There are three factors affecting population: immigration, natural increase and the departure and return of NZ citizens. Climate First is aiming for a static or steady population with no growth. This derives, as does all our policy, from the RERP (Required Emission Reduction Pathway). Holding the population steady is one of the best ways to stop emissions increase, when you consider that every new person will live our NZ lifestyle and emit double the world average greenhouse gas emissions per person.
There has been much emotional debate around the issue of refugees and immigration, but it is possible to look at it from a whole-world perspective. If world emissions are to reduce to zero, then it is clear that population will have to fall first.
If unrestrained, humans will eventually cover every empty place on the planet, and probably cut down all forests to get farm land to grow food. New Zealand is a relatively empty country and Climate First would like it to stay that way at about 4.6 million.
One problem is that if NZ takes immigrants from overpopulated countries, then these countries’ populations will continue to grow, to replace those that have emigrated. The difficulty is that those countries are not sustainable, being unable to feed and house their people, being prone to drought, flooding, storms and sea-level rise, all due to get worse with climate change. New Zealand, on the other hand, can easily sustain its current population. The question is, how should we share our surplus resources with those under-resourced countries. But in another way New Zealand is not sustainable either, using up more than our fair share of the world’s resources and sinks on a per-person basis.
As well, if New Zealand plants the 1.36 million hectares of trees necessary to adequately increase the forest sink, there will be less room for extra people.
Immigration scams around students in language schools would be more thoroughly investigated.
Population growth will also make it harder to pay for the UCI.
Official refugees make up a very small proportion of our current record population increase. Climate First would increase our refugee quota to a level similar to that of other countries with a similar standard of living to us. A figure between Labour’s 1,500 per year and Greens’ 5,000, but definitely more than National’s 1,000 sounds reasonable. Based on an average of Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland and Croatia for example, that would give 2,000 refugees per year.
Climate First would encourage parents to have only one or two children, by initiating an unthreatening and non-coercive promotion programme. Posters showing one or two child families could be placed in schools and doctors waiting room etc. The message would be that small families are better for the planet. A strong contraceptive and sexuality education programme in schools would also be a priority, with the aim of reducing the number of people under 20 having children.
Myths around immigration
Immigrants work harder than new Zealanders and we need them to do the jobs New Zealanders won’t do. Immigrants are prepared to work harder and for lower pay because even poor conditions here are better than the working conditions in the countries they have left. Immigrants are also exploited, often by employers of their own nationality, in return for promises of a pathway to citizenship, or under threat of being sent back to their country of origin. It is closer to the truth to say that New Zealanders will rightly not work for unreasonably low pay and in substandard work conditions, especially below the minimum wage. Some industries who employ migrant labour such as kiwifruit and dairying, suffer from having very high expenses in other areas, such as land prices, and thus have to make cost savings on labour. Climate First addresses the too-high price of land in its UCI policy.
New Zealand’s population is getting older and we need young immigrants to care for the elderly and pay taxes, so government can operate. National Superannuation is often pointed to as a growing expense that we cannot sustain without young people working. Climate First would say that there are many old people who can still work and would benefit mentally from work, if it was more rewarding and flexible. Also, the current Government can be blamed for this situation for stopping payments into the NZ Super Fund for several years.
There are skill shortages in some areas which need to be filled by immigrants. Rebuilding Christchurch and Kaikoura spring to mind. Climate First would counter that the apprenticeship system in New Zealand has been neglected for many years. Leaving it up to the free market has meant that employers have not wanted to take on apprentices because their competitors don’t. It is also selfish of New Zealand that we take so many highly-trained workers from poorer countries after those countries have spent precious money training them.
Immigration keeps our economy growing. Of course it does, if measured using GDP. However, GDP per person has not grown. This National government has used huge immigration as a way of making it appear as if the economy was healthy. The downside of this is that the infrastructure needed to support the large population growth is missing, therefore, in fact reducing our standard of living.
Climate First would:
Reduce immigration to a level that, in combination with a refugee quota of 2,000 and net increase from births and deaths, keep NZ’s population at around 4.6 million.
Encourage parents to have small families
Invest in better training for New Zealanders
Reduce the price of land, using a property tax, so that employers could pay higher wages and still be internationally competitive.
Measure economic and social health of NZ using a Genuine Progress Indicator, instead of only GDP