Immigration Minister Erica Stanford assures Queenstown businesses she’s listening and will take on board suggestions to ease our labour pains.

Changes were made to the controversial accredited employer work visa (AEWV) in April — worries here include additional steps required to hire a migrant worker and additional processing times, which could leave resort businesses short-staffed, again.

In an exclusive chat with Mountain Scene in Queenstown, Stanford is bullish about the changes, fundamentally to address ‘‘unsustainable levels of net migration’’ and levels of migrant exploitation.

‘‘I don’t regret any of them’’.

She says there were 20,000 people in NZ on a JobSeeker benefit last year — simultaneously, 52,000 low- and no-skilled migrants were brought in.

‘‘Those numbers don’t match up.

“It’s really important that we make sure that we’re testing the local market first, we don’t have an over-reliance in certain places.’’

But she appreciates the changes ‘‘were a blanket across the country’’, reiterating there’s a broader piece of work underway to look at the whole AEWV scheme, which isn’t fit for purpose.

Due to report back to Cabinet in September, before going out for consultation, Stanford says she’s spoken to the Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce, which is outlining concerns on behalf of members, and came down to meet them, and business reps, on Wednesday.

‘‘But actually what was more useful was some of their suggestions about changes.

‘‘So we’ll take those back and see what we can do.

‘‘Queenstown is the jewel in the crown of our tourism sector and we certainly don’t want to put the handbrakes on.

‘‘We just want to make sure what we’re doing is fair and equitable so that we are making sure we’re putting Kiwis first, making sure they’re giving people a fair go and that migrants are not being exploited.’’

She does accept, though, Queenstown’s hardly overrun with out-of-work and available Kiwis — though it’s still a requirement to make sure of that first.

That’s why she’s keen to continue working with the resort’s business community to understand our ‘‘specific challenges’’.

‘‘They actually gave us some pretty good ideas and suggestions today about how we can build into our work programme, making life easier for Queenstown.

‘‘So we’ve taken those on board.

‘‘We never want to say, ‘look, you don’t have access to migrants’ … My job is to make sure that the settings are right [and] that we’re not keeping people for extended periods of time without a pathway to residence.’’

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