Aug 7, 2021 • 35M

How Aotearoa-NZ could live up to its kind 'Team of 5m' self-belief

Ryman Healthcare CEO Gordon MacLeod, immigration lawyers Nicola Tiffen & Alastair McClymont, & NZIER's Peter Wilson explain why 200,000 temporary visa holders need residency certainty and how to do it

3
5
 
1.0×
0:00
-34:48
Open in playerListen on);
Bernard Hickey and friends explore the political economy together.
Episode details
5 comments

TLDR & TLDL: I spoke to a variety of people late last week for my Spinoff podcast on calls for a residency amnesty for nearly 200,000 temporary workers stranded here, cut off from their families. Some of the interviews weren’t included for time and space reasons, so here’s the other interviews put together in a podcast above.

Ryman Healthcare CEO Gordon MacLeod and immigration lawyers Nicola Tiffen and Alastair McClymont told me about the awful situation the Government has put many temporary migrants in, and why a partial or full amnesty is required. NZIER economist Peter Wilson also published a note on why our temporary visa holders need residency certainty and how it could be done.

I was struck by the scale of the human tragedy unfolding for those people who are putting their own lives at risk to help Aotearoa-NZ get through Covid-19 and the callous way the Government is dealing with them. I favour granting residency to those here on temporary work visas so they can reunite with their families and get on with their lives.

Support more journalism like this

Here’s the full transcript of my interviews with Macleod, Tiffen and McClymont. They are lightly edited for clarity and brevity. The bolding is mine. I’ve left the timestamps in so you can zip through to the bits you want to hear for yourselves.

Ryman Healthcare CEO Gordon MacLeod spoke about how almost 3,000 Ryman staff and contractors in aged care and construction are in residency limbo and feeling let down by New Zealand. Photo: Supplied.

Bernard Hickey  00:17 Could you tell us a bit more about Ryman, its staff, where it is in New Zealand and in Australia, and why this issue around temporary work visas is so important?

Gordon MacLeod  00:31 Ryman Healthcare was founded in Christchurch in 1984. And since that time, we've become the largest provider of aged care and retirement village services to older people in Australasia and we have about 6,500 staff and we look after about 12,700 residents. We have over 40 villages throughout New Zealand, and also in Victoria. And we do everything in house, which is what makes us quite different than that we buy our own land, we get it consented ourselves, we have our own in house architects and building designers, we procure all of our own build materials, we have our own building teams, and we build our own villages. And then we operate them fully. 

So we're an end-to-end developer and operator of retirement villages and aged care. And of course, to do that, we require a very significant construction workforce. So we're one of the biggest construction companies in New Zealand, and growing in Victoria. On any one day, for example, we've got 12 sites on the go right now, across New Zealand and Melbourne. In fact, it's just turned into 13, we would have about 3,500 subcontractors working for us on any one day. And also on top of that 6,500 staff that we employ. There's a wide variety of cultures and really diverse range of people that work with us. Obviously Australians and New Zealanders, but also people from all around the world. And that's the same in our care centers, where we really recruit and employ a lot of people from places like the Philippines and India. The majority of our staff are actually New Zealand residents, but we do have about 25 to 30% of our both of our construction and our care workforces who were people who rely on having visas to be able to work in New Zealand.

Bernard Hickey  02:21

What was your initial reaction and how you dealt with the hearing about COVID and what it might mean for our borders and for your workers?

Gordon MacLeod  02:33

We started paying a lot of attention to COVID in about January last year. And it was very worrying because we were reading what was happening in Italy and New York etc. So we really battened down the hatches, we got a lot of epidemiology advice. We invested about $50 million in PPE and staff protection, welfare for residents. And we basically did the exact opposite of what we want to do with a Ryman village, which is we shut them, and we shut down before the country shut down.  We were very determined to keep COVID out to protect our elders, and also to protect our staff as well. We saw it as a very significant event and still do. We're just coming out of our fifth lockdown in Victoria, which has been significant. The efforts of our team particularly when they're dealing with older people, what they have to put in when there's a lockdown is incredible.  We become the families of our residents, because people can't come and visit them. To protect people, staff always need to wear face masks, and in Australia face mask plus a plastic face shield. And it's incredibly difficult dealing with older people with cognitive  challenges when you're wearing PPE. Our staff just go the extra mile and treat residents as if they're their very own family.

Bernard Hickey  03:54

There must have been some scary moments when various outbreaks happened, not just in New Zealand, but in Australia, particularly for staff who are right at the at the pointy dangerous end of it.

