NZ may allow temporary visas for unskilled island workers

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The New Zealand government is considering a plan to open New Zealand temporarily to unskilled migrants for islanders so to protect the neighbouring Pacific Islands from economic ruin.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters told the leaders of the Pacific Forum, Australia was not keen on the idea of having unskilled labour immigration. New Zealand is cautious about the question of labour mobility, but willing to look at it, he said.

There is potential to help both ourselves and depopulated Pacific Islands, in some cases, overpopulated parts of our near neighbourhood, Peters told other leaders at the meeting.

Peters has been labelled "anti-immigration" in his own country, and although he was a controversial pick to head New Zealand's Foreign Ministry,

the minister has stated he will make the Pacific a major focus of his stay in office.

Islands such as Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga want a scheme in place where island labourers could work in Australia and New Zealand temporarily, so to enable them to send money back home and boost local economies.

Peters said small Pacific island states look to us for help and regard us as more focused on the Pacific than Australia.

I believe that in tandem with sovereign governments in an agreed approach on the question of mobility and return after a time in New Zealand so others can come, organised from the local village level, is a policy that could work, he said.