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Morning Briefing May 18: Govt proposes 'once-in-a-generation' immigration reset

The Government reveals it's determined to tighten the tap on migration, the Chief Ombudsman puts Corrections under the microscope, and new data shows first home buyer 'fatigue'.

A work visa application form - stock image. Source: istock.com

The Government has outlined its plans for what it calls a “once-in-a-generation reset” of the immigration system, saying it’s determined to keep the tap tight on migration even once borders reopen.

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash delivered the proposal in a speech last night, saying the Government wants to move New Zealand away from relying on low-skilled workers to attracting those with higher skills.

The skilled migrant category will be reviewed, while employer requirements and labour market tests will be strengthened so temporary workers are only recruited for genuine job shortages.

The changes won’t impact current arrangements with Pacific Island nations in the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. 

BusinessNZ says it’s disappointed by the move, saying the country will still need lower skilled migrant workers. The New Zealand Aged Care Association shared that sentiment, saying more than 50 per cent of nurses in the rest home sector are on a visa.

Some economists and the other political parties last night criticised the plans as both “confusing” and “worrying”

Nash says infrastructure pressure, including housing, is part of the reason for the immigration reset, with New Zealand experiencing one of the highest population growths in the OECD.

Stuff political editor Luke Malpass writes that the underlying language of the announcement suggests it is population growth itself that needs to be limited – and says that conversation will become much tougher once borders reopen.

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Prisons go under microscope

The Chief Ombudsman has launched an investigation into the Department of Corrections after repeated calls to improve conditions for prisoners.

Peter Boshier says he “simply wants to know why” improvements haven’t been made.

His investigation follows revelations of mistreatment within New Zealand’s prisons, including pregnant women being handcuffed while giving birth, and riots at Waikeria Prison in January.

The independent investigation should be complete by the end of next year. 

Meanwhile, Amnesty International is calling for “immediate and urgent reform” after releasing a report this morning showing 86 asylum seekers were arrested and detained in New Zealand prisons solely on immigration grounds.

The organisation says the country’s policies from 2015-2020 “have put refugees and asylum seekers at risk, and in some cases constitute human rights violations".

Govt clamps down on MIQ fees

Returnees who haven't paid for their managed isolation are being referred to debt collectors for the first time. It comes as figures obtained by 1 NEWS show nearly $7 million is now owed in overdue fees.

Currently, returnees are given 90 days before their invoice becomes overdue, however Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says this is being reduced to 30 days.

But while debt collectors will be called in for non-payment, Hipkins says the Government won’t be stopping people at the border if they haven’t paid their MIQ fees.

National’s Chris Bishop says the Government should be chasing people who owe money much harder. 

First home buyers 'fatigued'

Christchurch is the place to be for Kiwis looking to buy their first home according to new research.

CoreLogic data shows first home buyers pay less for houses in Christchurch than in many provincial areas, however first home buyers’ share of the market overall has fallen to its lowest level in three years.

CoreLogic says this data hints at “fatigue” but suggests recent moves to cool the housing market should lift first home buyers. 

Meanwhile, new Infometrics data has also been released today, revealing which regions fared best through summer.

Their report shows the main centres continue to feel the economic pinch of many people still working from home.

Bay of Plenty was the top-performing regional economy for the March quarter, with a growth rate of 3 per cent per annum. 

PM checks up on military tech

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she’s been assured military equipment recently sent from New Zealand to Israel isn’t being used against Palestinians.

It comes as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms it recently gave export approval for a sample of firearms suppressors to be sent to an Israeli company for “evaluation purposes”. 

Earlier yesterday, Ardern joined calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

She says the New Zealand Government condemns “both the indiscriminate rocket fire we have seen from Hamas and what looks to be a response that has gone well beyond self-defence on both sides”.

The increasing international calls to end the conflict came as Israel launched dozens of new airstrikes on Gaza overnight. 

Meanwhile, the Wellington Phoenix say they have spoken to Israeli striker Tomer Hemed about his controversial goal celebrations at the weekend, saying the club needs to be "sensitive" to both sides of the Gaza conflict.

Price glitch hits supermarkets

Supermarket operator Foodstuffs has apologised after a glitch meant shoppers at nearly 70 North Island stores were overcharged for their groceries.

Around a quarter of this week's specials failed to register at checkouts, but prices have now been corrected.

Customers who think they may have been affected are encouraged to check their receipts and contact their local store. 

Other news of note this morning:

- Holidaymakers will be among those on the first quarantine-free flight to the Cook Islands this morning.

- Fiame Naomi Mata'afa is set to become Samoa's first female Prime Minister after the country’s Supreme Court threw out a controversial attempt to solve an election deadlock. She will be speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast at 7.20am today.  

- Boris Johnson has called for a “heavy dose of caution” as people across the UK enjoy greater freedoms post-lockdown. 

- One of the largest class action trials in New Zealand history is underway with homeowners seeking $220 million from building giant James Hardie.

- There are calls to review wastewater testing and its effectiveness in picking up Covid-19 outbreaks.

- An Auckland man is facing a $315,000 bill after his house was built in the wrong place.

- Seven Sharp has looked at the surprising rules over how many pets you can keep in your backyard

- And Fair Go investigates a peculiar chain of events that’s seen one personalised plate shared by two motorists at the same time.

And finally...

Otis Frizzell, Jeremy Wells and Hilary Barry Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp presenters Hilary Barry and Jeremy Wells broke out the paintbrushes last night as they did their bit for an immersive art trail experience hitting Auckland next year.

It’s hoped the painting of 100 whale tails will help raise awareness for the threatened Bryde’s whale, so Hilary and Jeremy joined artist Otis Frizzell to create a tail of their own.

And between Jeremy’s attempts at whale songs and Hilary’s split overalls, they certainly had a whale of a time...