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Queenstown remained the second most popular place for foreigners to buy. Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty Images
Laid-off Kiwis have refused seasonal ski jobs because of Covid-19 Income Relief Payments, the manager of Coronet Peak has said.

Nigel Kerr was speaking on the final ski day of the year at the Queenstown mountain and said even if there was enough snow, they could not continue to operate as a large number of staff on working holiday visas had left on Friday.

Overall, the ski manager was positive about the season, with the huge number of New Zealand visitors surprising the company.

"It’s been interesting. To a certain extent the internationals were replaced by domestic skiers. People who would normally holiday offshore chose instead to add a ski holiday into the mix."

He said the mountains had provided "entertainment" at a time when there were not many other options and people had "made full use of the opportunity" the skifields provided.

The situation was certainly boosted by falls of good-quality snow and excellent conditions for snow-making, the manager said.

Staffing, Mr Kerr said, had been challenging, especially once July school holidays kick-started the season, meaning NZSki needed more recruits.

"The Government subsidy for New Zealanders, for 12 weeks, worked against us."

He said the Government Income Relief Payment, offered to those who lost their job between March 1 and October 30, meant Kiwis were "incentivised out of" seasonal jobs.

The payment provided to formerly full-time staff stood at $490 a week, as opposed to the $250 jobseeker benefit.

"If you’re a New Zealander in Queenstown and you think, well, the Government is going to give me $500 a week or I could go work on the mountain, you think ‘Hmm, no, I’m going to go ski’."

With international workers returning home when their visas expired, the company was concerned about finding staff with the right skills and experience for the next season.

"You can’t treat people as warm bodies, they do need to know what they are doing, so staffing will be one of our challenges for next season."

Mr Kerr said NZSki was talking to staff about filling grooming, snow-making and instructing roles now, to ensure there were enough Kiwis trained.

He doubted the Government would make visa exceptions for the ski industry to bring in those overseas workers with the necessary qualifications, but added "it’s a long way to go until next winter".

Coronet Peak closed yesterday with a pond-skimming event for snowboarders and skiers unafraid to get wet.

Mr Kerr said opening in the school holidays was not realistic, with minimal snow at the bottom and the depleted workforce needed to be shifted to The Remarkables.

Treble Cone, in Wanaka, also closed yesterday and was unable to operate on the final day of the season because of 100kmh winds.

The Remarkables Ski Area, which was to open seven days a week for the remainder of the season, was to close on October 13 and Cardrona Alpine Resort was to round off the season on October 18.


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An unreliable, as an when required, weather dependent, covid level dependent, minimum wage job just doesn't give people enough confidence that they will be able to financially survive. If you could go some way to provide some surety of income, regardless of the weather and pay enough for someone to actually live in Queenstown you may get more takers.

Yes Jo.
There seems to be so many of this sort of article. Supposedly people who understand the nuances of product offering, pricing and negotiating, in the context of competitive markets, don't have the creativity to apply their skills to the labour market?
No, i don't believe that at all. Rather, it is about intentionally publicising their lobbying, to garner public support at election time, for keeping labour prices and conditions low.
Well, I'm not buying it at all. He should stop wasting time complaining and get on with attracting workers. He clearly knows how to go about it, his company made quite a profit from their product offering last year and have done for many years prior....

Think my earlier comment wasnt published.

I would suggest that the reason large corporates blame the government for their staffing woes is that they are out of touch with reality.

NZSki has taken advantage of the seasonal influx of young travelers to make profits for many many years, now they try to blame others for their predicament.

After housing some NZSki staff a few years ago when the company reached out to locals to assist with the accommodation crisis I was shocked at the terrible conditions they faced.

casual staff who commit 12 hours per day for the 8 hours of minimum wage they receive, as soon as patronage declines towards the end of the season they are laid off.

What really highlighted the neglect was when one employee won 'employee of the week' and was invited to lunch with the boss, after enjoying that hour she was then docked half an hours pay as their lunch break was only 30 minutes!

Then start offering wage packages that will entice them to work for you , after all when its'hard to get staff wages rise, right? Supply and demand in action is the freemarket way . Or does that only count in the good profit times and for top end wages?

Businesses that can't survive without exploiting backpackers do not deserve to survive.
Do they provide free accomodation? Do they pay travel costs?
All they do is minimize their wage costs so as to increase their profits.
Charge customers more and use that money to pay high enough wages to make it worth someone's while moving there and working. Guaranteed pay from mid-May to the end of September, for example. so that people can see that they can live in Queenstown, work for a set period, and save money.
If people can not see that they can save money they will not go through the pain of moving there and having to put up with the tourist prices and the tourists.

Translated: 'People are fiscally better off on the benefit than working for us, but if we pressure the media and lobby the government then maybe we can go back to running camps where we exploit the youth into working for us for next to nothing'

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