There has been quite a bit of talk about immigration in the last couple of days. Much of it descends pretty quickly into a very bad place. Russell Brown did a very good job of managing to talk about these issues respectfully and responsibly – which you can read here. Migration is going to be a hot issue in Christchurch this election. There is no doubt that we need skilled people for the rebuild, and that many of them will have to come from overseas. Tom Hooper, from the Canterbury Development Corporation, was quoted speaking about this in the Press:

There had been a drop in Christchurch’s growth or GDP from about 9 per cent at a peak at the end of 2012-early 2013 to under 7 per cent now, Hooper said. Part of this was because of labour constraints, particularly in the skilled sectors, he said. This would need to be answered by migration, he said … “So we actually have to have increased levels of migration to increase the size of the work force,” he said. “In an ideal world, that will be in two areas. It will be to help with the rebuild and make sure the rebuild is not a constraint, and it will be to help with our key underlying sectors and growing those sectors that have demand for workers as well.”

The problem is similar to that with National’s “beneficiaries to Christchurch” policy: where are these people going to be housed? Increasing skilled migration to fix a labour shortage will be key to ensuring that the recovery finally starts to ramp up, however we can’t forget the need to house the people who are already here, and have been doing it hard for the last 3 and a half years. Adding a large number of skilled migrants to the mix is going to place additional stress on a property market that isn’t coping with the existing demand.

So while there is a clear need to attract skilled people, we still have a responsibility as a society to make sure that we are looking after those people who are still here and have been through so much already. We also have a responsibility to house the migrants who have already come to work in the city – and that doesn’t mean putting them in a Portacom, a caravan or a shed. Labour’s response won’t leave people to the whims of the market; our most vulnerable people need a helping hand, not the invisible hand.