By TRACEY ROXBURGH
They’ve decided to take the mountain to Muhammed.
Hoping to attract Kiwis to Queenstown for work — even if it’s only for a few weeks at a time — Remarkable Labour bosses Blair McNaughton and Ed Stott have launched ‘Kiwi OE’, which provides willing workers with guaranteed jobs, and accommodation with the hope they’ll stay.
Under the new scheme those who are ready, willing and able can register on the Kiwi OE website, pick a package — from two weeks to six weeks — and start packing their bags.
They’ll be met at Queenstown Airport, taken to their pre-booked accommodation, matched with their employer and put to work.
If they don’t like the job, another one can be found for them, and at the end of their tenure they can either return to their roots or, hopefully, decide to put some down in the Wakatipu.
The pair have got the backing of City Hall, Destination Queenstown and Lake Wanaka Tourism, and the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce.
McNaughton says if it’s successful here they’ll look to roll it out in other areas, like Nelson and Hawke’s Bay, and potentially flag it with the Ministry of Social Development for future support.
‘‘It’s in its infancy, but I suppose Queenstown’s kind of a test ground for it … once the borders open with Australia, we might look to do it [there] and bring Aussies to Queenstown and other parts of New Zealand, whether it be for a winter experience or whatever.’’
While there’s a cost to the package for the employees — ranging from $889 for two weeks to $1959 for six weeks — aside from flights, the balance can be paid back by attachment from their wages.
And, McNaughton says, if an employer can only offer 20 hours a week, a worker through the scheme can pick up another part-time job and not get hit by secondary tax.
Stott says they’ve moved fast on the new venture to try to take some pressure off businesses here, in hospo and accommodation for example, before the Christmas and New Year rush.
‘‘It’s a worrying time for them — they need to increase their staff load by 30% but what do they do at the other end of that, mid-January, when things go back to the level they’re at now?
‘‘Going through us they can scale up and down as much as they need to, we can take that worry away from them.’’
McNaughton’s hoping to see the first workers through the scheme arrive here next month — ideally, they want to bring 100 people in every month and create an ‘‘order’’ system in advance for clients looking for workers.
Stott says it’s been structured to help plug labour shortage gaps, but also boost other aspects of the local economy.
McNaughton: ‘‘Nobody’s going to solve this problem quickly.
‘‘We can either sit here and moan … or we can try to find a solution ourselves.
‘‘Maybe it doesn’t work — hopefully it does — but at least we’ve tried.’’