New Zealand Labour leader criticizes National Party’s international education plan

Calling certain initiatives a ‘nothing policy,’ Hipkins pointed out how New Zealand already has an efficient visa process and limited barriers to international student admissions.

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New Zealand’s Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins has criticized the National Party’s recent announcement on international education, describing it as a “nothing policy,” after National leader Christopher Luxon outlined his party’s commitment to expanding work rights for international students and increasing student recruitment from diverse countries.

On a visit to Invercargill, Luxon laid out initiatives in a bid to make New Zealand more attractive to international students. 

Hipkins, however, pointed out that New Zealand already maintains a relatively open border for international students, with no caps on admissions. He also noted that the average processing time for international student visas is 19 days, well below the 30-day target. The National Party’s announcement does not introduce any new initiatives to the current state of international education in New Zealand, he added.

Recovery of New Zealand’s international education sector

Hipkins also said New Zealand’s international education sector is already in the process of rebounding following the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, international education contributed $3.7 billion to New Zealand’s economy. While the sector has not fully recovered, the National Party aims to expedite the visa process by setting a 14-day processing time for applicants who pay a fee. National also proposes increasing the allowable work hours of international students from 20 hours to 25 hours a week.

Questions about implementation

However, questions have arisen regarding how these policies would be implemented. Luxon has indicated that fees, set by Immigration NZ, will be used to meet the 14-day processing target and should be priced 10 percent cheaper than Australian applications. Critics, however, are raising concerns about how Immigration NZ will manage the increased workload, particularly when the National Party advocates for public service cuts.

Despite these concerns, Luxon remains resolute in focusing on outcomes. “We want every resource focused on delivering outcomes. I don’t want distractions or bureaucracy,” he said.

Transparency and controversies

Amid policy debates, Hipkins questioned National’s transparency on other matters, including revenue numbers related to their tax package. Hipkins accused Luxon of treating New Zealanders with contempt by not disclosing specific financial calculations.

While the National Party is leading in the polls with less than a month to go before the elections, controversies surrounding their education and tax policies are raising doubts about the feasibility and transparency of their initiatives. 

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