Environment playing the most important role in attracting migrants

Friday 1 October 2010, 11:15AM
By New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development

More migrants to New Zealand are being attracted to the place they are now living by the environment.

A better physical environment and access to nature is attracting 45% of migrants to the place they now live in New Zealand, compared with the country they came from.

The Chief Executive of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, Peter Neilson, revealed new research to the RMLA conference at Christchurch this morning of lawyers specialising in resource management issues.

Mr Neilson says the nationwide ShapeNZ survey of 460 migrants in August-September this year shows proper environmental management is critical to attracting skilled migrants who, in turn, contributed to the country’s economic and social development.

Asked to select any or all of a range of factors, the environment has greatest attraction (45%), followed by a safer society (41%), better weather (36%), better job opportunities (35%), lower crime (32%), better health and education services (30%) and a more cohesive society (19%).

In Auckland, home to the country’s largest migrant population, the attractiveness of the physical environment and access to nature was even higher – at 55%.

Mr Neilson says any perception that migrants might dilute locally born New Zealanders’ desire for economic growth balanced by a need to protect the environment and quality of life is dispelled by the research.

Earlier Business Council surveys have shown that, of all New Zealanders, about 5% each think either the environment or economy is all important, about 20% are struggling to survive and say they have no time to think about issues like this – while 70% want both economic growth and an improved quality of life. This involves growing the economy while preserving the nature and social environments.

By main centre, the environment was the most attractive factor in Wellington City (35%) and Dunedin (56%), and ranked behind better job opportunities in Christchurch scoring 35% ( 37% for better jobs), and Hamilton (52% better jobs, 36% environment). Smaller sampling sizes mean results for centres outside Auckland are indicative only.

Mr Neilson says the research shows the importance of preserving the environment through resource management laws.

Mr Neilson says Labour Department research shows the addition of 437,000 migrants over a 15-year period yields an extra $28 billion in annual gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021. The department estimates the inflow of immigrants at recent historical levels to be worth around $1.9 billion per year to GDP and $1,000 per head of population in 2021.

Attracting skilled migrants, while lifting productivity, also lifted the country’s ability to export.

“Perhaps our message offshore should be ‘life’s a beach in New Zealand’. We need to make sure we maintain and improve the environment. The benefits ripple right through to managing skill shortages, putting up incomes for everyone in New Zealand – and better competing with the world,” Mr Neilson says.