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Record immigration not a problem: English

NZN 26/02/2017

More Kiwis are coming home and immigrants are flocking to New Zealand because of the strong, confident economy, Prime Minister Bill English says.

The latest statistics show annual net migration rose to 71,305 in the 12 months to January 31, eclipsing the record 70,600 for the same period last year.

Opposition parties are using the figures to attack the government, saying it has no plans to handle the pressure that's being put on health and education services.

Mr English says those are good problems to have.

"This is what it feels like to be in a growing economy, with some confidence and direction," he said at his post-cabinet press conference on Monday.

"We've got a bigger inflow of Kiwis than we've had for 25 years - that's the biggest single driver."

Mr English says skill shortages have to be addressed through immigration and the government is hearing more and more complaints from businesses about the problems they're having recruiting the right people.

"I've had robust complaints from the hospitality industry about their inability to recruit people at the level of bar and cafe managers," he said.

"And in horticulture and agriculture, particularly in the regions, there are concerns they're not going to get the people they need."

NZ First leader Winston Peters says the figures mean about 1370 people are arriving every week, with most of them looking for a job and a house to rent or own.

"The government has made no preparations," he said.

"They'll want a GP and they'll turn up at hospital emergency departments for the free care that the government hasn't prepared for either."

Labour's immigration spokesman, Iain Lees-Galloway, says there's no plan to distribute migrants around the regions and so most of them come to Auckland.

"Migration has been one of the central drivers of rising house prices, which are now continuing throughout New Zealand as the Auckland housing crisis ripples out to the regions."

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