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PICTURE: DESTINATION QUEENSTOWN

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

A Queenstown hotelier says changes announced by Immigration New Zealand this week
are ‘‘unsustainable’’, while Queenstown Chamber of Commerce boss Ruth Stokes  describes the entire process as an ‘‘omnishambles’’.

Under the new accredited employer work visa — twice delayed — an employer first has to apply to be accredited to hire migrant workers under one of two categories.

Standard accreditation, for up to five migrants at any one time, will cost $740, or ‘‘high-volume’’, for six or more, is $1220.

There are additional fees to upgrade from standard to high-volume, and different fees for employers wanting to place migrants with controlling third parties and franchisees.

And there’s a reconsideration fee of $240 if an employer accreditation’s declined.

Then, employers have to apply for a ‘‘job check’’ for each job a migrant worker is  sought for.

If the job’s paid at least 200% of median wage — increasing to $27.76 from July 4 — the role doesn’t need to be advertised, but all other jobs must pay at least the median wage, and the positions have to be advertised to Kiwis.

INZ says government’s considering if there’ll be any exemptions to that.

The fee for a job check is $610.

If that hurdle’s passed, employees can apply for an accredited employer work visa, from
July 4, at a cost of $540, with an ‘‘immigration levy paid by worker’’ of $55.

To vary conditions there’s a $190 fee.

New scheme ”adding more complexity”

Stokes says the new process adds yet more layers of bureaucracy and cost and is still unclear how it will fit with the critical worker list.

“Omnishambles”: Queenstown Chamber of Commerce CEO Ruth Stokes

‘‘There’s some discussion over a bit more nuance around that … it’s just more of the same, feeding us one slice at a time and causing businesses a whole lot of stress and angst at a time when you didn’t think they could possibly take any more.

‘‘It’s adding more complexity and more cost in what is already a constrained and challenging recruitment environment.

‘‘The system is just becoming so complex and time-consuming and expensive for businesses to navigate at a time when it should be easier and cheaper.’’

Hilton Queenstown GM Chris Ehmann says it’s going to make things ‘‘very, very hard’’ for the hotel and will ‘‘really hurt the business’’.

‘It will flip the pay scale upside down’

“Unsustainable”: Hilton Queenstown general manager Chris Ehmann

He says the earlier messaging was migrant workers needed to be paid 10% over minimum wage — primarily those employees would be required in roles like house
keeping and wait-staff.

But now the minimum salary for those workers would be the median wage, so  ‘‘minimum wage, basically, for Queenstown, will theoretically jump to $27.76’’.

‘‘It’s unsustainable.

‘‘I can’t even fathom how it’s going to work, to be honest.

‘‘All of us now in Queenstown pay more than minimum wage.

‘‘We’re all in the $20 to $23 range … for a waiter.

‘‘If that jumps to $27 because we have to get people from outside, it will completely turn the pay scale upside down,’’ Ehmann says.

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz