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Covid-19 gives New Zealand opportunity to consider 'ideal population' - immigration consultant

The freezing of migration because of Covid-19 gives New Zealand the opportunity to consider what population the nation wants and how it treats its migrants, an immigration consultant says. 

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With our borders closed for now, is it time to think about what immigration will look like in the future? Source: Q+A

With New Zealand's borders closed, except for a trickle of returning New Zealand citizens, we have a frozen snapshot of our population.

In a normal April and May, around 40,000 people cross the border in or out, but this year it's down to a few hundred a day.

June Ranson, who has run an immigration consultancy for 30 years and heads the national association, says tens of thousands of migrants face uncertainty.

“I think Immigration New Zealand is in a dreadful situation because they're caught in the middle of this because they're waiting for answers to come out of Government,” she said.

Airport arrival (file picture). Source: istock.com

“I think we need to think, what is the ideal population of New Zealand, that's never been determined and I think that should be.”

"New Zealand citizens first, it goes without saying but we have to look at the skills these people are bringing."

The border closure, our flow of people frozen in time, is being studied by demographers like Professor Francis Collins.

“It's a little unpredictable about what might happen but there's certain to be significant changes around migration related to Covid,” he said.

“I think the interesting question with Covid and what comes next is what happens when we relax our border controls, will we see our very large population of New Zealanders living overseas come home,” Professor Collins said.

“There's a large number of New Zealanders in Australia and when we have an economic downturn in Australia, we have a lot of New Zealanders coming home and fewer leaving to go to Australia.”

Many New Zealanders returned home from Australia in 2012 and 2013 during the Australian mining collapse.

“This is the first time ever there have been more New Zealanders coming in than going out,” Statistics New Zealand demographer Kim Dunstan said.

Frenchman Pierre Serindas, who works as a project engineer in Auckland, is one of nearly 300,000 migrants living in New Zealand on a temporary visa that expires in four months.

Although he's applied for residence, he fears the pandemic may have changed everything.

“I don't know what I should do, if I should wait or the Government just cancel all the current applications. We don't know,” he told TVNZ 1's Q+A.

With all its offices closed, Immigration New Zealand has limited capacity, suspending processing of residence applications for now and focusing mainly on urgent Covid-19 related applications. 

With many more New Zealanders on the lookout for jobs in an economic downturn, migrants like Mr Serindas don't like their chances.

“They may prefer New Zealanders but I am already here and working,” he said.