Tourist hot-spot wants more immigrant workers

Hospitality employers in one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist hot-spots is calling on the government to rethink immigration changes that are due to come into effect in August.

Restaurant and café owners on the island of Waiheke, a 25-minute ferry ride from Auckland, say they are reliant on overseas workers for full-time staff. However, they fear that upcoming changes to the immigration rules, which will mean that hospitality workers are unlikely to qualify for full-time residency once their visa expires, will put foreigners off working in the industry.

From August, all migrant workers paid less than NZ$49,000 a year would be allowed a three-year visa, before they’re forced to leave New Zealand for 12 months. Only those earning more than NZ$73,000 a year would be entitled to claim points under the residency system, giving them the prospect of long-term residency.

The island attracts more than one-million visitors a year, but business owners say they struggle to find skilled staff as the majority of young people who live on the island don’t want to work in hospitality while attracting workers from Auckland was a problem due to ferry travel costs.

The island’s vineyards and olive grove producers have voiced similar concerns.

Nikki Kaye, the island’s MP, has made a submission to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse asking him to consider a review of immigration policy, specifically with regard to Waiheke.

“The case for Waiheke being looked at in my view is, in part, because it’s an island and has difficulties with people having to travel by ferry or live there,” she explained. “This can provide greater challenges for staffing of businesses. I also think the island is unique. For such a small geographical area, Waiheke has a large number of high-calibre restaurants.”

Article published 29th June 2017