New immigration policies look to be a mixed bag for the hospitality industry which has come to rely heavily on migrant workers.
The good news is that long term temporary migrants will be eligible for residency if they have lived in the South Island for more than five years,
But the industry is worried other new immigration policies may make it more difficult to recruit staff for tourism hot spots.
Hospitality New Zealand (HNZ) advocacy and policy manager Dylan Firth said the one-off pathway to residence was great for workers whose visas had continually been rolled over when employers were unable to find Kiwis to fill positions.
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The policy announced on Wednesday by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse means those workers will be eligible to live here permanently, provided they stayed in the same industry and South Island region for two years.
Woodhouse said there had been significant growth in the number of lower-skilled temporary migrants in the South Island who helped meet genuine labour shortages, but who had no pathway to residence.
The immigration changes also propose that seasonal workers get visas for the duration of the season, rather than 12 months.
Firth said hospitality workers were not included on the list of seasonal occupations and that would be an issue for areas like Rotorua and Queenstown that experienced big seasonal peaks and troughs.
“It’s important to employ New Zealanders first and foremost, but it’s just in those areas where it’s hard because of the low population and high visitor numbers, so the demand [for staff] is higher”.
Another concern was the introduction of pay thresholds for skilled migrants applying for residence.
Firth said chefs were on the skills shortage list, but the minimum remuneration rate of just under $49,000 would rule out chefs de partie.
A survey of wage rates nationally showed they varied considerably across the regions, but on average a senior chef de partie earned about $45,000, well below the cut off level.
“That’s a real hit for us because unfortunately those are the middle management roles that are in short supply nationally, and businesses need to be able to access those chefs from an international as well as a domestic market”, said Firth.
HNZ will raise its concerns with Government during consultation on the proposed changes.