Muldoon chuckling from the pearly gates
During the seventies, then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon made his famous statement that New Zealanders who emigrated to Australia increased the IQ of both countries. It is no joke though that the situation he faced could be repeating itself.
There are well-justified fears that the opening of the borders, scheduled to become complete by July, is going to see a small army of New Zealanders — who are badly needed as the country fights to recover from Covid — move across the Tasman and further afield.
There was another sign of this in the stats released this week that showed New Zealand had just experienced its greatest exodus of migrants in a decade.
The country’s net loss of migrants for the year ending in May, 2022 was 7300 — the highest since the corresponding figure for May, 2012 which saw a net loss of 15,700.
It is a long way from New Zealand’s boom year to March, 2020 when arrivals outnumbered departures by 91,700.
The worry, however, is that the latest figures will be the trickle that turns to a flood just at a time when the country metaphorically needs all hands on deck and all leave cancelled.
ACT party leader David Seymour, who seems hell-bent on trying to recover his previous role as the real leader of the Opposition, has been quick to attack the Government and its policies, saying that Kiwis are “flying the coop”.
Unsurprisingly, he says Government policies have made it difficult to make ends meet here, and people have decided they have a better chance of getting ahead abroad.
Also, unsurprisingly, he was supported by National’s immigration spokeswoman, who said the figures were a vindication of what National had been saying all along.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said that immigration had been restricted because of the closed border, but that had changed.
“We are seeing things free up. People are starting to leave because other borders are opening up as well, which is why it’s a good thing to make sure that we are opening up.”
The Government is obviously hoping that its decision to open the borders earlier than scheduled, coupled with its plan to prioritise residence for skilled and essential migrants, will reverse the situation.
However, somewhere beyond the pearly gates, a once familiar, gravelly voice is chuckling and saying “Rob knows”.