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Updated: May 4, 2023

The unfurling of the great immigration reset has been a bit like watching someone on a fast binge on potato chips... turns out NEW ZEALAND just can't resist a migrant worker...!

Professor Paul Spoonley, Demographer

Just recently, our leading demographer, Professor Paul Spoonley said:

"For the past five years, immigration has been keeping New Zealand afloat. Countries with tighter immigration policies are staring down the barrel of societal collapse."

"Japan had a net loss of people, nationally, of about 400,000 last year."

Swiftly followed last week by this article on 21 April, discussing the rebound of immigration and the impact on our "absorptive capacity". Per Spoonley:

"We need to know what population growth rates are sustainable....

And so it goes on - by 23 April we had this article.

"After months of concern that Labour’s tough immigration rules were squeezing the economy, the policy has been relaxed to the point that, suddenly, migration is smashing records."

"It is hard to think of a bigger policy turnaround, by the same political regime, in living memory."

In total keeping, yesterday we had a fairly sweeping set of additions to the residence suite of offerings, the likes of which have not been seen before. Perhaps the sign that being starved of workers during Covid, our appetite is hungrier than ever.

Residence Pathway for

Bus & Truck Drivers & "Critical" Maritime Workers plus - wait, there's more..

additions to the Green List

To crunch what this means: These Transport Workers for the very first time in the history of immigration get their own pathway to residence which can be applied for from 29 Sept this year. The requirements are surprisingly relaxed and there is no cap:

For a Truck Driver: just a job that primarily (!) requires a class 4 or 5 licence. Truck Drivers were on our shortage lists in the past (for temporary visas only). They required a minimum of three years of experience driving heavy rigid (gross laden weight of more than 18,000kg) or heavy combination (gross combined weight of more than 25,000kg) vehicles, including at least 12 months of relevant work experience in New Zealand.

This has now been replaced by only needing the license. In NZ driving a heavy vehicle requires a Class 2,3,4 or 5 licence. Some classes of vehicles also require a specialist endorsement. A Class 4 license is not terribly hard to get. You either spend time progressing from Class 2 to Class 4 or you go and pass an approved driving course. Full details are here. You then just need an Accredited Employer with a Job Check (all easy enough while the white flags at Immigration NZ are up) to offer you a job at $29.66 and to start work within the next 12 months. You will be able to do your 2 years and apply for residence. Partners will get open working rights if applying before 31 May 2023. Thereafter, their working rights will be limited to working for an Accredited Employer at the median wage.

For bus drivers, $28 is the minimum rate but there is a twizzle on who you can work for. The employer must have signed an "All Parties Memorandum of Understanding on Improving Driver Terms and Conditions" for public transport services, or be providing Ministry of Education-funded school bus services. These drivers will get 3-year work visas and will not be subject to the standdown period that normally applies to sub-median wage earners. They will not be able to get their partners in on work visas unless paid at least median wage ($29.66).

For the Maritime roles, we're talking about Skippers and Deckhands. Each has readily attainable requirements.

Turning, then, to the Green List Additions, we see:


1.3 x Median $38.56 (note this is a Tier One Straight to Residence role)

Civil Supervisors

1.5 x Median $44.49


Median* + License


Median* + Licence

Skilled crane operators

1.3 x Median $38.56 + qualification required at point of residence

Skilled Machine Operators

1.15 x Median $34.11

Halal Slaughterers

Median* +Employer must be MPI approved

Motor Mechanics

Median* + Level 4

Motorcycle Mechanics

Median* + Level 4

Telco Technicians

1.15 x Median $34.11 for the 2 yrs or NZ Cert Level 3

All Teachers

Median* + Certification

*Where applicants have already been in New Zealand working they may not need to meet the median to apply.

Again, the above represents a fascinating state of affairs. These are uncapped residence categories! The only real lever left is the English Language standard required for all who now apply for residence. Whether a bus driver, deckhand or an Auditor, IELTs 6.5 will be the standard. Only the very rarified few will escape a test moving forward! Only time will tell as to how many on Sector or Green List work visas will fall at that last hurdle. It may at least be a bonus for our language schools that suffered so much during Covid. I leave you with these thoughts:

  • The old Work to Residence programme started to concern immigration officials some years back when too many were perceived to be getting to residence too easily. We have just reinvented an uncapped pathway;

  • We've been told the immigration system needs to become simpler: we now have:

    • 1 x; 1.15 x; 1.3x 1.5 x 2 x and 3 x median wage as different measures for different roles - we used to just have 2 measures;

    • We used to have two skilled pathways to residence - now we have 5. It's actually tougher now to get one's head around the different permutations than ever before. Not least, calling one set of rules "The Skilled Migrant Category" and the other "Skilled Migrant Residence" - punters have never been this confused;

    • We used to make all migrants have qualifications/pay rates at the time of starting a pathway to residence. Now we are going to have a mix of those who need a qualification at the start and some who only need it at the finish line.

  • We've been told it wasn't great to have too many industry carve-outs - that it should be a fair system for all. Here we now have a record-breaking 6 Sector Agreements/Median Wage Exemptions.

  • We've been told we needed to move to a highly skilled, highly paid model yet, some of the lowest barriers to residence have been freshly created not only for the 2021 Residence Visa but now in the great reset.

  • We've been told the new Accreditation Scheme which prohibits payment of recruitment fees by candidates would result in a more robust regime to overcome migrant exploitation. Yet the signs are that due to some of the lightest touch processing we have ever seen, money passing hands in return for a job offer is all around us.

  • The ACT party proposed a system whereby an employer simply pays a levy and a visa gets issued in a bid to do away with bureaucracy. Opponents said "too much of a free-for-all". Yet what we have now is an Accredited Employer scheme that feels largely just that, dressed up in verbiage around being much tougher. In reality, we see so much go through with far less scrutiny then in the past. The rules in many ways have created the conditions for a worrisome amount of rorting.

On a more positive note, these same rules are probably the first that truly acknowledge the importance of some roles that have been traditionally scorned as "low skilled" - a term I have never liked. Driving a heavy goods vehicle on New Zealand roads, for example - why not provide a pathway to settling? I would personally have preferred to see a quota that targetted the most experienced and a more rational approach to English language requirements as befits the role. Instead, we are now seeing a gold rush approach, with students and people on visitor visas scurrying to get Class 4 driver's licenses because getting a job in their actual field of study means a harder route to residence. They will most likely not last in the role a second longer then they have to. How much that matters to the NZ public is for each to judge. How much of all that we've been told about the need for a grand re-set has been smoke and mirrors is again, for each to ponder.

The last significant piece of the re-set puzzle will be the announcement about the new Skilled Migrant (Proposed 6-Point) Category. That is due in the coming few weeks. I personally hope for a rational approach to trades in high need such as Chefs who have so far been very purposefully left at the bottom of a cliff.

Until then.

Katy Armstrong, LIA 20080-243

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