Gordon MacLeod  04:06

It sure was. During the second half of last calendar year in Melbourne. 650 people died in aged care. We kept COVID out both in New Zealand in Australia within Ryman, but generally in the sector in Melbourne, 650 older people died, 134 different aged care centers got COVID. So that's just a microcosm of what could happen here still in New Zealand. What could happen further in Australia and we really depend on having people working with us as part of our Ryman family who go the extra mile.

Bernard Hickey  04:43

And many of the people there that 20 to 30% of your staff, no doubt have family overseas, it might be the Philippines or India or wherever who haven't been able to go and visit those families or maybe bring their partners out because of the restrictions on visas and travel. Could you tell us a bit about how those people are feeling now that we're a year and a half into it, and it looks like it's going to be another year or so before anything gets back to normal.

Gordon MacLeod  05:14

It's very difficult for me to put myself in other people's shoes and I'm loath to try and depict how someone else is feeling. But what I hear is a lot of people feel very alone and afraid because they've seen COVID doing terrible things overseas. They can't see their families. And what what has been really concerning for a lot of people is that they're scared to leave New Zealand, because they don't know if they'll be able to come back. So you've got that double whammy effect of not really being able to go back. And even if you could, you're too scared to leave.

Bernard Hickey  05:56

And you must have some staff members who have a lot of uncertainty around their visas, whether they might roll, whether they can get residency, they may be in a residency queue. Tell us what you're hearing from some of your staff about that.

Gordon MacLeod  06:13

They're deeply distressed. They feel the future is uncertain for them. And the rhetoric that they hear from the government, and which is relayed in mainstream media, and unfortunately, quite often through talkback radio, is migrants are labeled as being the cause of a lot of problems in New Zealand, when in fact, our staff in construction and in aged care and nursing, they have provided incredible service to New Zealand throughout COVID. An incredible service for our older people, and the country should be thanking them, and finding a way to help them stay in New Zealand because they want to be New Zealand citizens.  And the last thing that New Zealand needs right now is to lose people from this country who are skilled, who love New Zealand, and also who have done us tremendous service over many years, and particularly the last 18 months. We should be treasuring people who want to stay here. And I get quite emotional about it. Because when I when I see our co-workers on the floor, and how distressing the situation is for them and how they're treated in the media, and how politicians discuss them as almost like a label, rather than as human beings. It's just not on.

Bernard Hickey  07:36

You mentioned that you had done some staff members who sent you letters about this situation. Is there some excerpts you could read?

Gordon MacLeod  07:48

This is quite representative feedback we get through our HR team, but we've always been very supportive of our migrant staff. They're part of the Ryman family. This is from one of our senior caregivers in New Zealand: she's writing writing to me on behalf of migrant caregivers and nurses in New Zealand.

'With regards to Immigration New Zealand's current policy of suspending selection of expression of interest for skilled migrant category resident visas. The current suspension of expressions of interest has led to immense uncertainty amongst healthcare workers. And we're concerned that there's no clear pathway for residency in many migrants, in many caregivers and nurses were forced to leave New Zealand as they see no future prospects here. And then she goes on to say, there are 1000s of nurses and caregivers in the expression of interest pool, both of which New Zealand are desperately short of. And so they talk about the fact that it's incredibly distressing. And that there just isn't a clear pathway to know ‘what is your future?’ Ryman staff member letter to MacLeod.

It's one of the most important things for all of us is certainty. And I'll never forget, when I visited an MP a few years ago in Wellington, to talk about immigration settings at that time, it was regarding the one-year stand down criteria that have been introduced after three years. And the follow up letter that I got said 'and by the way, please tell your staff that they should make sure that they develop no connection with New Zealand whatsoever during their temporary one year stay.' Now these are people who are caring for the life of world war two veterans and become people's families. And I just thought that was an incredible turn of phrase to use in respect of any human being.

Bernard Hickey  09:51

So how do you feel about what's happened to your staff there and the uncertainty that they're feeling because I'm guessing you're having to respond to your staff and reassure or give them information. How do you feel about that?

Gordon MacLeod  10:07

We try to keep our staff up to date with the measures that we're taking to support them so that they know that at Ryman, we really support our people as best we can, we discuss with them the lobbying that we do through various industry organizations, but also directly with senior members of parliament.  For me personally, I always feel an immense sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to try and influence and sometimes it means unpopular discussions, and perhaps people seeing me as a bit of a pain, talking about it repeatedly, but we've got to do our best to look after people because they're doing their best to look after older people and build villages for us. So the least we can do is to support them.

