editorial 755


Turning up the dial on the pressure cooker

June 15 2020 by Scott Stevens

Turning up the dial on the pressure cooker

I tip my hat to the efforts of government departments Ministry of Social Development and Immigration New Zealand (INZ) for coming to Queenstown and speaking to employers as part of the Kia Kaha Queenstown Lakes Hub. They might not have good news to share, but along with local community and business advisors giving their time to offer advice, we have never had a better opportunity for informative direct contact. It was enlightening and frightening at the same time.

I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the lack of foresight from the Government regarding our migrant workforce. I have been in business here since the late 1990’s and over this time have not only understood the important role migrants play in our workforce, but also their contribution to the vibrancy and quality of life in our region.

Feeling the room last Thursday, it was obvious my fellow employers were deeply concerned for the future of their workforce. A quick straw poll of my peers found that we have 30-60% migrant employees making up our workforce. Most will be gone by September if they cannot get their visas renewed. That is despite wanting to keep them, pay them well and support their visa renewals. The humanitarian disaster is already unfolding for those migrants already made redundant. But even for a business that does not need to make positions redundant, this is a looming business continuity disaster.

How are we supposed to rebuild from the disruption of lockdown restrictions, deal with a reduced market size and work our way back to a trading profit, or at least limit the losses, while losing key trained staff as they cannot renew their visas - AND introduce 50% or more new staff to our workforce who all need training and introduction to our business culture. Talk about turning up the dial on the pressure cooker.

Every effort must be made to employ a New Zealander first. We all get that. Kiwis First. This is not new advice from INZ. However, INZ are now doubling down suggesting that the chances of visa renewals are unlikely and our migrant community head back to where they come from. The problem I foresee is that as the economy recovers, and more jobs become available, New Zealanders who have relocated here and taken the position previously held by a migrant, will move on, back to where they came from. For a tourism focused town, we will then have an issue attracting staff to replace those short-term Kiwi job fillers.

The last thing we need now is to send the backbone of our town packing only to need them again in 6-12 months’ time. I did sense a glimmer of understanding from the INZ staff in attendance at the Kia Kaha Queenstown Lakes Hub. However, do not expect that glimmer of understanding for this Queenstown specific problem to turn into a positive solution anytime soon.

Scott Stevens

- Scott Stevens
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  • Willing and Able

    Do NZers genuinely want a service industry job or stay on the "covid redundancy" payment of $490 a week, and spend the winter up Coronet Peak!

    Posted 16/06/2020 3:54pm (3 months ago)

  • Over the hills and far away.

    If the visias are not renewed it will save the New Zealander tapaxer millons of dollars of subsidy payments and no doubt in some instances resettlement costs to their home countrys.
    It is simply incorrect that New Zealanders do no want to live and work in Queenstown , they have done so in the past and will do so again in the future. The main reason they have not done so is that it has been in the employers best interests to ship in low cost , easily manageable short term visa holders.
    Instead of the goverment using the current suitation to allow for New Zealanders to represent their country, instead with the concerence of the QLDC granted a shovel ready hand out to Ngai Tahau, for another quick money making venture for which they will not be paying any tax on their profits.
    The second best, our Mayor could come up with was to help out his big end of town mates by sucking mum and and dad rate and taxpayers into expending public fund's to revamp the CBD. Why did they not instead offer the School or Lakeview site to set up a Tourism training school and accomadation so that New Zealanders can be encouraged and to work and learn or similar sort of project?
    The reason they did not do so,is because it's simply not in their best business interests to do so.
    Ps The LWB could do their bit by refusing to accept Job Adverts that are slanted to allow visa holders to renew or extend their visas with no intention to hire New Zealanders or Resident's.

    Posted 17/06/2020 11:11am (3 months ago)