Mr. Galloway an Immigration Minister Iain Lees- says he is trying a way out to encourage more skilled immigrants to become residents, after a drop of several thousand in one year.

In the last financial year, overall new resident numbers fell from 47,684 to 37,948. Almost three-quarters of the change was declined in skilled immigrants.

June Ranson (association for Migration and Investment chair) said the government had been trying to make it harder to get residence visas. “They have made it tougher on people trying to get residence but I think in some respects this is going to backfire,” she said. “Employers need these people and while people may be happy to come in on work visas there’s an expectation that they can, in fact, progress to the residence.”

Temporary work visas were on the rise up 4000 to more than 230,000, while resident numbers fell greatly.

Michael Woodhouse (National Party immigration spokesperson) said this was almost the opposite of what the government said it would do.

“So we have this almost perverse trend at the moment where we’re getting very high numbers and increasing number of lower-skilled workers coming in on temporary visas but lower numbers of higher skilled workers gaining residence,” he further added.

“That’s a significant drop at a time when our economy most needs skilled migrants.

“I have no doubt that the dark hand of New Zealand First in the background is influencing that trend.”

Mr. Woodhouse said New Zealand First was concerned about the number of new residents and the rules were being enforced more stringently as a result.

“While the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) says there is no government directive in respect of this, that is a dramatic drop that can’t be explained only on the current visa settings,” he said.

“One of the anecdotes that we’ve heard both from employers looking for essential skills visas applications and those applying for residency is that very spurious grounds for declining or for deferring applications are being used by Immigration New Zealand.

“The process is slowing down, the quality of the decisions is poorer by MBIE’s own measures of their performance and that speaks I think to an attitude towards granting visas generally but residence in particular under this government.”

Arunima Dhingra (Immigration adviser )said fairness was a question that was springing up more and more.

she said rapid and frequent changes in policy, wait times for visas, and a hard line in decision making were all taking their toll on New Zealand’s attractiveness to skilled workers.

“We used to have a lot of credibilities and I hope it comes back but with the changes that have happened and I think especially with the way they have been announced we are at risk of losing our credibility,” she said.

“We are so far away from the rest of the world, our brand is really important to how we sell the country and how people come in.”

Immigration New Zealand said the fall in skilled immigrants was certain. The introduction of remuneration criteria and raising the threshold to qualify for the residence was down to the policy changes made in 2016 and 2017

It ensures that only highly-skilled and highly-paid immigrants were eligible for residence as per the changes made.