Report says NZ should use immigration to treble population by 2060

23 November 2012

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has issued a report which states that New Zealand should attempt to grow its population to reach 15m by 2060. The current population is about 4.5m. To reach the NZIER target, the population would have to grow at an annual rate of 2.5%. The backers of the report have called for a national debate on immigration.

The NZIER report was commissioned by industry pressure group ExportNZ. ExportNZ commissioned NZIER to provide an independent view on options for New Zealand firms, business organisations and government to boost export growth. The report identifies various problems for New Zealand firms. One is that New Zealand is a small and isolated market which finds it hard to grow big firms that can compete on the global stage.

The report says 'If New Zealand's biggest impediment to better economic performance is an absence of scale, there is only one way to overcome this over the long term and that is to grow the population through more migrants'.

The report says that growing the population to 15m by 2060 is 'feasible' and says 'this would bring the size and density of the population to levels closer to more prosperous European countries. Fifteen million – two and a half times current projections – is a good target'

This level of population would then provide New Zealand with 'several large cities, fostering competition within New Zealand'. It would also, the report says, enable New Zealand companies to become big enough and rich enough by catering for domestic markets to be able to fund the substantial investment required for international expansion.

Catherine Beard, executive director of ExportNZ said 'We need a national debate on population policy and how big we should be by 2060. We need to grow the population by immigration and build companies of scale. Once grown, the challenge is keeping these companies in New Zealand so the country benefits. The alternative is selling out to other countries and losing talent overseas for better jobs and better pay'.

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