A Government proposal to tighten immigration rules doesn’t take into account the challenges New Zealand’s $35 billion tourism industry faces in attracting staff, particularly in visitor hotspots and during the peak season.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa said the Government’s proposed changes to the Essential Skills visa will only make it more difficult for the fast-growing tourism industry to attract essential staff, stifling the growth potential of the country’s largest export earner. “Simply tightening immigration settings should not be done without first addressing the lack of suitably qualified New Zealanders,” said Chris Roberts, TIA chief executive.

Roberts added that when changing policy settings, the Government must demonstrate greater empathy for the specific requirements of the tourism industry. “There are already acute staff shortages in certain areas, such as popular tourism hotspots, remote destinations and at peak times of the year.”

New Zealanders are often not available in these areas or may be lacking the required attributes or skills.

“Although the New Zealand tourism industry prefers hiring Kiwis, this is often not an option.”

Instead of the proposed one-size-fits-all approach, the Government needs to take into account the substantial differences between local and regional economies and labour markets.