Welcoming more of the Pacific workforce to New Zealand is a good move, says BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope.
“Businesses across all regions and sectors are struggling with skill shortages. It is positive to see the Government applying a risk management approach to the border and allowing people – Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) – to come in without MIQ requirements where there is minimal risk to New Zealand.
“We look forward to the Government working constructively with other industry groups to find pragmatic solutions to the current skill shortages.
“This will be a welcome relief for the primary industry companies that are facing a number of challenges still, and assist our Pacific neighbours experiencing significant economic hardship”.
Meanwhile Leader of the Opposition and National’s Pacific Peoples spokesperson Judith Collins says the Government’s plan to allow one-way quarantine-free travel for RSE workers from Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu is the right one but should have come much sooner.
“We called for a move like this back in March to allow workers from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji to New Zealand for work in our staff-stretched agricultural sector. At the time, Fiji, like Tonga and Samoa, had never had a community case of Covid-19. But, given the current outbreak in Fiji, bringing Vanuatu onboard makes sense.
“It’s a good move but it should’ve happened much, much sooner. Our agricultural sector has been crying out for workers for a long time now, and they’ve paid a heavy price for the Government’s inaction.
“The question now is, if we can bring in RSE workers without them having to undergo quarantine once they enter New Zealand, why can’t we prioritise other people from these three countries for quarantine-free travel?
“Many people in our Pacific communities have loved ones they haven’t seen in more than 18 months now. It’s time to let them reconnect and share important life moments together.”
EMA chief executive Brett O’Riley is calling for the Government to declare an overstayer amnesty alongside allowing more RSE workers from the Pacific Islands to come here quarantine-free from next month.
“We know a large proportion of those who have overstayed their visas are from the Pacific Islands, and given they are already here and part of our community, why wouldn’t we be looking at supporting them first?” he asks.
“There is no doubt that Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers will fill labour shortages, particularly in the agriculture sector, but potentially people for those jobs are here already so I’m not clear on why we’re not giving them first crack.”
O’Riley says businesses across all regions and sectors are struggling with skill shortages and there is a need for this kind of approach from the Government, but overstayer amnesty should have been the first step.
“We’ve got people who need the work but are scared of coming out of the shadows for fear of being sent home because of their temporary status, and who won’t have the financial security they used to,” he says.
“The shortage in workforce in infrastructure and construction has caused delays on major projects, projects that are reliant on and benefit from the Pacific Island workforce. Access to more labour currently in the country would be well received and help reduce the ongoing pressure on both industries.”
O’Riley welcomed calls from Tongan Princess Mele Sui’ilikutapu Kalanivalu Fotofili for a clearly defined pathway to residency in New Zealand, as the next logical step to strengthen the relationship with Pacific Island communities and countries.
“These countries rely on New Zealand, and we need a much more transparent and aspirational pathway for their migrants, who end up supporting both their own and New Zealand’s economy”.
“We are keen to work with the Government on how an overstayer amnesty and residency pathway like this would help fill the skills chasm, now and in the future.”