Mayor warns of ‘crisis’ for migrant workers

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult. Photo: ODT files
Jim Boult.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council plans to approach the Government to help with a ‘‘looming welfare crisis’’ in the area.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said there were thousands of migrant workers across the district who had lost, and would lose, their jobs and may not be eligible for the Government’s bailout package.

He was aware of at least two employers who were collectively ‘‘letting go’’ 300 migrant workers over the past week alone.

That number would increase in light of the lockdown.

Support from the Government could include assistance for some who could possibly stay, and travel assistance for those who needed to return to their home countries.

‘‘A modest allowance to tide these people over will be a possible solution for some, while others will need our community to wrap around them.

‘‘I am calling on our business community and landlords to exercise some humanity.

‘‘I am determined not to see homeless and hungry people in our district.’’

Mr Boult said employers could consider offering a meal option, or a ‘‘form of moderate assistance’’ towards living costs and groceries.

The Government’s business support package may also mean employers could review their ability to hold more workers.

Landlords were showing some compassion and, where possible, enabling people to stay in their accommodation, he said.

Some tenants, for example, were working on the property in lieu of paying rent.

‘‘It is a tough time for landlords with mortgages to meet, but banks are offering mortgage holidays that can be passed on to tenants.’’

Those with temporary accommodation available also needed to make themselves known.

There were some roles still available in horticulture and viticulture and employers should be helping support their employees into alternative roles, where possible, he said.

‘‘When the community comes through the current crisis it will once again need to rely on itinerant workers, so being able to retain at least some of these workers within the community is important.’’

Mr Boult said the council had also been working with the Government to explore ‘‘offering some leniency’’ towards work visa rules, which would enable visa holders to transfer to other roles, stay in the country and work in other sectors.

Anyone who found themselves ‘‘in a vulnerable position’’ could fill in an online form, including a welfare registration component.

The form was available on the council’s website, www.qldc.govt.nz.

It would enable the council to pass on contact details to appropriate Government departments and ‘‘understand the extent of the challenge’’ the district faced.

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