Winston Peters says New Zealand needs to get "the right people" as Census data reveals the fastest population growth in 50 years.
Mr Peters was asked by a reporter if net migration is too high as he spoke as Acting Prime Minister at today's post-Cabinet meeting press conference.
"The reality is that it's not whether it's too high, it is whether you are getting the right people, that is whether you're advancing the technical and skill-base of your economy in a world where that is critical.
"Or are you just taking the kind of person who would not subscribe or benefit the economy that other smart economies have focussed on.
"In short, they organise immigration to suit the economy, not the converse," he said.
The comments come after the population has officially grown to 4,699,755, according to the latest figures from the 2018 Census, released today by Statistics New Zealand.
The growth is up nearly half a million (457,707) on the previous Census five years ago. It's the biggest ever population growth by number and the fastest rate since the 1961 Census.
Since 2013, the number of people living in New Zealand has increased at 2.1 per cent a year – much higher than the previous Census period of 0.7 per cent annual growth.
The growth reflects relatively high net migration and Statistics New Zealand says it suggests the population is expected to reach five million next year.
Today's data is the first tranche of information released from the botched 2018 Census which was mired in delays, a low response rate and problems with IT.
One in six New Zealanders failed to respond to the 2018 Census, which Statistic New Zealand has called unacceptably low. The Government statistician Liz MacPherson announced her resignation over the debacle last month.