Wānaka Sun       

Pairing workers and businesses still tricky

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 24 Dec, 2020 | By Jo Galer newsdesk@thewanakasun.co.nz

Although the Government has just made more tweaks to work visa requirements to help businesses find workers they need, Lake Wānaka Tourism is still seeing local businesses struggle to find the right staff due to the “pulse” nature of domestic tourism.

Immigration minister Kris Faafoi has just announced a six-month extension for employer-assisted work visa holders, a postponed stand-down period for low-paid essential skills visa holders; retention of the 2019 median wage of $25.50 an hour until at least July, and working holiday visa extensions by six months.

Workers on employer-assisted visas can renew, and other migrants can get essential skills visas with a wider list of job categories, but only if the business can offer 30 hours per week and there are no New Zealand workers available for the job.

Lake Wānaka Tourism Acting General Manager Tim Barke said that while the Government's changes are helpful and welcome, the more rigid requirement that businesses guarantee a worker 30 hours' work per week means businesses pairing up with workers is still difficult.

“This unfortunately doesn't seem to take into account the nature of domestic tourism at this time of year, where we see short, sharp spikes in demand at weekends and holidays, and then it is quiet in between. 

“The pulse nature of our business pattern currently, without the overseas tourists here to smooth out the lumps, means it is difficult to keep one person on for 30 hours a week. The employee needs to have the ability to work multiple jobs at the one time.The restrictions on overseas workers on visas being able to jump between businesses makes it hard on both workers and businesses.

“The changes to the skills shortage list and the marketing to increase domestic tourism in destinations such as this over the summer were good, but if we could allow overseas workers to get work with multiple employers at once on a temporary basis, that would help a lot.”

It is still a real unknown as to how busy the domestic holiday season will be for businesses. He was reasonably confident January will be busy, but business is looking quiet into February and beyond when kiwis traditionally wait to see what the weather will do before booking.

This is especially given events in the North Island such as the Americas Cup that may act to keep North Islanders away from the South. A travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, announced last week, is also looking increasingly fraught due to a recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Sydney. 

“A lot of businesses are just hanging on by their fingernails in the hope that the travel bubble with Australia will happen early next year, but if it's delayed now, we won't be surprised. But businesses can only hold their breath for so long,” said Barke.

With steady inquiries for both business and holiday tourism from Australia, the bubble in this crucial market, and our biggest, could not come soon enough.

“While we need to balance health issues, there will be a lot of disappointment if this is delayed and there is potential for significant amounts of closures.”

He praised kiwis for their willingness to buy local and travel within New Zealand.

“Kiwis are good at helping each other, and that has been truly fantastic.”

Read edition 1006 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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