A reflection on NZ immigration history and long-term investment
Dr Rajen Prasad, one of the rare ethnic Members of Parliament, delivered his valedictory speech in the Debating
Chamber on July 24, 2014.
His speech was very powerful and of a kind that the walls of Parliament would not have heard before.
He took us through his journey of 49 years, which started as an international student and ended as a departing MP. He was not immune to problems related to immigration. He was assisted by a Kiwi schoolteacher (now 90 years old), who was present at the event.
This got me thinking, as my first days in New Zealand was also as an international student. The same was true of many friends around me.
When we got our Permanent Residence, we needed to show that we had been in New Zealand for a certain length of time to be eligible for this category. There was no need for a job offer, no assessment of qualifications or relationship with someone living here. It was very easy.
To those of us that qualified, it was ‘manna’ from heaven. Many of my fellow students that took up this offer and converted to Residence in New Zealand.
Some chose otherwise, but when they went back to their home countries, they became New Zealand’s best advocates. They got jobs in Government or in private enterprises with good prospects.
Many of them have reached high offices, such as Chairman, Chief Executive, Director, or even as Prime Minister. They strengthened their links with New Zealand and would seldom fail to give credit to New Zealand as the country that helped them to undertake leadership roles.
Such people became our best allies in foreign trade negotiations, exercising their influence in the decision-making process. Many of them also engage with New Zealand, promoting it as a destination for business, their children’s education, and tourism.
Dr Prasad shared his memories of beautiful New Zealand and its friendly people in his valedictory address. It was clear that those were days that allowed true merit to flourish, and were free of greed. Migrants were respected for the wealth of knowledge and skills that they possessed and not the size of their bank balance.
There was an inexplicable innocence, yet wisdom existed. It was a society that tolerated and understood human investment and the long-term gain from it.
Students who remained in New Zealand have come a long way. From modest beginnings to true partners, they contribute to progress and prosperity. Among them are ministers, lawmakers, corporate leaders, community leaders, and prominent professionals.
They carry with them gratitude and appreciation. They work hard to make our communities grow. They are always keen to give back to the country that shaped their future. Most important of all, they are great citizens.
With this background, when I look at our current framework, I despair.
The assumptions and predictions of the policy framework are flawed because they ignore the intangible benefits of migration and the power of time. The framework is couched in the language of entitlement and privilege.
This is our future!
This will be the New Zealand our children will know, not the New Zealand that I have learnt and experienced, that Dr Rajen Prasad spoke about in Parliament.
What stories will the victims tell their children, I dread to think!