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They are here so let them stay and work – Auckland Business Chamber

Hospitality, accommodation, retail and tourism operators’ battle for survival and recovery is being shot down because they cannot access the workers they need to open and deliver quality service due to expired holiday and seasonal work visas.

"The frustration of seeing an able, willing workforce available but unable to be hired is untenable," says Auckland Business Chamber CEO, Michael Barnett, who receives calls daily from businesses which cannot hire the skills they need to maintain service standards and quality experiences.

"It’s common sense to employ the talent we have and while the big plan is to bring in wealthy investors, it is often the low paid, invisible teams of fruit pickers, cleaners, wait staff, dishwashers, cooks, drivers and mechanics who keep the economy and small businesses ticking."

There are more jobs than available people at present and in tourist towns like Queenstown or Rotorua there are vacancies across the key service sectors from wait staff to chefs with talent at hand if only Government would relax, renew and extend visas to retain the talent that is here in front of us.

"We’d like to think that there are resident New Zealanders lining up for those jobs, wanting to build a career path from a foot in the door. That is not the case. Our service pool is made up of working holiday, seasonal employment and some low paid essential skills visa holders," he said, warning that our loss would be Australia’s gain as the thousands of workers who are facing unemployment or who cannot renew or extend their current visas eye up the opportunities across the Tasman.

"If we lose these people, it is a loss and risk to the rebuilding of a vibrant service sector and also to brand New Zealand’s reputation for consistently delivering exceptional quality and value experiences."

The Auckland and Queenstown Chambers, along with other Chambers in the NZ network, have a simple solution for Government to consider a reset of its immigration and visa rules, starting with a 12-month extension to working holiday visas, extensions and renewals to low paid essential and season worker visas, and flexibility for visa holders to shift employers to immediately help businesses over this hump before the borders fully open.

The recommendations are to:

– Extend remaining Working Holiday Visas for 12 months

– Allow people currently in New Zealand on a Supplementary Seasonal Employment visa to apply for a new WHV

– Allow remaining visitor visa holders to apply for a WHV regardless of age or nationality

– Extend low paid Essential Skills visas back to 12 months from current six

– Temporarily extend three-year limit on short-term low paid Essential Skills visa renewals by another year (to 4)

– Relax the ability for work visa holders to shift employers (or additional employers) or roles

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