Auckland Chamber of Commerce BreakfastImmigration
Realising the Potential of our New Kiwis
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you. I have entitled my contribution to this discussion: Realising the Potential of our New Kiwis.
Can I begin by acknowledging the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, and in particular Michael Barnett, who has evidenced a professional and a personal commitment to our New Kiwis. It is extremely important to build connections and networks between migrant communities and our own communities, in order to enhance settlement and also to ensure that the benefits of immigration are shared by all – that is new migrants and the communities within which they settle. Michael has gone beyond the professional interest to the personal, and I want to acknowledge what I believe will be an enormously positive contribution to successful settlement for many New Kiwis.
One of the early actions of this government was to identify the need to refocus immigration away from an unhealthy fixation on the numbers entering the country, to a broader consideration of settlement outcomes. It is not good enough to have no interest in what happens to migrants after they have arrived. This lead us to develop an understanding of the settlement process, as it is represented by a continuum – as opposed to a discrete event.
Settlement begins before the decision is made to move to New Zealand. This will usually be one of the most far-reaching decisions a person or family could ever make – it will often involve breaking familial ties and travelling great distances. Such a decision is not easily reversed.
If expectations exceed reality, then the quality of the settlement will be the poorer.
A failure to find work commensurate with qualifications may not only cause a reduced standard of living, it may also cause a level of humiliation which is cultural in nature. Insufficient English skills may also make life pretty unbearable.
It seems to me that this is in fact one of the most important elements of the settlement experience – realistic expectations that are matched or exceeded.
The New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) has as its catch-phrase – “New Zealand – The Right Choice”. We are putting together some material around the theme “New Zealand – Making sure it’s the Right Choice for You”. The idea is to present people with a realistic assessment of what New Zealand is like, and advise them on reputable sources of information.
The next phase in the settlement continuum is the arrival and the initial settlement experience.
This is where connections into the labour market and the community networks need to be made. Far too much has been left to chance. For example, real estate agents recommending schools.
This is why I have put some resources into the migrant settlement pilot projects, of which the Auckland Chamber of Commerce’s ‘New Kiwis’ website is just one, to assist with that orientation – both at the labour market and the community level.
Beyond the initial settlement experience is the development of ethnic communities adding diversity and increased international awareness to all communities – we become outward-looking, and that is good.
Strengthening ethnic communities although part of the settlement continuum is not restricted to migrants. So we have divided up the lead agency role in developing the settlement policy, so that NZIS leads the work on pre-arrival and initial settlement and the Office of Ethnic Affairs takes up the lead role on the longer-term settlement end of the spectrum.
I believe this focus on settlement will pay dividends in the long-term, because it will increase the likelihood of positive settlement outcomes which will be good internally, in terms of our community relations, and internationally, in terms of our reputation, which was bruised by the tap on/tap off approach of the past.
To support this focus on settlement, we are undertaking research in the form of a Longitudinal Study, which should give us something more robust than the anecdotal stuff we have had to rely on in the past.
However, all the international and local research I've looked at point to two indicators of successful settlement: employment and family settlement.
You will probably not be surprised to know that one of my Ministerial Advisory Group members is the CEO of the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust. They have done considerable work on the employment of overseas-trained professionals and I'm afraid New Zealand employers don't come out smelling of roses.
There are significant "excuses" around the non-employment of overseas-trained professionals, but in reality they are often artificially constructed barriers that lead to lost opportunities for migrants and employers alike.
Overseas-trained professionals didn't gain their qualifications in a vacuum. They studied with others who either stayed in their country or moved to others as well.
Any employer with an interest in research or export markets must see that employing professional migrants brings ready-made international contacts that could take years to cultivate otherwise.
International people-to-people contacts are an enormous advantage and their importance cannot be overstated. Immigration policy is very important to New Zealand – the policy we took to the electorate was – "Immigration reflecting our history; shaping our future".
Ok, that's a blatant act of plagiarism because it's the name of Canada's Immigration Policy. But it touched me. Because it is true we all have migrants in our history and our future will be based on migrants too.
Finally, I want to return to what I was saying at the outset about the Auckland Chamber of Commerce. The kind of opportunity for networking and building relationships between migrants and the networks we take for granted is exactly the approach that is needed to ensure that migrants feel welcome and a part of New Zealand life.
That is exactly what the pilots are all about, and I am confident that New Kiwis will become synonymous with successful skill matches between our new Kiwis and New Zealand employers, and that is how we will realise the full potential that they bring to our businesses and to our communities and to New Zealand as a whole.