It is disturbing that immigration has become an election issue. There is nothing to debate. New Zealand is a relatively underpopulated nation. We can absorb more people. We need to absorb more people if climate change causes sea levels to rise and forces our Pacific Island neighbours from their homes. Or if war or lack of access to basic resources such as food and water make some areas of our planet unliveable.
More people coming to live here should mean more money in taxes and therefore more money to spend on essentials like better health, education, and social services for everyone. Though it would be prudent to try to attract immigrants to underpopulated areas with underutilized infrastructure rather than spend a lot of money building new motorways, schools, and so on, in those few areas that are already at capacity.
The problem is not more people coming to live here. Housing shortages and job shortages are not caused by immigration. The problem is people not coming to live here – people who have no intention of ever coming to live here – buying up our houses, land, and businesses purely for investment purposes. And not paying their fair share of taxes for the infrastructure they take advantage of either.
Both overseas and local speculating on houses, land, and businesses has driven up prices so that they become unaffordable to anyone but the very wealthy.
Low-to-middle-income New Zealanders are unable to afford to buy a house, or even to rent one without the government/taxpayer picking up part of the tab through accommodation subsidies. Farmers are burdened with so much debt that dairying is the only viable option and they overstock their land causing stress and environmental damage. Small businesses are unable to purchase or rent a property at a price that makes their business viable.
The debate we need to have as a country is not about who should be allowed to live here, but about what to do about destructive property speculation by those who live here, and, more importantly, by those who don’t.
That is the election issue.