One-off migrant visa decision welcomed by leaders

A one-off resident visa for migrants already in New Zealand will give Queenstown employers a much-needed dose of certainty, business and civic leaders say.

The visa, for which up to 165,000 migrants could be eligible, was announced by the Government yesterday.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes said it had been advocating for the policy all year, so she was pleased the Government had been listening.

Immigration New Zealand usually processed 35,000 residency applications a year, "so you’re talking five years’ worth — that’s how big this is for us".

However, the announcement the resort’s businesses were really waiting for was the plan for opening the borders.

Many did not know if they could survive until Christmas, and were facing the prospect of shedding staff because of the ongoing uncertainty.

"We have businesses that have bookings for Australian business that will bring millions of dollars into our economy between January and March.

"If there’s no certainty about what’s happening at the borders, we will see those cancelled in October."

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said he was "truly delighted" about what the visa would do for the district’s migrants.

Its economy had relied on migrant workers for decades, and they in turn had given the district its "richly diverse community", Mr Boult said.

"Seeing those folks who want to stay here, who have begun building a life here, struggle with the stress of uncertainty has been heart-breaking."

Tourism Industry Aotearoa Tourism chief executive Chris Roberts said about 17,000 workers in the accommodation, food, hospitality and tourism sectors were likely to be eligible for the visa.

Many tourism employers were concerned they would not be able to meet their staffing needs when international travellers returned, Mr Roberts said.

Although the visa would not add more people to the pool of labour, employers would be relieved to know they could keep valuable staff.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said the visa created a pathway to residency for migrants, particularly those working in the health and aged care, primary industry and education sectors, and it would help relieve labour pressures in the economy.

Applications for the visa will open in two phases, the first on December 1, and the second on March 1.

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