Staff squeeze starts to bite


Queenstown businesses are buckling under the pressure of staff shortages.

A whopping 86 per cent of business owners and managers responding to a survey say they don’t have enough workers.

One anonymous shop owner says it’s driven her out of business.

For the rest, the repercussions include paying higher wages, stress and lower morale for employees, increasing staff turnover, inability to complete work on time and working unwanted hours themselves.

Queenstown’s Chamber of Commerce commissioned Massey University and Auck-land Knowledge Exchange Hub to do the survey.

It focused on the year to February 2016 but Chamber boss Ann Lockhart says the problems remain eight months on.

“The feedback we’ve received since is that it’s still difficult, especially to find skilled staff,” she says.

“Summer will prove a big challenge for a good number of businesses in terms of finding staff.”

Affordable accommodation’s the main barrier identified in the survey, prompting the Chamber to meet with businesses, developers, land-owners and construction firms.

Lockhart says several worker accommodation projects are being considered.

Some could be joint projects, or employers could commit to leases in yet-to-be-built apartment developments.

A total of 323 businesses responded to the survey, which will be repeated next year.

Chefs topped the needed list, followed by sales assistants, housekeepers, waiters, mana-gers, plasterers and accommo-dation or hospitality managers.

Firms were also short of drivers, clerks, legal profess-ionals and financial brokers.

The majority, 54 per cent, expected recruitment to take between a month and three months, while 16 per cent said it would take more than three months.

At least 17 Queenstown food premises are advertising this week to fill cheffing positions, with more still looking for front of house.

Southern Lakes Restaurant Association boss Grant Hattaway, who has Pier 19 and Blue Kanu restaurants, says there are lots of reasons for the shortages.

“It’s a tough job, that’s the first thing – long, unsociable hours.

“And it’s the growth of tourism – there are more hotels, more jobs.”

Hattaway says chefs are fairly well paid.

“There’s just no way you’ll get a chef until you meet the market.

“The rates of pay have climbed and that comes off the bottom line of the restaurants, as the customers are not prepared to pay more.

“Queenstown’s an expensive place to do business.”

Of those surveyed, 82 per cent say they’ve had to raise wages with 61 per cent paying above market rate.

Lockhart says: “They’re needing to do that to meet the market.

“Wages are certainly higher than elsewhere – even in supermarkets and retail generally.”

Visa processing has been a problem but exemptions for Queenstown occupations had “definitely helped”, she says.

On Tuesday, the government moved the goalposts for immigration numbers, reducing the planned range over the next two years from 90,000-100,000 to 85,000-95,000.

It also suspended the parent-visa system and slightly increased the points needed to be a skilled migrant.