      Then food production with increasing droughts… made more aware with Covid about how NZ is so reliant on overseas imports now even for food! Manufacturing is even worse in NZ. Everything is now imported like PPE.

      NZ has a lot of challenges ahead, time to prioritise those already with citizenship to get housing and not add more vulnerable people (aka many of the temp visas are now for people with little skills and income going forward that will qualify for emergency housing and care) to compete with NZ’s growing vulnerable.

      Many Kiwis have worked overseas on temporary work permits in particular in the UK, but we don’t then demand residency as part of the agreement from the UK. It’s nuts! Kiwis go to foreign countries, we work, we can’t claim benefits, then (before neoliberalism) most people returned to their country of origin!

      NZ is a soft touch.

      Concerning is the amount of ‘donations’ from migrant communities and individuals, $100k for a list MP seat, generous ‘auction’ donations. Cash is greasing the way into NZ political positions across NZ in all sectors that seem to be more about bringing more migrants into NZ, that the actual job they are supposed to be doing! Same with dodgy big business like Talleys and Roading groups.

      Ten years ago unions were weary about migrants coming and lowering wages in NZ. What has changed?? Tons of cash and widespread politically sponsored group think in NZ?????

      There is nothing wrong with migration and nothing wrong with temp permits being used appropriately like they were before neoliberalism. My concern is that current migration from the last 30 years of Rogernomics in NZ, seems both exploitative and politically and financially motivated, and not for the good of society.

      • “There is nothing wrong with migration and nothing wrong with temp permits being used appropriately like they were before neoliberalism”.

        For the record, privileged ‘white only’ immigration was replaced by the points system in 1984, the year the 4th Labour govt gained office in a landslide victory. I suspect the watershed changes in immigration policy were drafted under the Muldoon govt in recognition of the need to attract human capital in a quickly globalising world. Pre-1984 was characterised by assisted passage for UK and Irish citizens and labour migration from the Pacific Islands, much of which was soaked up by the think big projects. I doubt very much there was anything like the temp permits we have now.

        Even in the two decades following the 1984 changes immigration looked very different to what it does now, where the RSE scheme now allows horticultural/ viticulture industries to exploit temp migrant labour under the pretense there are no kiwis (or indeed former migrants or refugees now with NZ citizenship or PR) that will do the job, or are capable of doing it. I suspect the RSE scheme evolved from the skills shortages list but with a far more cynical intention. Yes, the RSE scheme serves to maximise profits at the expense of temp workers – that’s global capitalism at work (although apologists might argue what they can earn is largely repatriated and greatly helps their families back home).

  2. That’s a tricky one, Mike, since the moral standpoint is in severe conflict with the pragmatic one.

    We already have far too many people in NZ, especially in the larger cities, and when the shit hits the fan on energy -as it most certainly will over the next year or two*- the excess numbers will exacerbate our overpopulation predicament.

    What is more, in the short term, the increase in population (as people flee from overpopulated countries suffering Covid-19 meltdown) is putting severe pressure on housing and other ‘essentials’. I see that the price of houses has risen about 10% in the past year, and in Auckland the average is around $1 million, which is preposterous for one one gets….a box surrounded by tens of thousands of other boxes, and none of it sustainable.

    *Peak conventional oil was 2007 and we are now post peak unconventional oil, and on the way down the slippery slope of energy depletion that ultimately terminates industrial societies.

    ‘Peak oil – including from fracking and tar sands – finally occurred in 2018. Hardly anyone noticed because – as happened in the USA in 1970 – everyone assumed that it would be a temporary blip. Oil extraction in 2019 was not substantially lower than 2018; but there was no month in 2019 when extraction was higher than it had been in November 2018. And, of course, in 2020 the world discovered more urgent issues to worry about. Nevertheless, oil extraction – and oil demand – plummeted as a result of the various state responses to the pandemic. Some wells will be shut permanently as the cost of reopening them is too high. Others will reopen, but only if the price of oil rises considerably. Pipelines and refineries will also have to be repaired. On the demand side, even the most optimistic economists and politicians have ceased talking about “V-shaped recoveries.” With Europe and parts of the USA embarking on pre-Christmas lockdowns, demand across the global economy is expected to be crushed. This spells lower rather than higher oil prices in the next couple of years.

    It is in this that we glimpse the part of the peak oil story that was often overlooked by the first peak oilers. The simple assumption that falling oil production would lead to higher oil prices failed to examine the impact of oil prices on the wider economy. Nevertheless, the economy is primarily an energy system upon which the secondary financial economy is merely a claim.’

    That bears repeating, since almost nobody seems to get it: the economy is primarily an energy system upon which the secondary financial economy is merely a claim.

    Gail Tverberg says the same thing in different words (of course, since there s no escaping scientific reality):

    ‘It takes energy to accomplish any of the activities that we associate with GDP. It takes energy to grow food: human energy, solar energy, and–in today’s world–the many types of energy used to build and power tractors, transport food to markets, and provide cooling for food that needs to be refrigerated. It takes energy to cook food and to smelt metals. It takes energy to heat and air condition offices and to power the internet. Without adequate energy, the world economy would come to a halt.

    We are hitting energy limits right now. Energy per capita is already shrinking…’

    Many hopes and dreams and lives are going to be ‘smashed on the rocks of reality’ over the next few years.

    No wonder the politicians don’t want to talk about it, and spend all their time talking about matters that are totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

    • +1 Afewknowthetruth

      Sorry to digress but Fracking is also an issue with links to earthquakes… again destroying housing going forward.

      Note fracking has been carried out in NZ since 1989.

      Since then we have had 56 major earthquakes in NZ in that time aka 30 years

      Previously we had only 27 earthquakes between 1950 – 1989 aka in 49 years.

      Massive increase in earthquakes in NZ since 1989 when fracking began. Also in the US and the severity of them since fracking began!

      United States Geological Survey confirms it: Fracking causes earthquakes

      Oil rigs provides local jobs (sarcasm)
      Shut out: The oil rig sending jobs offshore

      Receivers called as Tamarind Taranaki placed into liquidation after watershed creditors meeting

      • In addition to the actual damage to the substrata you have noted, we should also note that fracking (and other forms of unconventional extraction like tar sands recovery) are only viable when oil prices are high and when environmental regulation is low. The poisoning of the water table goes ‘unnoticed’.

        What we have witnessed in the US is the issuing of ‘junk bonds’ at slightly more interest than is generally available, on the basis of ‘expected’ financial returns in the future. When the financial returns fail to materialise, the ‘junk bonds’ truly are junk, via default.

        As noted previously, collapse of demand (plus production wars) has caused the oil price to fall well below what is viable for continued existence of most the oil industry. Which is ‘interesting’, since no industrial nation can function without oil.

        Any upward pressure on prices is resisted by consumers, who are generally less well-off than at any time in recent decades.

        Collapse of oil extraction would be a good thing for the other species we share this planet with, since it is the oil economy that is leading to their extinction (and eventually ours).

        Since it is in the ‘job description’ for politicians to attempt to keep the financial Ponzi scheme of the bankers operating, it naturally follows that they will not mention any of the fundamental factors (energy supply, stable environment etc.) that underpin EVERYTHING in industrial societies.

        Now that the environment is collapsing and energy supplies are on the brink of severe decline, what do our so-called leaders focus on? Legalisation of cannabis! International [corporatised] sport! Beautification of Wellington! Hopes for a Covid vaccine!

        Where are the ‘Greens’ on all the important issues of the times? Missing in action, as usual.

        And, as usual, Charles Hugh Smith cuts through the crap and delivers the goods on the financial-social side of things :

        ‘There’s No Vaccine for a Terminally Ill Economy

        Concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many and you guarantee collapse.

