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Reopening includes immigration reset

New Zealand is reopening fully to the world from August 1, two months earlier than had been signalled and announced just in the nick of time to secure cruise ship visits this summer, and support the rebuilding of the wider tourism industry.

The Government also announced a package of reforms to help address skills shortages in some key sectors, at a time when tight labour supply across the board is being exacerbated as Kiwis held back from travel and overseas work opportunities by the pandemic take flight.

A new “green list” includes more than 85 hard-to-fill roles, providing a streamlined and prioritised pathway to residency that incentivises highly-skilled healthcare, engineering, trade and tech sector workers to relocate to New Zealand long-term.

The major criticism is that the roles singled out for preferential treatment are too narrow, so we will continue to lose out to countries that not only have higher wages but wider incentivised immigration settings.

For example, the nurses’ union is shocked that nurses are not included in the fast-tracked pathway to residence. Rather, eligible migrant nurses will be able to apply for residence after two years; likewise for other key roles in short supply, like teachers and plumbers.

Any migrants paid twice the median wage of $27 will be able to apply for residence after two years.

There are sector-specific agreements to help tourism and hospitality transition from a reliance on low-wage, low-skill migrant labour; their wage threshold of $25 will apply until April 2023.

New agreements will also be put in place later this year for the care, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, and the seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors to provide for a short-term or ongoing need for access to lower-paid migrants.

Visa extensions for about 20,000 migrants already in New Zealand will help to keep skilled workers in the country.

The international education sector will also fully reopen from August 1 and is expected to quickly fill gaping holes in the finances of our tertiary providers in particular. Of interest will be how much demand is affected by a change in settings to limit the ability to use study as a “backdoor route to residency”.

Immigration NZ has 230 new staff to help deal with the increased demand for visas. It has also adopted a new online system, with the aim of reducing what have been frustratingly long processing times.