editorial 754


Rehome your Pets

June 8 2020 by Scott Stevens

Rehome your Pets

As a British migrant with a six-year-old daughter who sings God Defend New Zealand from the backseat on the way to school, I feel I should make the case for keeping as many of us in Queenstown as possible. Because the message seems to have changed in recent weeks, from “we’ve got your back” to “rehome your pets before your repatriation flight”.

Now, I should explain I have permanent residency, thank God. I’m pretty sure I won’t have to swap Jacinda for Boris and can instead focus on learning te reo and then citizenship. I’m talking about migrants at other stages of the complicated visa process. The maths seems simple. The boffins at Infometrics - in their ‘God I wish we hadn’t asked’ report to Queenstown’s council - reckon we’ll lose 7,900 jobs by March 2021. Unemployment could be 18% and the economy could shrink by 23.3%, or $633 million. Queenstown’s wonderful Covid welfare response has already helped 7,500 people, the majority migrants. So, Queenstown is buggered = go home.

But it’s not that simple. Many will want to go home, of course, but for others Queenstown is home, they just don’t have the paperwork to match. I firmly believe visa re-applications should be evaluated from a long-term and humane perspective. Migrants should also be able to access job seekers’ benefit short term, if needed. There were calls for this, but the PM indicated any help will only be in the form of emergency assistance, and now the calls have gone quiet.

We all know there were massive staff shortages before Covid. Kiwis from elsewhere in New Zealand weren’t in a rush to move to Queenstown to pay maximum rents for minimum wages. What happens when the dust settles from Covid and the trans-Tasman bubble inflates? Will there be a sudden influx of New Zealanders wanting to work in tourism, hospo and hotels? Queenstown businesses could find themselves unable to efficiently scale up to meet demand again due to a lack of staff, especially if the bubble is extended or a vaccine is found. There’s also a good proportion of those currently on short-term visas who’ll go on to become residents and build their own businesses and create employment, as so many others have done.

I look around and see invaluable contributions to social, economic and civic life from established migrants in Queenstown, from Trent Yeo to Margaret O’Hanlon, Mark Williams, Fabiola Correa, Niamh Shaw, Jamie Whitmarsh, Amit Sethi, Sally Whitewoods, and hundreds of others all the way back to William Rees. Some of them might have had to leave under similar circumstances. All these nationalities in one place, all this beautiful diversity, also makes Queenstown one of the most interesting big little towns in the world, all these cultures coming together attracted by Kiwi values, humour, lifestyle, energy and, in many cases, just attracted to Kiwis. Kiwis and migrants work together to make Queenstown what it is, we should help those who want to stay here permanently.

Paul Taylor

- Scott Stevens
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