        Very few are willing to to face the reality that the U.S. economy was on life support long before Covid came on the scene. In a nutshell:

        1. Every layer of the economy is vastly over-indebted, and entire swaths are zombies, unable to service their existing debts without borrowing more at lower rates of interest.

        2. Productivity has stagnated for decades as capital has been incentivized to seek productivity-killing monopolies and cartels, and socially-economically destructive speculations rather than investments that increased productivity in a socially beneficial manner.

        3. Earned income/wages have been in a 50-year decline as a percentage of the economy. In effect, $50 trillion has been shifted from productive work to unproductive speculative gains. (see chart below) The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90%, And That’s Made the U.S. Less Secure (

        4. This enormous shift from productive labor to unproductive speculation has mortally wounded our society and economy. When corporations borrow billions from the Federal Reserve’s limitless spigot of free money for financiers and use this money to buy back their shares, this enriches the 0.1% who own the majority of shares and the corporate insiders with immense stashes of stock options.

        This kind of financial sleight of hand doesn’t add a single job or a single dollar of productive investment. Yet this is precisely what the Fed’s free money for financiers incentivizes.

        5. This tremendous concentration of wealth in the hands of the few has further concentrated power in the hands of the few. Ours is now a completely pay-to-play simulacrum of democracy in which the few buy political influence and power.

        An instructive example is Big Pharma’s remorseless hawking of dangerously addictive opioids as” safe” and “non-addictive”– fabrications which cost the American people hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Nobody was indicted, nobody went to prison, because America also has pay-to-play simulacrum of justice, a two-tier judicial system where you get the best justice money can buy–no money, no justice.

        6. America’s elites embraced globalization because it enriched them at the expense of the social and economic public good. Corporate America shifted production overseas to increase its profits, not just from reducing labor costs but by reducing the quality and durability of the goods it produced and sold.

        7. America’s elites embraced financialization because it enriched them at the expense of the social and economic public good. As I’ve explained many times, financialization commoditizes once-safe assets into speculative assets, which shoots systemic risk into orbit.

        This guarantees systemic crashes like 2008-09 which wipe out the many but further enrich the few, as profits are private but losses are socialized: banks and financiers are free to gamble with Fed money because they get to keep the billions they skim in profits and if they lose–well, the taxpayers fund the bailouts because they’re too big to fail or jail.

        8. America’s elites brought their system of global exploitation, the neofeudal-neocolonial model home to stripmine the domestic economy, i.e. the core economy just as they’ve stripmined the periphery economies, a.k.a. the developing world.’….

  3. Trouble is that with every permanent resident comes the village bride and two sets of parent all of which our welfare state has to support.
    No, leave things as they are.

  4. I think you will find the Treaty partners do not want any more immigrants until the infrastructure has been sorted. Housing being the most pressing a the moment, until then shut the gates.

    • Wellington’s infrastructure is far from sorted, with more major sewage spills today. This has not stopped the WCC voting to desecrate the environment at lovely iconic Shelly Bay, at the behest of a rich property developer, and with a lack of unanimity between and among Treaty partners. The local Miramar infrastructure is already strained and could become nightmarish in the process of inflicting wounds upon the land already subject to future legal processes of unpredictable outcome. Money sings.The developer donates to political candidates. Nice.

      The current mayor, with a good track record on environmental issues, was almost certainly elected because of his opposition to the development as voted on yesterday. I feel bullied by the Wellington City Council, the land is being bullied by the Wellington City Council, but there is money to be made providing North Korean-style housing blocks which only rich people will be able to afford, while natural beauty is trashed, and money trickles any which way, and even if the kind sea comes up one day to wash away the ugliness, the damage will have been done and the insurance companies will pay up. Everything is about money. What do we tell the children?

