Why does National think importing cheap labour is the solution to every problem?

The National Party announcement on proposed immigration reforms is a leap backwards to the pre-Covid times when the economy depended on cheap and vulnerable labour imported from overseas and bonded to their New Zealand employer.
The number of workers arriving on on temporary visas has already exceed the number that were arriving pre-Covid – $20,000 a month – around quarter of a million a year.
300,000 workers were in the country on one form of temporary visa or another. Some had been here up to a decade bonded to employers with no chance of transitioning to residency. Why do National seem to be trying to recreate that awful system again?
The current government did the right thing by giving 200,000 a pathway to residency.
They also set in place a new system of accredited employers who had to pay at least the median wage of $30 an hour to import workers. This has forced companies like McDonald’s to offer this rate for night shift jobs in New Zealand. Before this change, most night shift staff didn’t get any extra above the minimum wage because the could rely on a steady flow of cheap migrant labour to do the work. They were able to avoid paying extra for the anti-social hours. Now they cannot. This is a good thing. It benefits NZ-resident workers as well.
The new wage requirement hasn’t stopped a surge back to the record number of work visas being issued in March this year of 28,071. Only 11,000 of these are Accredited Employer Visas. The rest (post-study, working holiday, partners) are already exempt the minimum demanded for the Accredited Employer Visa.
With close to 30,000 visas being issued each month there is no need to make it any easier or pay any less.
In fact what we should be doing is moving away from relying on temporary visas holders to fill claimed shortages in the New Zealand labour market. National propose to make it easier for their farmer mates to have have their employee have a pathway to residency. Why shouldn’t every worker in this category have this right?
Mike Treen
Unite Union Advocate
Data on work visas issued in March (Thanks to Green Party researcher Lachlan Patterson)

20,443 is the number of arrivals in March, whereas the number approved is 28,071. MBIE doesn’t publish the data for arrivals broken down to particular visa type.

Here’s a summary of work visas approved in March compiled from MBIE’s data portal. I’ve excluded any that are less than 100. 



Wage requirement

Accredited Employer


Median wage $29.66 (except where sector agreement) from 27 Feb 2023

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Post-study – Open



Recognised Seasonal Employer



Partner of a worker


None (until June)

Specific Purpose or event






Variation of Conditions



Partner of Student








Note numbers above are subject to random rounding to base 3



  1. Possibly because most of the sunset industries in NZ, like lazy hospitality and lazy tourism and lazy construction and lazy health care, think the same.

    The problem is that the staff come to NZ with families or start having them, and then low and behold, leave that industry pretty quick. Then the industry cry out for more workers. It’s always the same industries crying out for workers and now it’s spreading to other industries.

    Why doesn’t someone find out what happened to the 1 million new Kiwis (20% increase with mass immigration) they just got in the 15 years? Why are those workers not working out and what are they doing?

    Have yet to see any real effort at domestic campaigns to try and recruit domestic workers.

    Maybe because it is a great grift *looking* and *consulting* on the issue. Positively balloting just like the 12 person committee to investigate medical gaps, but then they expanded and set up six professional working groups and 20 profession steering groups without actually doing much to solve the problem.


    Easier money in the ‘management space’ or just stop working and go on benefits or make more money overseas after getting the kiwi passport permanent residency stamped, picking up the right to come back to NZ for health care and welfare if needed.

    (Notice how many outside of NZ suddenly remembered they were NZ citizens and residents and wanted to return and very angry that the flights were not running fast enough during Covid – over 120,000 returned for Covid).

    Retaining people who are great workers and law abiding and paying positive taxes, should be more of a priority that our current ‘revolving door’ that seem to be exiting workers with higher skills, leaving dependants in NZ, while importing 501 types and foreign pensioners, who have few ties, with NZ.

    Nobody thinks it’s working, they tried it for 15 years, but still no workers. Plenty of rich people off the back of the policy though. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/119699816/the-liquor-barons-who-have-mansions–and-underpaid-staff

    • I thought the policy announcement was about seasonal workers from the Islands.
      Their contribution to our and their countries of origin are significant. As long as these seasonal workers are treated fairly, with respect and given dignity this is something that needs to be encouraged.
      I need to be convinced that this practice significantly imparts harm onto NZers.
      I’ve had the privilege to rub shoulders with some of these people on the shop floor and found the experience spiritually uplifting.

  2. Can all parties stop seeing importing slaves to exploit and selling residencies as a solution to everything? Can we train our people here, pay reasonable wages and not just dump our own citizens on the scrap heap?

  3. There are some good arguments here. They seem logical and will indeed result in NZ worker receiving more money. However;
    Where there is a disconnect between wages and productivity/value the market and economy will adjust. And we are back to square one and your wages will buy you no more than before and even less for those on low incomes for all the normal reasons.

    We must assist those NZers that are capable of holding down better jobs through training and education to reach their potential and those who are not capable due to circumstances through welfare entitlements.

    Banning poverty or causing poverty through importing it can no longer be our only options.

    • And yet it is very easy to increase one’s income. Get an education, the very thing some of the poor reject at evey opportunity.

      • Doesn’t matter, a National party promotes a low wage economy and with that, who will do the dirty jobs Gary?
        Once you put a label on people Gary you create one for yourself.


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