Tourism operators push new minister for working visa extensions [Stuff, 18/11/20]

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has hinted a solution is coming for worker shortages faced by New Zealand’s under-pressure tourism sector.

Desperate Queenstown tourism operators have called on the Government to extend working visas for migrant workers so they can keep working in the short term and help alleviate a looming shortage of summer workers.

New Zealanders have so far proved reluctant to move to Queenstown to take up the largely low-paid jobs on offer, which are usually filled by travellers.

A recent “Jobbortunity” event in Queenstown looking for people to fill 8000 jobs across Otago attracted just 274 people.

Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult has already written to the Government calling for changes.

He met with Nash in Queenstown on Wednesday and said he was encouraged the Government was considering the issue.

Nash suggested a short-term solution may be close, but declined to give media further details.

“I’m going back and have a talk with the minister of immigration and the minister of finance and other cabinet colleagues to outline a solution that I think in the short term may alleviate a couple of the problems the Queenstown district has,” he said.

The news was welcomed by Queenstown Chamber of Commerce general manger Craig Douglas, who was part of a group that also met with Nash on Wednesday.

The worker shortage was a key concern discussed, he said.

“I think he could clearly see the situation as it was and I’m pretty sure he’ll give us a good hearing in Wellington.”

He was hopeful there would be some changes but said “the proof will be in the pudding”.

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