Urgent action needed on skills visas

SHARE

By MATTHEW MCKEW

An urgent review of essential skills work visas is needed to protect local Kiwis from job losses, Queenstown’s mayor says.

Jim Boult’s written a letter calling on Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway to relax the visa requirement of 30 hours’ paid work a week, allow those visa-holders to take second jobs and for the government to provide some financial support if they get stuck here with no work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“New Zealand residents and citizens may be the first to lose hours to enable the employer to continue to meet visa criteria for their migrant workers.”

His demands are backed by new Startup Queenstown Lakes boss Olivia Wensley.

She says the resort can’t function without foreign workers, and they’ll be needed when tourism bounces back.

“Legal fees for visas can cost a lot, there is a lot involved with sponsoring, and now businesses are left vulnerable because they cannot necessarily fulfil their obligations.”

She says the issue’s critical to Queenstown’s economy.

“It’s very different to the rest of the country.

“Many businesses simply couldn’t operate without foreign workers.”

She hopes the government’s plans to subsidise wages for affected businesses will alleviate some of the issue.

One worker, Guilherme Caron, has lived in NZ for two years, but is in self-isolation after visiting his family in his home country, Brazil.

Caron’s sponsored by restaurant Big Fig and his government-enforced time off is being covered by sick pay.

As a chef, he’s worried about fewer people eating out.

He also holds concerns over people being able to self-isolate in shared accommodation.

“I think it’s safe to say that if people can’t go to work, the government will have to start giving care and food packages.”

matthew.mckew@scene.co.nz