Stephen Howes

Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy Centre and Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University.

Evie Sharman

Evie Sharman is a research officer at the Development Policy Centre, working in the Pacific migration team.


  • Very interesting reflections, Stephen and Evie. Visa-waiver for visitors from the Pacific was an outcome of the 1986 Immigration Policy Review in New Zealand. Provisions were implemented very quickly for citizens of Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu late in 1986 and withdrawn for citizens of the first three countries after the first Fiji military coups in March 1987. Citizens of Kiribati and Tuvalu retained visa-waiver status for visitors until 2003 when they lost this privilege and their existing temporary work schemes (also a product of the 1986 Policy Review) in a trade-off for the introduction of their current small PAC quotas. I’d be surprised if the Coalition Government gave serious consideration to re-introducing visa waiver status for visitors from these countries this year given the range of other challenging issues they have to deal with. But they do have some experience of visa-waiver for citizens of Pacific countries.

    The changes that the National Party indicated they would like to make to the RSE are not part of the Coalition Government’s first 100 day agenda. As Charlotte noted in a blog on this matter late last year, the changes, if pursued, will take time to implement and are likely to involve further consultation with industry, ideally after the 2024 harvest and packing seasons are over around the middle of the year. We are currently seeking further information on this matter.

    • Thank you for your comment Richard, which provides a lot of helpful context on what to expect from New Zealand.

      • Thanks for the reply, Evie. We’ll keep you informed of developments relating to visa-waiver discussions. Our current Minister of Foreign Affairs is an active engager with the region and has recently been in Australia talking about matters of mutual interest.

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