    • Ae e hoa. Most of us want fewer permanently. Not because we don’t like immigrants or any xenophobic crap but because the only way Te Tiriti will have any power is if we (tangata whenua) form a significant demographic of Aotearoa. Lest we forget that Te Tiriti was in existence in the 1860s but by then we were outnumbered by migrants and thus it was ignored and land was stolen, wars were fought and our people were suppressed for near 100 years until our numbers grew as a proportion of the population to give the majority pause for thought.

  5. This article put alongside the article by Pat is an indictment of what we have become. Covd has meant that the truth of our slave labour practices can no longer be hidden. It also means that there is now no choice but to right the wrong. It will mean that tying workers to employers i.e. as slaves is ended and bad employers will no longer be able to attract labour unless they clean up their act. This is a win for all NZers and will put the brakes on our race to the bottom.

  6. Unfortunately the major political parties are joined at the hip here, and they care no more for our home born and bred people than they do for foreign imports. It’s very bad – and good people shouldn’t go along with govt being kind to itself and it’s ilk – wrapped in transformational poppycock, scapegoating the vulnerable etc.


  7. Some figures and thoughts for a left position:

    – Global ecological footprint and bio-capacity by country

    – List of countries by population density

    – NZ’s top 50 private landowners

    – Who owns the earth?

    – Traditional Māori ideas of land ownership frequently came into conflict with European ideals.

    – The richer migrate – the poorer sit in the slum? Is that the future?

    These are some (main) parameters associated to the subject.

    Very complex.

    Very complex. Very complex.

    Where are the real winners, where are the real losers?

    Who are they?

    What is the class-structure in this discussion?

    Ritualized migrant-bashing will not do it.

  8. Yes I see who is signing …. not New Zealanders ! Without a doubt it is mostly these …..
    “There are now at least 250,000 workers here on temporary work or student visas comprising around 10% of the workforce.”
    Jonathan R.
    1 minute ago
    Urvi G.
    10 minutes ago
    Mani C.
    13 minutes ago
    Yunsik C.
    26 minutes ago
    Jeevanjyot K.
    34 minutes ago

    I am tired of NZ being a social engineering experiment. NZ ,ers are the ones who should be asked via referendum about such a question before any changes of magnitude are made.

  9. I have lived in this land since 1972, and still some morons say pom, go back to where you came from your accent we can!t understand, and they most are not EUROPEAN and in most these days young.
    When i was secret ballot elected as a Union official, go on site, another pomy stirrer, why i would say, none among you, or you!s waiting for your boss to come round, get him in the pub he drinks, beat the shit out of him.Happened a few times, in most two or three, yes this is Aotearoa/New Zealand in the 1980! and 1990!,never happen in our country we are Kiwis, we would never allow that, well racism and Unionism is becoming for one a outstanding battle, the other, tacking care of the wounded.

  10. If people can work here for 8 years on a dairy farm, have 2 Kiwi kids and then be denied residency that is wrong FULLSTOP.

    It is the labour department that is at fault, companies going to them saying they can’t get kiwi workers. Kiwi workers are available but they are not going to be exploited like Kiwis are.

    • That is shockingly wrong, yes.

      Either we in Aotearoa are going to continue down the path of being exploiters and slavers, or we end it. I hope very much that we are better than that. Once the decision is made to end all exploitation, any ‘problems’ caused by such decision can begin to be sorted out.

  11. “New Zealand has traditionally needed around 40,000 new permanent residents each year to replace the loss of people overseas – primarily to higher-paying jobs in Australia. As a consequence, one in four New Zealand-born Kiwis now live abroad and one in four resident Kiwis are foreign-born.”

    The crux of the problem, IMO.
    The solution, for over 25 years now , has been to replace our expensively educated and motivated young with conservative , middle-aged and generally unremarkable immigrants.

    Whilst I have nothing but sympathy for exploited and quasi indentured workers the answer to the problem is not loosening the permanent resident criteria.
    Hardening the penalties for exploitation and visa violations whilst ensuring living wages for those concerned is the better course of action for a ‘sustainable ‘ solution to avery disturbing problem .

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