Bureaucracy bollocks is hindering migrants

SHARE

FROM the off I’ll tell you I don’t like the term ‘‘migrant’’ — it just feels a bit ‘them and us’.

Also, most of us migrated here from somewhere else, so there’s that.

If you’ve lived here for a minute you’ll know the people from all over this world, who made a choice to make this place home, are us (as Jacinda said last year), and they’re the backbone of our community.

There are, absolutely, exceptions, but more often than not in bars and restaurants and cafes, in hotels and motels, camping grounds and hostels, on jetboats, in planes and when elastic is attached to your legs, the person you’re dealing with doesn’t have the quintessential Kiwi accent.

The government sees them as migrant workers.

We see them as family.

I can’t count the number of these family members who came here for ‘‘six months’’ and never left.

They’ve worked their way up the ranks, some of them have started their own businesses, their own families, bought houses and contributed to our community in every way.

Some more recent arrivals, who want to put more permanent roots down here, right now are in no-man’s land.

We’ve known since the start of Covid-19 in New Zealand how vulnerable so many of those family members here are.

I know there’ve been conversations between our business and community leaders and the big-wigs in the Beehive about better supporting our people who’ve migrated here from somewhere else for months.

To date, that’s largely fallen on deaf ears except, of course, the governmental carrot to bolster the horticulture and viticulture industries by promising an extra six months for overseas workers who go fruit picking, for example.

Why just those industries, though?

And who fills the roles left vacant by the people who want the security of six more months?

The government — rightly — is dogged on this: Kiwis come first and need the jobs.

Sweetbix.

But what happens when Kiwis don’t want our jobs?

Apparently they’re already not keen on horticulture and viticulture, hence the visa carrot, but we know from experience they’re not vibing with many of the jobs we need filled here, either.

I’ve had a bunch of chats lately and, yep, there are a few exceptions, but by and large the consistent message I’m given is Kiwis aren’t applying for jobs here.

We can talk all day about why that is (and I’m probably not going to disagree with any of you in terms of your theories) but it seems absolutely ludicrous to me we’ve got jobs vacant, we’ve got, in some cases, 70-plus people going for them, but employers can’t hire the candidates — at least not easily — because they’re on work visas.

Take Jobbortunities.

Apparently, of the 274 people who turned up, wanting work, four were NZ citizens or residents.

Four.

But, apparently, there are still 700-odd people in our community collecting Jobseeker Support payments at the moment.

Maybe Jobbortunities should have been taken on the road and set up some place where, apparently, there’s greater unemployment to attract Kiwis to come here.

I have my doubts as to whether or not that would have heralded the results we’re looking for, though.

Let’s be honest, Queenstown isn’t for everyone.

It can be a pretty tough place to call home, for a bunch of reasons — and that was before Covid.

And while our median rent’s dropped, when you compare it to other places, it’s still pretty pricey, no?

So, when you’ve got people who already live here, with support systems here, who understand the ‘cost of living in Queenstown’, who want to stay and work, why can’t we hire them easily?

If what I’m hearing’s right, this issue isn’t just ‘Queenstown-centric’ either.

It just feels a bit like Groundhog Day.

Remember when Brazilian visas were fast-tracked about 15 years ago?

It was born from a labour shortage.

And we’re barrelling straight at another one — except this time we can’t bring anyone in from overseas.

So what’s the problem with hiring the people from all over the world, who are here, who’ve been contributing to our communities and economies, and want our jobs?

Why can’t we relax the restrictions on all visas till next June, for example, when we might better know what the medium-term looks like for us?

Just because it’s not an issue in Auckland or Wellington, doesn’t mean it’s not an issue.

The sooner the people with the power get that through their heads, the better.

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz