Treatment of migrants lamented

Queenstown migrants have been mistreated and disregarded during the pandemic despite their "vast contributions", a Salvation Army report has said.

The Christian charity also raised concerns over mental health in Queenstown and called for a reform to housing benefits.

The State of Our Communities report honed in on three areas in New Zealand — Queenstown, Rotorua and Johnsonville — surveying locals and key stakeholders.

In Queenstown, it found issues concerning housing affordability, unemployment, job security and an "exodus" of both migrants and New Zealanders.

The report said locals had expressed concerns over the hardships experienced by migrants.

It said their mistreatment had illustrated disregard for their contribution or ignorance of their role in the country.

New Zealanders in Queenstown called for simplified visa processes and better support for migrants, as they often took low-wage jobs that "New Zealanders would not".

Queenstown Salvation Army director of community ministries Lieutenant Andrew Wilson said since Covid-19 hit, many migrants who had not returned home had moved to Hawke’s Bay and the Bay of Plenty.

They had sought supposedly available horticultural and agriculture work, but had subsequently relied on Red Cross payments because the jobs failed to materialise or were short term.

Mr Wilson said he knew the Queenstown Lakes District Council was working to ensure migrants were not left with misinformation on jobs again, with development of a work portal.

The "exodus", the report said, had hit New Zealanders in Queenstown who relied on rental income to pay for mortgages, while others had lost jobs or hours.

The Salvation Army said New Zealand renters and homeowners were struggling and the Government needed to update "historic" accommodation supplement rules.

Mr Wilson said because some areas were still classed as rural, such as Shotover Country, residents were receiving about $100 less in support than in central Queenstown despite similarly high rents.

Survey respondents highlighted mental health issues and criticised a lack of provision in the resort, but the Salvation Army report emphasised a need to tackle the root of the problem.

"Addressing mental health without creating employment and adequate, affordable and available housing will likely perpetuate the mental health struggles in the Queenstown community."


 

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