29 January 2013

Doubts over New Zealand visa condition to help Christchurch rebuild

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A new requirement for employers to carry out employment checks has been criticised by one employment lawyer who claims the added step will slow down the ability to recruit new staff.

New Zealand visa

One employment lawyer says the immigration minister's well intentioned efforts could hinder the Christchurch rebuild.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy announced the rule change yesterday; employers must carry out local labour searches before they are able to sponsor overseas citizens for a New Zealand visa. The change is mainly intended to assist with the rebuild operation in and around Christchurch after the earthquake in February, 2011 devastated the region.

Employers in Christchurch have consistently called for help from New Zealand immigration officials; large swathes of people left the region in the aftermath of the disaster and many employers would like to hire foreign labour to make up the gaps in the local workforce.

Mr Guy said his new condition would expedite the process while also ensuring that what local labour is left is not overlooked. However, Employment lawyer Paul Tremewan says the minister's new requirement adds a needless step to the process which threatens to further hinder the rebuild.

"I think it's a good idea that New Zealanders should be in work but the difficulty is that you're trying to find the right New Zealanders to be in these jobs and you've got competing priorities of getting the rebuild underway," Mr Tremewan told Newstalk ZB radio.

"Using skilled workers, albeit those that might be already based overseas and already working for some of the major construction companies, against someone who is presumably unemployed and on the waiting list who doesn't already have a job to be fitted into a workforce in an efficient and effective manner will simply delay the process of getting the rebuild done."

Mr Tremewan said Minister Guy's promise of publishing available workers online is also an unnecessary step as many companies will already have their own internal versions of available workers.

"The minister has said that [the list of New Zealanders ready for work] is going to be available online...I would have thought most employers would already know what is available if they're recruiting in their own workplace anyway.

"Now these are employers that generally have access to skilled work from offshore and bring people into the country on a regular basis but now before that process starts you've got to look up a load of New Zealand construction workers, how do I go about putting them into my own workforce, and training them and making sure they've got the right skill set?"

Mr Tremewan said despite his misgivings over the process, he had no issues with the minister's attempts to involve the local workforce in the rebuild operation.

"No question, the sentiment is admirable but I just don't think we should be setting up a resource management type regime to prevent employers from efficiently manning the workplace, especially in Christchurch.

"You have to look at the job at hand and figure out how best to do it.”


The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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