Two weeks ago I enjoyed a memorable meeting with coastal members of the Filipino Community in the Oaonui Hall.
The warm and friendly mood inside was in stark contrast to a wintry blast that ruined the travel plans of New Zealand’s first Filipino MP, National’s Paulo Garcia. Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger and I had been looking forward to greeting Paulo with a hearty Taranaki welcome, but we were delighted to immerse ourselves in some talented cultural entertainment and hospitality. It’s always great to spend time with the different ethnic groups that have chosen to come here, and learn about their experiences and perspectives.
National has traditionally appreciated migrants for the benefits they bring to our economy and our culture.
When I visited Tegel’s Bell Block plant last month, I saw first-hand the value of migrant workers. Parts of the operation are very labour-intensive and although the company employs hundreds of workers from all over Taranaki, they have trouble attracting enough staff for some tasks. It’s a similar story in many aged-care facilities, agriculture and manufacturing industries, even teaching.
If you can’t get the staff it makes sense to look overseas for highly skilled, talented and motivated people to bridge the gap. The last National-led government also prioritised attracting workers for other growing industries like horticulture and viticulture, IT, and construction.
Enquiries about Immigration issues form a large chunk of the workload in my office and I am concerned at the unintended consequences being caused by the current government’s policies of restriction. Because inward migration supports the economy and labour market, because migrant workers fill labour and skill shortages, and because they bring abilities, capital and connections, they make New Zealand an even better place, creating jobs and providing opportunities for everyone.
I hope that we have learned and will continue to appreciate that understanding the values of different cultures and working together helps to build a richer society.