Storm in a teacup

Workers in demand have always been able to be recruited offshore.

Property developers Fu Wah have been in the news lately for moves to recruit construction workers from China. The Beijing-based construction company is applying for short-term work visas for 200 workers to complete the fit-out of new luxury Auckland hotel Park Hyatt by March next year.

The Opposition are trying to paint this as the Government making a “u-turn” on immigration policy and letting more migrants into the country. But I have to agree with Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway here: what is all the fuss about?

We all know there are not enough skilled tradespeople currently in New Zealand to complete all the infrastructure and housing projects that are under way and planned for. We will need to look to the overseas workforce if we want projects done.

The current criteria that permits New Zealand employers to request approval from Immigration New Zealand to recruit multiple foreign workers has more than adequate safe guards to protect the jobs of New Zealanders.

  • Employers must show they cannot find suitably skilled workers locally.
  • All the visa applicants recruited through this approval mechanism must meet certain qualification/experience thresholds.
  • These workers will only have permission to remain in New Zealand for the duration of the project/job.

This process has worked very well for a long time, although it has been somewhat underutilised by Kiwi employers. It represents an ideal solution when a large labour force is required quickly for a short duration to complete large construction projects.

It’s also worth noting that workers must be employed under New Zealand labour laws, so there is no risk of the migrants being exploited here.

If there is any other perceived ‘risk’ to Border integrity or costs to say, the health system, Immigration New Zealand can require the New Zealand Company to provide a formal sponsorship undertaking.

If the Minister wants to enhance the current system to deal with any ‘risk’, he could look at the Pastoral Care obligations that Recognised Seasonal Employers have to abide by. It might be good to add these obligations onto the existing rules for when a company applies for a large number of visas for one project.

Personally I hope that the companies working on the State Highway 1 roadworks at Drury and Takanini follow Fu Wah’s lead and import some construction workers to speed things up and bring back some sanity back to the commute from South Auckland.

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