Tentative welcome for visa changes

Changes to temporary work visas are being cautiously welcomed by industry leaders and employers across the South.

Representatives of the hospitality, tourism, fruit-growing and dairy sectors wanted to see more details about yesterday's government announcement, but were optimistic they were a step in the right direction.

Central Otago district councillor Stephen Jeffery, an orchardist for more than 30 years, said simplifying the visa process and requiring employers to be accredited held promise for the horticulture and viticulture sectors.

Those sectors were experiencing "huge growth" in the region, and employers were struggling to find employees across the pay spectrum.

Mr Jeffery, the council's labour market governance group chairman, said the removal of the labour market test for regional employers wanting to employ higher-paid foreign workers would also help.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said the changes would help the tourism industry find the workers it needed, particularly in places such as Queenstown.

The Government had recognised employment needs in the regions could be very different from those in the main centres, Mr Roberts said.

"They have also recognised that the current system is overly complex, particularly for small businesses."

Pub on Wharf and Muskets and Moonshine director Chris Buckley, of Queenstown, said the announcement was "scant on details", so it was hard to judge the implications for the hospitality industry.

A hospitality sector agreement scheduled for the middle of next year was going to be tight.

"I just don't see how they're going to do this in such a short space of time."

But some of the changes would help the resort's hospitality operators, many of whom were struggling to find experienced employees.

"The visa processing has been an utter disaster for the last 18 months," Mr Buckley said.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said the new policy would help businesses and farms fill skills shortages.

The dairy industry body would work with farmers to ensure they understood what the changes meant for them from 2021, when the policy comes into place.

However, DairyNZ would be asking the Government for clarity about what the changes would mean for farmers in the interim, Dr Mackle said.

The new process for temporary work visas, which will not be fully implemented until 2021, was announced by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway yesterday.

The new process would be "more streamlined and less complex", and help an estimated 25,000-30,000 businesses get the workers they needed to fill skills shortages, he said.

Work visa changes

Six categories replaced with one temporary work visa.

Sector agreements on conditions for foreign worker recruitment.

Lower-paid workers can bring families to NZ.

Replacing skills bands with median wage-aligned pay threshold.

Strengthening labour market test for lower-paid workers.


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