Queenstown in winter 2

Editorial

2,000 workers needed for the ski season

June 8 2021 by Mayor Jim Boult

Central government are currently taking the view that all the jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry should and can be filled by kiwis. That is an admirable objective but I’m sorry to say, an unrealistic one in the short to medium term – perhaps even ever.
For decades, the industry has been supported very well by migrant workers.  And actually, this is the case for the industry around the world – not just in NZ, or Queenstown. These people have come from many parts of the world for an overseas experience (or a better life and opportunities) and are the engine room behind, particularly the hospitality and accommodation sectors.
Right now, it’s estimated that we are around two thousand workers short heading into the ski season. Central government have said that they are not opening the borders to migrant workers, (obviously they would have to isolate on arrival here), but instead the roles will be filled by kiwis.  The harsh reality is kiwis are not going to move here from areas where they are unemployed elsewhere in New Zealand to make beds and clean toilets.  It simply won’t happen.  Employers around the district are telling me this daily and I am now being told by hoteliers that they can’t fully book their properties simply due to staff shortages in servicing them. This is indeed disappointing when with the Aussie bubble in place, and the expectation of good numbers over the ski season, we can’t meet the opportunity for recovery.
It’s not an issue of wages. Most employers I speak to are paying well above the minimum wage and still can’t get the workers they need.
I have raised this issue with government on many occasions and I am hopeful that some common sense will come into the discussion before the situation gets critical.   Yes, we would love to attract more Kiwi workers to the district, and yes we are working on initiatives towards that, but we need support and solutions for this issue in the short term.   It’s not just an issue facing tourism and hospitality, it applies to the dairy and fruit picking industries as well. In fact, the availability of workforce is a common issue for recovery across businesses around NZ.
Rest assured I will continue to rattle central government’s cage on this matter until hopefully we have a solution.

- Mayor Jim Boult