Chamber ready for fight

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Queenstown’s chamber of commerce president says the resort would be “crippled” without foreign workers.

Richard Thomas is hopeful the new government will take a regional approach to immigration, despite promising to slash net migration.

“They can’t take an Auckland-like approach to the regions,” he says.

The Chamber is ready to fight for the resort’s businesses, as it did with proposed changes to skilled-migrant rules earlier this year.

It will talk to the resort’s two new MPs – NZ First list MP and Clutha-Southland candidate Mark Patterson and National’s Hamish Walker.

It’ll also approach immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway if necessary, Thomas says.

Business owners who spoke to Mountain Scene yesterday say they’re waiting anxiously for the government to flesh out its plans.

Already struggling to find and hang on to their staff, they worry it could become much harder for the resort’s tourism, hotel, hospitality and retail employers.

Labour promised to cut net migration by 20-30,000 a year, while NZ First campaigned on a more drastic policy to cut numbers to 10,000 from 70,000 now.

The two parties have agreed to adopt Labour’s policy, but “ensure work visas issued reflect genuine skills shortages”.

Bar baron Michael Burgess says he’s “absolutely” concerned that getting staff is about to get even harder.

“One would hope they look at it with some intelligence around which skill-sets are required in different parts of the country.

“Certainly Queenstown has different needs to perhaps Wanganui.”

Burgess, who employs 150 staff in seven bars and restaurants in the resort, says he heard last week there are 40 chef positions being advertised in the district.

“That’s pretty desperate.”

Millbrook Resort operations boss Brian Howie says local hoteliers, with help from Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA), worked hard to explain the challenges of finding staff to the previous government.

“That process has to start again.”

Howie, who’s also the TIA’s hotel sector regional representative, says it’s a waiting game until details of the new policy emerge.

ed@scene.co.nz