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New Zealand PM John Key defends immigrant intake by saying local fail drug tests

New Zealand needed to allow immigrants in to do even low-skilled jobs because some unemployed locals were drug-taking layabouts, according to Prime Minister John Key.

Questioned on Radio NZ on Monday about the country's high immigration rate, at a time when many New Zealanders were without jobs, Key acknowledged that immigration was straining New Zealand's infrastructure.

A record 69,000 migrants arrived in the year to July, Radio NZ reported, while according to Trading Economics, the country had a 5.1 percent unemployment rate in the second quarter, equivalent to 131,000 jobless people.

But the Prime Minister argued that immigration was necessary because in many cases the newcomers filled jobs that New Zealanders would not or could not do.

He referred specifically to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which brought in migrant workers from Pacific islands including Samoa, Tonga and Fiji to do agricultural work.

"We bring in people to pick fruit under the RSE scheme, and they come from the islands, and they do a fabulous job. And the government has been saying 'Well, OK, there are some unemployed people who live in the Hawke's Bay, and so why can't we get them to pick fruit?', and we have been trialing a domestic RSE scheme," Key told Radio NZ.

"But go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won't pass a drug test, some of these people won't turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on."

To read the full Radio NZ report, click here.

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