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Border reopening welcome but uncertainty remains

A Gisborne-based immigration adviser does not think the border reopening staged plan announced by the Government will work fast enough to address local businesses' struggles to recruit adequate labour.

The New Zealand border will reopen to vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers from Australia at 11.59pm on February 27 and to the same groups from the rest of the world on March 13, it was announced this week.

Jenny Currie, the director of Gisborne human resources and employment relations business People Plus, said it was great to finally have good news for Kiwis and critical workers struggling to get to New Zealand.

“Especially after the delays with MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) and the decision to delay the opening right before Christmas when lots of travellers already had flights booked for January.”

But she said there were still a lot of unanswered questions and details yet to be confirmed.

“It appears that immigration has tried to address the issue of our demand for ‘lower-skilled' workers by adding working holiday visas to the list for entry from March 14, however, the details are not yet clear.

“They have also reduced the income criteria for border exceptions for ‘other critical workers' and dropped the requirement to demonstrate that the skills are not readily obtainable . . . but the employer will most likely still have to prove that they have unique specialist/technical skills, which may continue to be hard to prove.”

Ms Currie said she was hopeful the intention of the announcement would work in practice.

“Because it's very apparent here locally in Gisborne that our businesses are struggling significantly to recruit adequate labour and I don't think this staged plan will address this fast enough. We have a list of skilled individuals ready and willing to move right now and who would significantly relieve the pressure from some of our local employers if only we could get them into the country.”

Details for Stage 3 of the plan in April still lacked any specific details, other than for existing temporary visa holders, she said.

“However, I don't imagine there will be many of these if they weren't already onshore before the initial lockdown.

“We will hold out hope but considering this is the third announcement on a border reopening plan it's hard to have any real confidence to rely on these dates.

“Until immigration policy is updated and processes are created to support the announcement it's hard to provide any certainty to individuals and businesses.”

Speed up the process: People Plus director Jenny Currie says skilled individuals are ready and willing to come to New Zealand right now but she fears the Government's staged plan for reopening the border will not occur quickly enough for businesses desperate for workers. Picture supplied