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PAC: New Zealand will not cut immigration, leader says

16 Mar 2009 4:21 PM

WELLINGTON, March 16 DPA/AAP - New Zealand is not likely to follow Australia in cutting its migrant intake to protect local jobs during the current recession, Prime Minister John Key indicated on Monday.

"New Zealand needs skilled migrants to grow," he said under questioning at his weekly news conference.

"We have a skills deficit and while that may abate slightly because of the downturn in the economy and growing unemployment, we still need to make sure we have got enough skills to grow our economy and develop further," Key said.

Australia's immigration minister Chris Evans announced on Monday that Australia will cut its skilled migrant intake by nearly 20,000 to 115,000 this financial year, in response to rising unemployment.

The cuts will be coupled with deletions to the critical skills list, which specifies which jobs are open to migrants.

Evans said the government wanted to ensure migrant workers were not competing with Australians for jobs during the economic downturn.

Key said New Zealand had a target of about 45,000 skilled immigrants a year and "while it's always possible that the minister may recommend some changes, it's not something that's top of mind at the moment."

Key noted that Australia's immigrant intake had increased much more rapidly than New Zealand's.