Queenstown immigration exemption to end

A temporary immigration exemption for foreign workers heading to the hugely popular tourist resort of Queenstown, New Zealand, is set to end.

Last year, the NZ government temporarily removed the requirement for Queenstown employers to have to provide evidence of their efforts to recruit New Zealanders, except in certain roles. Business owners in Queenstown welcomed the announcement, which significantly speeds up the hiring process, but the exemption will expire at the end of June.

Yet Queenstown employers believe the deadline needs to be extended indefinitely, due to the lack of skilled workers who live in and around the region which has always had a notoriously transient workforce. Recent record tourist numbers, which are forecast to grow for the foreseeable future, are only serving to place an increased strain on the region’s workforce.

Tourism Industry Association (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said the association and other industry groups were continuing to lobby ministers and officials to have the deadline extended.

“We accept that migrant labour is not the only answer to Queenstown’s rapidly growing workforce needs, but other initiatives take time to produce results,” he said. “TIA is leading the development of a strategy to identify medium and long term solutions to the labour skills facing the industry, which are most keenly felt in Queenstown.”

However, an Immigration New Zealand spokesperson has reiterated that the exemption was only ever viewed as a short-term measure. “It has been made very clear to the sector that the streamlined process and exemption should not be viewed as a long-term solution to the labour market issues faced by Queenstown employers. There is also a clear expectation from ministers that the sector will develop and implement a long-term strategy to address these issues.”