By TRACEY ROXBURGH
And on the 256th day, he arrived.
It’s been just over seven months since Kris Faafoi was handed the immigration portfolio, and a total of 1012 days since Queenstown’s had a visit from an immigration minister.
Tomorrow that changes.
Faafoi’s media man Peter Stevens has confirmed to Mountain Scene — which has dedicated a special space on our front page since November 5 to the ‘Minister-ometer’, counting the days till his boss’ visit — the man himself will be in the Whakatipu tomorrow, along with Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.
Details of the pair’s itinerary were still being worked out as Scene went to print, but they will be having a catch-up with Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult tomorrow morning.
Boult says he’s ‘‘delighted’’ they’re coming — particularly Faafoi, to whom he’s extended two personal invitations.
In May, Nash told a Queenstown Chamber of Commerce crowd he’d champion Queenstown’s call for another working holiday visa extension and changes to skills visas to
Faafoi, while later that month Finance Minister Grant Robertson promised Scene he’d ‘‘pass on the enthusiasm of the people of Queenstown to see him’’.
In April, National’s immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford told Scene she planned to ask Faafoi in the House when he intended to visit.
Boult says he’s not expecting any announcements from the pair tomorrow, but is looking forward to a ‘‘a meaningful and productive discussion’’ with Faafoi, in particular.
He intends to raise with him immigration settings for existing businesses, allowing in critical workers, the need for surety of extensions/expiries of visas for employers and their staff, and lifting the bar on the number of migrant workers allowed in at present.
While the Covid outbreak in New South Wales, where a two-week extension to its lockdown was announced yesterday, may have, to a degree, lessened the impact of the labour shortage in the Whakatipu on the eve of what should have been the busiest period for the town since early last year, Boult says that’s a ‘‘temporary respite’’.
‘‘I’m full of hope that the Australians will sort out the issues they’ve got around Covid at the present time and maybe by the time September school holidays come around, hopefully we’ll still have snow, and they’ll come back again.
‘‘The issue [of labour shortages] is not out of the way.’’
Meantime, today Transport Minister Michael Wood’s in town with Invercargill list MP Liz Craig and Dunedin’s Rachel Brooking.
His press sec, Tom James, says Wood’s been trying to get around the country as much as possible to understand the different issues facing communities.
While here, the trio’s catching up with Queenstown Airport, a couple of local businesses and Boult.