Bernard Hickey  10:54

Now, last year, during the lockdowns, there was this phrase, the team of 5 million and a phrase to 'Be kind' was used. What do you think the government should do now that there is this enormous backlog of applications, enormous uncertainty about the future? How do you think the government could be kind and create that team of 5 million?

Gordon MacLeod  11:21

Even kindness doesn't come into it. A very pragmatic thing to do, would be to make sure that people who are here right now, who are trained, and love New Zealand, can stay and become residents of this country. Because when the borders start opening again, countries like Australia, Canada, America, Europe, they face the same challenge that we face, which is there's work to be done, there's houses to be built, there's older people to be looked after. And that requires human beings.  And the last thing that New Zealand should do -- even if it's not even kindness, from a purely pragmatic point of view -- it's essential that we don't lose people offshore right now, particularly with unemployment so low. There's very few other options. We're doing our best with things like nurse entry to practice programs, lots of apprenticeships, lots of training of local people. It's not one thing or another. It's not either or it's and. And the thing that we can do for our overseas people who have been very loyal to New Zealand and seen us right, during this time, is make sure they can stay. And that would be seen as an enormous act of kindness, and put people out of a lot of misery. That's what I'd love to see happen.

Bernard Hickey  12:36

There's been some proposals bubbling up in the last few days. National is proposed a COVID recovery visa, which gives certainty for those who are already in the queue for a residency 35,000 or so. But there is 200,000 people here on various types of work visas. The NIZER has proposed that everyone here on a work visa, be given certainty that they can stay until the end of 2024. And then there are some who simply say, people who've been here, those 200,000, are part of their team of 5 million, they took the risks worked hard with everyone and deserve to be given residency if they want. What's your view?

Gordon MacLeod  13:24

I agree with that third view. And of course, I'm talking about the people that we know the best people that have worked with us. I'm sure that very simple checks can be done to go through that process. But I can vouch for the people who've been working for us, They've done an amazing job.

I believe that there should be a pathway to residency offered.  And from a government point of view, if that doesn't happen. I believe a lot of people are going to leave this country. We're going to have a severe skill shortage. And the response to that will be --guess what-- migration sittings will be turned up. People that we're going to add are going to be need to be retrained. I think you start with looking after the people that you've got, don't you? And the most pragmatic thing that can be done is to take those expressions of interest and treat them with some respect. The parts of the email I just read out before -- that lady put in an expression of interest in April last year to Immigration New Zealand. Paid the money and has heard nothing, not one thing. So how do you treat people like that?

Bernard Hickey  14:38

Gordon McLeod, the CEO of Ryman healthcare, thank you very much for for talking to us. 


Duncan Cotterill lawyer Nicola Tiffen says many of her clients are separated from families and unable to reunite with them, while also dealing with the ongoing uncertainty about residency applications. Photo: Supplied.

Welcome to Duncan Cotterill lawyer Nicola Tiffen, who is talking to us from Christchurch. Tell us what you're seeing at the moment in the immigration system for temporary work visas for those who want pathways to residence.

Nicola Tiffen  15:09

For temporary work visas, there's been a lot of change. So there's been a lot of confusion from both migrants and employers as to where they stand. Only today, I've had two work visa holders who thought they'd been granted extensions, but hadn't because of the ministerial directions and the announcements and the communication confusion. And, of course, people with temporary visas, most of them are separated from their families and unable to reunite with them. And many of them are precluded from applying for residency at the present time because of the suspension of this skilled migrant category.

Bernard Hickey  15:48

So how's that affecting people in their lives and also with the businesses they're working with?

Nicola Tiffen  15:54

Well, to talk about the first issue with people being confused about their visas and being able to move from one employer to another, that's causing considerable anxiety and also problems for employers themselves in terms of moving employees into different positions because the labor market is quite fluid at the moment.

In terms of employees not being able to see their families that's causing considerable heartache and upset. For example, I have one client, a highly technical information technology expert, and he hasn't been able to see his son since the son was born. And in terms of residents not being able to move forward with residence, visa applications have got multiple families who are unable to apply, or have applied and been waiting months and months for a decision.

So they're unable to either: A: unite with your families because New Zealand residents can travel and bring their families in, whereas temporary migrant visa holders can't. And also they can't make plans for their lives. They can't purchase a home. Their children who are getting close to needing to go to university can't get to university, there's a whole myriad of problems that arise out of this.

Bernard Hickey  17:11

What's going wrong in the system, do you think?

