19 June 2009

Queenstown operators tell Immigration New Zealand of work permit problems

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Queenstown tourism and hospitality employers told an Immigration New Zealand meeting yesterday that existing workers were finding it difficult to renew their work permit, an issue compounded by the fact that the Department of Labour was launching a scheme to attract new working holidaymakers.

About 35 Queenstown tourism and hospitality employers attended the meeting at a Queensland resort about the new Queenstown hospitality and tourism working holiday pilot scheme.

Queenstown Novotel's general manager Jim Moore said he supported the scheme but it was frustrating that existing workers were having trouble renewing their New Zealand Work Permit while new people were being targeted to come and work under the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

Mr Moore said 55 per cent of staff in Queenstown's tourism and hospitality industry was on work visas, and he would always attempt to employ New Zealanders first but foreign workers were essential to his business.

Novotel has 22 different nationalities employed at the moment, he said.

Immigration New Zealand  acting regional manager Alan Barry said the New Zealand Work Permit scheme was very different from the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

Employers had to prove they made "genuine attempts" to employ New Zealanders before a work permit would be issued.
However, employers could take on working holiday visa holders for up to 12 months.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce board member Richard Thompson said Immigration New Zealand and Work and Income New Zealand needed to work closely with employers to ensure people waiting for permit renewals were processed quickly.

“The backlog of work permit applications needs to be cleared before employers could know how many working holidaymakers they needed”, he said.


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