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A Queenstown Chamber of Commerce survey revealed more than 70% of the 60-odd members who responded were recruiting for staff, and 55% of those could not find the staff required.
New Zealand applicants for vacant positions were, anecdotally, a rarity.
Hilton Queenstown general manager Chris Ehmann said two months ago he advertised two night manager positions, and while 70 applications were received, none came from New Zealanders.
Compounding his concerns was that about half of his 117 staff were presently on work visas — and most of those were due to expire early next year.
Millbrook Resort operations director Brian Howie said it had struggled to recruit staff across all areas of the resort, including greenkeepers.
Many of its applicants needed some form of visa sponsorship "and at the moment we’re just not entirely sure how that will play out with Immigration New Zealand".
Asked if Millbrook had received many applications for vacant positions from New Zealanders, Mr Howie said "not really, no".
Hoteliers were so concerned about the impending labour shortage, a group of about 20 hotel general managers from Queenstown and Wanaka met last week to discuss the issue having plans to lobby the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
"We’ve all got concerns that we’re potentially going to be struggling for staff when things begin to pick up and that will have a potential to put the handbrake on any economic recovery," Mr Howie said.
"If we can’t get people cleaning rooms or washing dishes then, obviously, we can’t open hotel rooms."
Queenstown Chamber of Commerce interim general manager Craig Douglas said in part the issue related to too few working holiday visa-holders in the country, about 20,000.
Immigration New Zealand data showed normally at this time of year there were about 40,000.
Mr Douglas estimated of the 8000 visa holders in Queenstown in March, about 4000 held working holiday visas.
They were usually employed in "frontline hospitality".
The chamber was preparing to lobby for restrictions to be relaxed for all visas, as had been done for those wanting employment in the horticulture and viticulture industries.
That, he said, was "robbing Peter to pay Paul".
"All that does is it means people here on working holiday visas will go out of the cafes and bars and go fruit-picking, and we’ve got no staff.
"Really, they should just extend [all] those visas.
"They’re here and we need them — that’s been put to [the Government] often.
"The answer we consistently get from [Finance Minister] Grant Robertson, in particular ... is that we’ve got a lot of Kiwis out of work, they need the jobs first.
"But the problem is, they’re not here."
Mr Howie said the reliance on migrant workers in Queenstown had not disappeared "just because we’ve had lockdowns".
Both he and Mr Ehmann did not believe remuneration was the issue in attracting New Zealand employees — Millbrook, for example, paid above the minimum wage — "but it certainly doesn’t seem to attract Kiwis into some of those key frontline positions that we need to recruit for".
Mr Ehmann said it was "very much a Queenstown-centric problem" and while Hilton was talking about the issues now, "the real terror will hit early next year".