Nicola Tiffen  17:15

Well, I think it's a twofold issue. One we've had the pandemic we've had COVID-19. And the government's had to react to that by closing the borders and preventing individuals from moving in and out of the country. And on top of that, we've had a government that's decided to reset immigration parameters. And they've been trying to do that at the same time as managing the COVID-19 border closures.

Bernard Hickey  17:44

What do you think they should have done there? Because it sounds like they're trying to re engineer the jet plane as it's coming in for a crash landing?

Nicola Tiffen  17:55

It's difficult for me to second guess policy decision making. But I think we could have communicated the decisions in a much more timely and clear manner to the migrants themselves. And to employers, there has been the delay of the introduction of the compulsory accreditation scheme for employers, which in many ways is a good thing. But employers have been confused and worrying about that, at the same time as their employees have been confused and worrying about their visas. In summation, I would say that the problem is communication at the present time.

Bernard Hickey  18:34

We're in a situation now where there are people looking down the barrel of two years stuck in residency application hell, disconnected from families, uncertain about their futures, living in a place that called itself a 'Team of 5 million' in that it was kind and compassionate, but they certainly don't feel it. What do you think could be done here to recover our national pride or reputation here? Because at the moment, I'm, I'm not happy telling people overseas, we're a good place to come.

Nicola Tiffen  19:11

I have some empathy for that, because it's very difficult for someone in my position to advise clients on what to do. And in fact, when the law hasn't been published yet, and we don't know which direction the law is going to go. In terms of what we could do, I think my clients would like to see the government announce what the plans are — a roadmap like Australia has produced. And I appreciate that may be difficult because we've got to manage the border and the spaces in MIQ, but perhaps even just letting people know what the end goal is in a hoped-for timeframe would at least allow people to have some certainty, that long term, they're welcome in this country.

Bernard Hickey  19:56

Some have suggested some sort of a exemption or amnesty for people who are here on temporary work visas, particularly those with essential skills visas. What's your view on finding some way to clear the decks and start again?

Nicola Tiffen  20:16

It depends on what you mean by an amnesty. Normally an amnesty would be applied to somebody who was here unlawfully. And there's different reasons why someone could be unlawfully in the country. For example, there could be people who are unlawful because they no longer meet the character or the good health requirements to stay in New Zealand and it may not be New Zealand's, or very possibly in the migrants interests themselves to remain here. But for people who have become unlawful because they've lost their jobs, or have moved on to a different job and didn't realize the need to change the visa, or the visa has actually expired without them being aware of it because of the different changes with visa expiry dates, then yes, an amnesty would be quite sensible and productive, I believe in order to clear the decks and allow people to move forward.

Bernard Hickey  21:06

One of the problems seems to be here that the government hasn't made its own mind up about what its residency planning range should be each year. And despite various calls for the government before and after the last election to come up with a number which we can all see and start to understand and work out whether the point system makes sense for that. And also set some expectations about whether it's realistic to get residency. What's your view on the current or the potential mix we should have have of temporary work visas and visas that actually create a pathway to residency.

Nicola Tiffen  21:52

There are several facets to that question. There's a significant economic facet. There's also the problem, I believe the government's very conscious of that we've got enormous pressure on the housing stock in New Zealand. So if we have a large number of people becoming residents, perhaps that's going to place further pressure on housing supply, and further drive up the cost of housing for New Zealanders.  But on the other hand, New Zealand is a country that people come to to settle, it's not close to anywhere else. So people don't come here just for three or four years to work and then go home again. They tend to come here for the lifestyle, to raise their family and to settle down. So I would be concerned that if we didn't allow a reasonable number of migrants to progress to residency, we may find ourselves very short in terms of workers and skills in the workforce.

Bernard Hickey  22:47

Now playing devil's advocate here, we've had a large numbers of temporary workers through in the last five or six years, and there was a real spike up in 2018. The Labour government has said we’re a little bit concerned here that there could be some downward pressure on wages from a lot of people who are working, not necessarily in the highest skilled, professionally trained areas, we’re talking people working service stations and shops and aged care in the likes. What's what's your view on whether there's something that that needs to be dealt with here more broadly?

Nicola Tiffen  23:33

I think you asking me whether if we opened up the residents pathway, we may have downward pressure on wages. And I think the answer to that is to set the criteria for residents at a point where people are at least earning at the median or above the median wage. And that policy is very much in place already.

Bernard Hickey  23:58

You've worked in the UK and in here in New Zealand as an immigration lawyer. There was a time while ago, when New Zealand's point system and its residency targets, were the envy of the world. In fact, in the UK used to hear about, you know, the Australian system, which is very similar to ours. How do you feel about our parents system now? And

Nicola Tiffen  24:29

I do still have a lot of colleagues and friends who are working as immigration lawyers in London. And it's interesting to me that the United Kingdom is adopting a very similar system to our point system at the same time where our point system has been suspended for almost 18 months.

Bernard Hickey  24:48

And on that note, we'll leave it there. Nicola, thank you very much. 


Alastair McClymont says the Government is in a mess of its own making and should clear the decks by granting residency to those with work visas. Photo: Supplied.

Well, thank you very much to Alastair MClymont. He's talking to us from Auckland, a prominent immigration lawyer who I regularly speak to on these issues. Alastair, tell us what you think is going on with our immigration system at the moment?

Alastair McClymont  25:15

I think everybody recognizes it's a complete mess. The government had in mind, some some major changes when they started their first term COVID has given them the opportunity of trying to implement those changes. But it's also turned a little bit sort of sour. And I think particularly with us today about the unemployment rates being a lot lower than what was expected, that really upset the applecart quite a lot. A lot of the immigration planning was around the idea that there'd be a large number of Kiwis looking for work, and there just simply hasn't proven to be the case.

Bernard Hickey  25:55

So I've got a lot of people now who are waiting up to two years, to get some sort of resolution on your application for residency. A whole bunch of people stuck in a queue that now is now being closed. What do you think the government should do here? To do the right thing, but also to try and improve our reputation in the world of trying to get people into our economy?

Alastair McClymont  26:21

The reputational thing is causing a lot of damage. Because there's now going to be a real fight among countries like New Zealand to bring in sort of skilled workers. But our international reputation is really suffering because of it. They've got to do something really significant to wipe the slate clean. I don't really like the term amnesty, but I think they really have to do something to clear the backlog in one massive sweep. The major backlog is in the skilled migrant category, which is the flagship immigration policy. Every political party would agree that it's a complete mess and needs a total overhaul because it's not fit for purpose. So what's the point in keeping all these people in the queue and continuing to maintain these huge backlogs and a policy that nobody actually wants?  It's great that the government are looking at changing the skilled migrant policy, but they really need to do something to allow Immigration New Zealand to clear their decks and start all over again from the beginning, and at the same time using COVID as the opportunity to allow the people who are already here working to actually stay here, because we can't bring anyone else in in large numbers at the moment.

Bernard Hickey  27:41

So what do you think that Immigration New Zealand could do, or the government could do to deal with this, to wipe the slate clean?

Alastair McClymont  27:50

Amnesties have traditionally been for overstayers. And I think we need to expand that concept of an amnesty to look more at the temporary visa holders that are here in New Zealand. There's very little movement of people around the world at the moment, including temporary visa holders leaving and going back to their own countries.  We may have New Zealand citizens, or New Zealand residents going through Australia within a travel bubble, which obviously has an effect on net migration. But we have almost 200,000 people here on temporary visas, who already have housing, who already have jobs, who are already contributing to the economy. And a lot of them contributed a lot during a lockdown.  So a lot of these people are in these queues for skilled migrant category, and having a really tough time of it. Something really transformational that the government could do is to have this concept of an amnesty apply to those people here on temporary visas to allow them to go under a very simple pathway to residency, clear the skilled migrant backlog and use that opportunity to redesign the skilled migrant policy to something which is actually fit for purpose.

Bernard Hickey  29:03

So we've currently got about 200,000 people in New Zealand on temporary work visas of one sort or another. Students. There's a few backpackers, people on skilled work visas, visas, essential skills visas, not to mention many people who are attached to them as family members ad the likes. Do you think we could do the whole lot? Can we handle that?

Alastair McClymont  29:29

They're already here working. They're already here. Their kids are in school and they're driving on the motorways and they're living in houses. So we're not going to have any infrastructure strained by allowing these people to stay. Now a lot of them are restricted in where they can work and what kind of work they could do because of either the conditions on the work visa or because they're applying for resident visas under the skilled migrant category -- a policy which everybody recognizes is not fit for purpose.  So if we want to use this labour in particular regions and in particular industries and particular companies, then it's really quite simple to design a pathway to residency for the temporary visa holders to incentivize and encourage these 180,000 people to work where and in what kind of work we want them to do.  The government are also introducing a mandatory accreditation process for employers to manage exploitation risks so that could be fitted in nicely with this pathway to residency by having requirements such as if you work for one of these accredited employers in this particular particular industry, in this particular region, we will grant you a resident visa, subject to health and character requirements, and either 12 months, 24 months, 36 months, depending on how much we want to incentivise these. So it needs some transformational thinking and some transformational ideas.

Bernard Hickey  30:53

We're gonna have to do something to clear the decks to get some sanity back in the system and also do the right thing. But long term, one of the concepts in and around our migration system for a couple of decades now has been this idea of a residency range of somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000 new residencies granted every couple of years, which both sides of politics up until a couple years ago, were relatively comfortable with. What do you think about the long term future of that residency range? And whether we can sustainably have you know, at any one time 200,000 or 300,000 people on temporary work visas but only award 40,000 or 50,000 residences each year?

Alastair McClymont  31:46

There's a couple of issues here. One is a broader population policy and the discussion that needs to be had in this country, which we haven't had for a very long time. And that's partly where the residency range comes from. I think the second problem was that this residency range was never really a problem, until we started having a lot of media stories around high net migration rates around about 2016. And remember, those net migration figures included a lot of New Zealanders coming back here, a lot of New Zealanders slowing down the rate in which they were leaving for Australia. And that affected the net migration figure. 

But the general public and the way that the media ran the stories about the immigration numbers just made it look like there's a flood of migrants coming in. So I think that the political parties tend to sort of panic, there's a knee jerk reaction, there is an election coming up. So all of a sudden, they suddenly started by reducing migration numbers, which is incredibly counterproductive.  Because as a country, it's not so much that we're trying to sort of build up our population so much, but it's that we're trying to ensure that we have the skills that are needed to replace those people who tend to leave New Zealand and go work overseas for large periods of time simply because of geography, where we're relocated in the world. And it's just a fact that we're a small country at the bottom of the world. And a lot of skilled people want to go and get their experience overseas, or they go and follow the big backs over in Australia in the mining industry.

Bernard Hickey  33:15

On that issue of Australia. I'm told that one of the reasons the government is reluctant to do some sort of large scale, one-off granting of residency or path to residency, is that the Australians fear an awful lot of people they believe using New Zealand as the back door once they get residency here, jumping across the Tasman in and having the same work rights as other New Zealanders. But what are your thoughts about should we should we kowtow or fear the Australians on this?

Alastair McClymont  33:52

It does seem quite bizarre that we would be basing our immigration policy on what the Australians think, when the Australians clearly don't reciprocate the favor and just decide to send us whoever they feel like. This has been an issue around for a very long time. And one of the reasons why the citizenship laws changed, where you need to be a New Zealand resident for five years before you can obtain a new passport so as to delay a lot of new residents packing up and going to Australia. But this is just part of the agreement that we have in Australia. So if this was really an issue, it really needs to go around the renegotiation of the agreement that Australia and New Zealand have regarding his work rights, rather than fiddling with her immigration rules.

Bernard Hickey  34:37

Do you think more broadly or in the long run that there needs to be a proper debate or conversation to get a social licence back for temporary work and pathways to residency that brings in issues like infrastructure spending and housing. What do you think?

Alastair McClymont  35:03

A lot of the stuff that was going on in the media around that 2016 time with migration rates, it was very counterproductive to having an intelligent, well designed immigration system. In a two minute media story, six o'clock on TV, you don't really have the opportunity to discuss all the different issues. So you just simply say, net migration, immigrants coming in stealing jobs, driving house prices up, clogging up our motorways without actually having a proper discussion about it. That's the nature of a democracy isn't it. What people see on the news, that's how they vote, and that's how policy is made. So it's, it's been pretty counterproductive.

Bernard Hickey  35:47

We've ended up in this mess.

Alastair McClymont  35:49

We ended up in a real mess because of it. And again, because we decided to cut immigration numbers. There were a lot of industries that were heavily on migrant workers and we grossly underestimated the number of unemployed that were going to have post COVID. And we've found ourselves in a real situation with a government that doesn't want to say, well, perhaps we were a bit premature. Perhaps we made some mistakes, perhaps we underestimated, let's re-look at it.  They just seem to want to stick with an ideological position and just run with it, regardless of the circumstances. But then house price ones is a very good one because you will remember in 2016 the high house prices were blamed on foreigners coming in buying houses. Now we haven't had any foreigners coming in buying houses for a couple of years, but it hasn't had any effect on the house prices, and we don't see the government apologizing for that.

Bernard Hickey  36:44

Alastair, thank you very much. That was Alastair McClymont, an immigration lawyer in Auckland. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Ends