Insufficient NZ workers for all jobs

Photo: Getty Images
Businesses in Queenstown (pictured), Wanaka and Central Otago have all experienced problems with recruitment since the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images
An immigration shake-up has prompted fears Queenstown businesses may not be able to find New Zealanders willing to take up seasonal work previously done by foreigners.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash MP outlined plans on Monday to reduce New Zealand’s reliance on temporary visa holders and to stymie the population growth that came with it.

Businesses in Queenstown, Wanaka and Central Otago have all experienced problems with recruitment in the tourism, accommodation, hospitality, horticulture and viticulture sectors since the pandemic.

Millbrook Resort director of operations Brian Howie said most employers recognised the need to do more to attract New Zealanders into their industry, but said it was a balancing act.

"The reality is that in Queenstown there are around 2000 ... [fewer] workers now than there were before Covid and we are seeing significant demand for the coming ski season."

He spoke to the Otago Daily Times from Melbourne yesterday, where he was part of a contingent of Queenstown-based tourism operators promoting the resort to the Australian market.

"If we are unable to recruit sufficient staff, whether Kiwis or visa holders, then it will limit our ability to service this demand and put a handbrake on the recovery."

Twelve days ago, his colleague, hotel manager Ross McLean, challenged Mr Nash on this point and stressed the importance of retaining migrant workers.

In response, the minister told those at a Queenstown Chamber of Commerce meeting he saw no reason why visas for those already in the country could not be extended, but ruled out a return to cheap foreign labour once borders reopened.

New Zealand Backpacker Youth and Adventure Tourism Association chairman Brett Duncan said he felt Monday’s speech referred to future immigration aspirations and did not roll back on the minister’s recognition of the problem faced by Queenstown businesses.

He was further reassured when Mr Nash said there were no plans "at this stage" to alter working holiday schemes.

"But we would be cautious about being too fast to limit the low-skilled visas because there are regions like Queenstown where work is seasonal, where we do require people to take on these roles."

Mr Duncan said it could be difficult to encourage New Zealanders to move for seasonal work so low-skilled, temporary visas were useful.

matthew.mckew@odt.co.nz

Comments

Free market supply and demand . You know, the quote we are given to justify upper management wages and prices for goods made here but cheaper overseas. Funny how that ideology doesn't seem to apply to wages at the bottom end .
If the demand for the staff you need outweighs supply then offer an employment package that attracts them .

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter