Labour wants to turn down the tap on immigration while the country sorts out its own problems.
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, said immigration was “positive for any country” but in times when “our economy is creaking, we need to be able to turn the tap down a bit”.
Little’s comments come after a visit last week to Lower Hutt, where he said immigration was having some downwards impact on the country’s wages.
He said the hospitality industry was a good example of where migrant workers could be affecting wages.
A lot of Chinese and Indian migrants with “particular cooking skills” could actually be sourced locally and the country didn’t need to rely on immigration to fill that skill-set, he said.
On Wednesday Little stood by those comments and said if he was in Government he would put a cap on immigration right now.
“We’re a country that has been built on immigration, we’ve been dependent on people coming from overseas…bringing their skills here…but there are times when, in this case, our country is going through some growing pains, in this case slowing pains, and it’s time to say let’s turn the tap down, moderate the flow and when things are right let’s open the gates again,” he said.
But Prime Minister John Key isn’t convinced and says migrants are “stimulatory to the economy”.
“Look at the Reserve Bank, one thing they’ll tell you is one of the things that’s driving the economy has been net migration being positive.”
Key said he couldn’t work out where Little was coming from.
“One minute they’re saying they don’t want people with Chinese-sounding names buying houses, now they’re saying they don’t want people with Chinese-sounding names making chicken chop suey.”
“Look, there are some Chinese migrants who come to New Zealand but they’re hard working and they do a good job,” he said.