Latest news

Letter to Minister of Immigration – re next steps for the hospitality sector

posted on

11 November 2020

To: Hon Kris Faafoi – Minister of Immigration

Tēnā koe Minister

Next steps for the hospitality sector

Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on your success in this year’s General Election and your reappointment to the Immigration portfolio. I look forward to continuing to work with you over the coming term to help drive the hospitality sectors recovery – your support will be vital in this.

As you will know, not long after you took over the portfolio, I wrote to you relaying a number of matters regarding the Government’s immigration settings that were causing issues within our industry, as well as provide first hand Member feedback on how the decisions of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) were impacting the pace of the sector’s recovery.

Since this letter, my concerns have not abated. In many ways, the sheer volume of correspondence we have received from Members in the past month, points to what I can only describe as systemic responsiveness issues within INZ and an inability to be pragmatic in the current operating context.

If COVID-19 has made one thing abundantly clear, it is that a one size fits all approach by INZ does not meet the unique needs of our sector.

As a matter of urgency, I would like to meet with you to discuss the following matters:

  • the dire need for skilled hospitality workers
  • immigration settings for migrant workers
  • response times of INZ
  • the phantom New Zealand hospitality worker.

The dire need for skilled hospitality workers

Our sector has suffered significant losses as a result of the restrictions put in place to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19 – some long term establishments have shut their doors permanently due to the financial pressure caused by the restrictions.

For those remaining, they now head into the busiest quarter of the year, many with unsustainably low staffing levels. Operators are desperate for skilled workers but there are none.

“I don’t believe that the Government or Immigration NZ realise the difficulties we still have finding SKILLED workers for the hospitality industry. There are so many jobs being advertised at restaurants in the region, and from what I’m hearing, no-one is getting many decent applicants.” ​- Member, November 2020

The Association takes this issue very seriously and we have been working in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD)’s Regional Commissioner in Auckland, Mark Goldsmith, to create interim training solutions for entry level positions. However the lack of skilled workers extends beyond entry level roles, and is an issue faced nationwide.

Immigration settings for migrant workers

Connected to the lack of skilled hospitality workers, is the immigration settings. While we appreciate the current settings are in place to protect New Zealanders, we request the Government begin reconsidering the parameters. Not being able to access skilled labour continues to have a far reaching impact on our sector’s ability to recover. Many of the visas that have been extended due to COVID-19 will expire across January to March next year. This will only add to the pressure around recruitment as businesses are faced with losing these vital workers from their businesses. In addition, INZ has added some of our key skills (such as waiter, cook and cafe worker) to the Oversupply list without sufficient research into what is happening on the ground.

We are calling for considered, pragmatic changes to our immigration settings to allow skilled labour to return to our shores. Response times of INZ Appreciating our robust relationship with many INZ officials, many Members have asked us to relay their experiences with you – a snapshot of this feedback is set out below.

“I have been waiting since Dec 20 for a Restaurant Manager visa with still no answer from Immigration… it is ridiculous!”​ – Member, November 2020

We are also receiving feedback from suppliers and those working in other parts of the supply chain, that they too are having difficulty recruiting operational staff. The general consensus among Members is that there is a view that our businesses do not want to employ New Zealanders, despite this not being the case – Kiwis are not turning out for roles.

I am extremely proud of how our sector has held itself during what can only be described as the most significant challenge of recent times. However, we know we cannot rebuild alone: closer collaboration with the Government will be crucial to ensure we rebuild and replenish the hospitality sector following the pandemic. Amending immigration policy to support the hospitality industry’s recovery was a priority area in our 2020 Election Manifesto. I have attached a copy of our Manifesto for ease of reference. I believe that these issues will only get worse as time goes on, and welcome the opportunity to meet with you at the earliest possible opportunity and start discussions on charting a new course for the hospitality sector within the national economy over the longer term.

Ngā mihi nui,

Marisa Bidois
Tāhūhū Rangapū (Chief Executive)
Restaurant Association of New Zealand

Back to News