In New Zealand and elsewhere, immigration and ethnic diversity continues to be a highly contentious issue. Immigrants, refugees and ethnic minorities have often been portrayed in the media in negative ways, yet neoliberal agendas have also actively promoted capturing diversity dividends and the benefits of immigration. In this paper, we examine the discursive representations of immigration and ethnic diversity in a prominent national newspaper, the New Zealand Herald. We found media reporting tended to focus on three themes: economic benefits, pressure on infrastructure, and criminality. Our critical, contextualised analysis of media coverage revealed problematic latent constructions of immigrants underlying these explicit discourses. Immigrants as a group are denied their humanity and constructed as merely economic objects, while ethnic minority immigrants, in particular, are cast as morally inferior. We argue that these subtle dehumanising representations are underpinned by liberal expectations of an economic ‘diversity dividend’ that stresses ‘quality migrants’ and reinforces xenophobia and long-standing public and political anxieties in New Zealand about immigration and ethnic diversity.