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Queenstown businesses have been warned the days of cheap foreign labour have gone but told the Government would look at some of their immigration gripes.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash told the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce on Friday he wanted to see an aspirational career path for New Zealanders in tourism and hospitality, which made use of the resort’s college.
He ruled out bringing new, low-skilled workers into the country, saying the Government would not subsidise people to live in hostels or prioritise them over returning New Zealanders at MIQ.
Millbrook Resort hotel manager Ross McLean said without changes to existing visas or incoming workers from Australia, Queenstown ran the risk of delivering a poor experience for visitors.
Mr Nash promised to raise the issue with Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi and said visas had been extended before.
"It would be madness for people who are here to say, ‘no your visa has expired you’ve got to go home’."
NZSki manager Paul Anderson asked the minister to also emphasise the wider benefits brought about by skilled worker exemptions to the border closure and simplify the process.
"We are employing somewhere around 1000 staff this year and we need 15 critical worker exemptions. We have got 10, but it’s like pulling teeth to get the last five."
In an hour-long speech, Mr Nash told how he had encouraged Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult to refer housing developments to the fast-track RMA procedure to ensure there were enough homes for incoming workers.
The minister also floated the idea of the Government taking equity in firms to which it offered financial support.
On the $20million for Queenstown and $15million for Milford Sound announced on Thursday for economic diversification, Mr Nash said the money would be spent on doing things local people wanted, not on reports and feasibility studies.