Why are Kiwis so scared of immigrants?Save
By Laura Kneer
I am an immigrant in New Zealand, and on the surface you might not like me. I am taking a New Zealander's job away.
I am not a doctor, not an engineer. I don't work in IT, I'm not a builder. I can't help fill the vacancies employers are so desperate to fill. Instead, I am working in the media industry where jobs are constantly being cut. Every year, hundreds of students graduate from journalism, communications and broadcasting courses, and there's only a tiny amount of jobs for all these people.
I am well aware I have probably denied a Kiwi their dream job.
I was able to become a New Zealand resident because my partner is a Kiwi. If it wasn't for him, I would stand no chance to work in this country temporarily, let alone forever. My job isn't on the skills shortage list, I don't earn the money immigrants will be expected to earn under the government's new rules. To get my visa, I had to go through a long process, it took almost half a year - but ultimately Immigration NZ recognised what they call our "genuine and stable relationship". In short - you can't beat love.
On the surface, you might not like me because I'm baggage. I know this because I read the analysts' opinion pieces, the social media comments, and as a radio producer I have listened to hours of talkback about immigration.
Kiwis only want the immigrants they need - and as an immigrant I have to say that's fair enough. You didn't ask for me to come, so I try to make myself useful. I work hard, I pay my taxes, I am a good resident, I vote, I participate in society.
I can make a Pavlova, I like the All Blacks and I have even tried to understand cricket. What more could you ask for? I feel like a Kiwi, I care for New Zealand like it's my home country. The only thing I will never understand is spaghetti on pizza. Sorry, Bill.
And to be fair, nobody has ever made me feel unwelcome, I have never faced abuse, I have never been looked at weirdly. And I know why that is. I don't look like a foreigner and I don't sound like a foreigner. At work, they lovingly call me the efficient German producer. In the three years I've lived here I have lost my German accent almost entirely. Most people don't click I'm not a Kiwi until I tell them.
Many immigrants here face a different reality - they do get abused, called names, they face racism. As much as New Zealand is a country of immigrants, it's a country with a lot of people who are very scared of more people coming in. I fear that legitimate worries over who buys houses and how expensive they are, and how our infrastructure can handle 70,000-plus new people every year, will one day turn into xenophobia.
I pray that there won't be a Kiwi Donald Trump who will one day feed off these worries.
Let's not let the political rhetoric in election year divide us - we're in this together now.
Immigrants too want to be able to afford their own home. We hate being stuck in traffic, or waiting on hospital lists because budgets haven't appropriately been adjusted to the amount of people they cater for. We are worried about the quality of our water and air as much as you are. So let's convince the politicians that this is the stuff they need to focus their efforts on instead of politicking on immigration numbers for the next five months.
This is a country of immigrants. You may not have asked for all of us, but most of us are here because we love you and your little paradise. We want to help make it even better than it already is - but we only can if you let us.
• Laura Kneer is a producer for the Rachel Smalley Early Edition and Mike Hosking Breakfast shows on Newstalk ZB