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Letter to the Minister of Immigration – concerns around ‘immigration reset’

posted on

21 May 2021
Hon Kris Faafoi
Minister of Immigration

Tēnā koe Minister

Immigration settings must be based on more than ideology

I am writing to place my concerns regarding the direction the Government is taking immigration on record, following the delivery of the Immigration Reset speech on 17 May. I would also like to seek a time to meet with you to discuss the real consequences the proposed immigration redirection presents for the hospitality sector.

Our sector is one defined by our people: our restaurant and café Member businesses curate and craft dining experiences, providing places for family celebrations and gatherings. They are often whānau run businesses, with recipes passed down generation to generation, and see sharing their culture with New Zealanders as pride of place. It is not by chance that we are one of the bigger sectors in Aotearoa that employs migrant workers.

Around 15 per cent of our current workforce is made up of people on temporary work visas. Our Members pride themselves on providing meaningful job opportunities for New Zealanders, however, the reality is that many of these roles are not currently able to be filled by Kiwis. The reasons for this are diverse and have been spelt out for the Government across a multitude of submissions over the past year.

For the migrants working in our sector, these jobs provide a hand-up that helps them create a better quality of life for themselves and their families. However, I couldn’t help but pick up on a theme woven through the Immigration Reset speech is the need to attract ‘highly-skilled’ workers to our shores. Experience shows us officials have a narrow interpretation of ‘highly skilled’.

Highly skilled people are not just CEOs, engineers, financiers, research and development practitioners, digital and IT specialists, agricultural workers and those in the film industry, as outlined in the reset speech. In hospitality, highly skilled refers to a specialist chef or a head chef who has crafted their skill over several years of training and experience, it is a restaurant manager who has experience in developing incredible customer service experiences, it is the pastry chef who is an artisan that has worked in Michelin starred restaurants and the sommelier who has extensive knowledge of wine from many regions around the world, many of whom devote years to perfecting their craft. Profit margins are tight in hospitality, which means wage costs need to be carefully managed, however it does not mean these employees are lacking in skill.

I would also like to make mention of the Government’s express desire to engage with business regarding the proposed immigration redirection. Not long after your appointment to the role, we wrote to you outlining our concerns around immigration policy and the impact its application by Immigration NZ was having on our existing migrant workers. We also recommended a number of modest changes to improve the way Immigration NZ engages with our sector. These recommendations were:

  • continue to reward those employers who can demonstrate they are committed to hiring New Zealanders first i.e. by engaging in the Hospo Start training programme.
  • support the Association’s work across Government to recreate the hospitality employment narrative and help New Zealanders to see hospitality as a career pathway for life.
  • ensure that our Association is included in the consultation that happens around immigration matters.
  • a dedicated hospitality page on the INZ website.

We note that there has been work done on a dedicated hospitality page on the INZ website which has been helpful for the industry. However, there has been an absence of consultation on the accreditation finalisation and other areas that specifically impact hospitality businesses. We were told by senior officials that we would be contacted in early 2021 to be part of the consultation group finalising the details around the accreditation processes but at this stage have not been approached to be involved in this consultation.

We know that no organisation can implement change alone and would ask where there are proposed changes to policy that the Government seeks to engage with the Restaurant Association, as a representative of more than 2,500 hospitality business owners employing more than 50,000 employees, on these matters.

We are working hard with other areas of Government, such as the Ministry of Social Development, on initiatives like HospoStart and Springboard training, however our businesses continue to struggle accessing skilled workers.

As a nod toward doing things differently and creating change in our industry, we have spearheaded the Future of Hospitality Roadmap, a first for our sector. We have already garnered considerable cross-sector support from sister organisations, unions, industry operators and business organisations and would welcome your feedback on the Roadmap before its launch later this year. As the first of its kind, we would welcome input from you and your officials if we want to build a hospitality sector that is truly fit for the future.

Since Monday’s announcement, we have been bombarded by calls from our Members, many in tears, dismayed at the Government’s approach to immigration and lack of cognisance for sectors that heavily rely on migrant talent. I have attached a summary of just a small portion of the feedback we have received over the last week. Many of these Members fear that this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back; proprietors have endured months of struggle, but without staff, businesses will be brought to their knees. An establishment could have the best kit out, the best menu, or even the highest financial backing, but without people, a hospitality business cannot exist.

Our immediate recommendations for change, in addition to our original recommendations:

  • pause the planned immigration salary threshold increase to $27.00 while the industry is still in a tenuous economic position
  • provide an additional visa extension for employer-assisted work visa holders currently in New Zealand to allow employers to retain their existing migrant workforce while the industry is experiencing skill shortages
  • consult regarding the proposed franchise group requirements for the new employer-assisted visa framework, as franchise organisations don’t fit a one-size-fits-all approach
  • allow border exceptions for “other critical workers” from other industries, such as hospitality, where there is a proven need.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at the earliest convenience, to discuss these issues in more detail. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ngā mihi nui,

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


  1. Member feedback

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