By TRACEY ROXBURGH
National’s immigration spokeswoman says she’ll ask Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi in the
House when he intends to visit Queenstown.
Erica Stanford spent Tuesday in the resort talking to businesses about the issues facing them, hosted by local MP Joseph Mooney, who says the labour force shortage in the resort ‘‘is not just a problem, it’s a crisis’’.
Some hotels can only offer 50% of their beds to the market because they don’t have sufficient staff to fully open, while skifields are still battling to get 100 critical workers into the country for this winter, he says.
And those things will have an impact on Queenstown’s economic recovery.
Stanford: ‘‘Queenstown is the jewel in the crown of our tourism sector and we have hotels that are only able to offer half of their rooms.
‘‘What is going on?
‘‘We’ve opened up the bubble and it’s the school holidays.
‘‘This is the time for these businesses who have suffered so greatly over the past 12 months, and are on their knees and have taken on huge loans, to actually start to recover and they don’t have the staff to be able to do that.’’
Stanford says there needs to be a review of immigration settings to make it easier for businesses to hold on to the staff they have, particularly given the dearth of anyone else to hire, and believes there’s room for ‘‘regional settings’’ to help businesses in places like Queenstown and Te Anau.
‘‘When you’ve got places, like Australia, which is also crying out for workers, we’re going to lose them pretty quickly unless we do something to hold on to them’’.
Stanford says Faafoi has the power to extend the classes of visas and believes he ‘‘needs to look seriously at actually doing it’’.
And while the Aussies are touted as being the saviour of the resort’s economy, they may also be able to save the labour force issues.
‘‘There were about 44,000 working holiday visa holders in Australia.
‘‘Having the ability to attract them here … making sure it’s easy and not a laborious and expensive process to come here and get a visa … we need them here now, so we need to
make it quick.’’