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Tightening working visa rules tough on tourism

May 30, 2017 Business News No Comments Email Email

A Government proposal to tighten immigration rules doesn’t take into account the challenges New Zealand’s $35 billion tourism industry faces in attracting staff, particularly in visitor hotspots and during the peak season.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa says the Government’s proposed changes to the Essential Skills visa will only make it more difficult for the fast growing tourism industry to attract essential staff, stifling the growth potential of the country’s largest export earner.

“Simply tightening immigration settings should not be done without first addressing the lack of suitably qualified New Zealanders,” says Chris Roberts, TIA Chief Executive.

Chris Roberts

“When changing policy settings, the Government must demonstrate greater empathy for the specific requirements of the tourism industry.

“There are already acute staff shortages in certain areas, such as popular tourism hotspots, remote destinations and at peak times of the year.”

Mr Roberts says New Zealanders are often not available in these areas or may be lacking the required attributes or skills.

“Although the New Zealand tourism industry prefers hiring Kiwis, this is often not an option. We had a big response to a member survey on these proposed changes, with respondents all stressing the challenges they face in finding New Zealand residents to work in the industry. One business owner reflected the views of many, in saying they would be lost without the ability to employ from overseas.”

Instead of the proposed ‘one size fits all’ approach, the Government needs to take into account the substantial differences between local and regional economies and labour markets, says Mr Roberts.

“For example, it’s difficult attracting New Zealand workers in Queenstown. Similarly, there aren’t many people – locals or foreigners – living near the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. This poses a significant challenge to tourism operators in filling vacant positions.

“The current proposed changes will fail many regions and tourism operators.”

Mr Roberts says TIA is against the introduction of remuneration thresholds to determine skill levels and associated visa conditions.

“The proposed changes suggest that lower-skilled workers are seen as less valuable for the economy. We don’t agree with this. The tourism industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of people across the country, needs both lower-skilled and higher-skilled staff. You can’t manage a business back of house, if there’s no-one to work front of house.”

In a submission to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on the proposed changes, TIA is calling on strategic leadership by the Government to support tourism as a career and to attract New Zealanders to work in tourism.

“We want to see WINZ work more closely with the tourism industry on how to identify and place the right candidates into positions. And when no suitable New Zealanders are available, we need immigration settings that allow tourism employers to still secure quality staff.”

Read the TIA submission to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on the suite of proposed changes to the Essential Skills Visa.

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