Updates and current advocacy activity

You can also view our press releases and statements here and check out the RA in the News.

We’re constantly working with Central and Local governments to ensure that our industry is represented at every level of decision making. Check out our most recent work below.

24 November, 2023 – The recognition of hospitality in the tourism portfolio underscores a respect for the pivotal role that our industry contributes to the NZ economy and the tourism experience.

While Tourism and Hospitality are inherently linked, Hospitality is often lost by the Government in conversations about the Tourism industry. Including “Hospitality” in the title, we are confident, is a positive step towards generating a more targeted emphasis on our sector within the government.

This is something that we have advocated for, for a number of years. The hospitality industry contributes over $14bn to the national economy but Government policy has regularly missed the mark when considered against the realities of our sector. We have been missing specialised representation by those that understand our industry’s unique challenges and attributes and we anticipate that this development will pave the way for a more cohesive representation for our sector.

We look forward to engaging with the new Government, and incoming Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Minister Doocey, in the coming weeks where we will continue to highlight the industry, and our industry’s priorities.

View the Restaurant Association’s Election Manifesto here.

Key advocacy activity 3rd quarter 2023:

Previous advocacy activity and key wins

Key advocacy activity 2nd quarter 2023:

Key advocacy activity 1st quarter 2023:


  • As a result of Auckland Anniversary weekend floods, the Tāmaki Makaurau Business Leadership Group, originally established in 2020 was reassembled, to discuss approaches to support businesses in the emergency response and recovery.
  • Restaurant Association made formal recommendations to Auckland Council that they suspend licence fees for affected operators. This recommendation was successful.


  • As a result of Cyclone Gabrielle and state of emergency impacts, the following emergency response advisory groups were established, with Restaurant Association representation on each group:
    • VSEAG (Visitor Sector Emergency Advisory Group) – emergency response
    • VSEAG – cyclone recovery
    • National Tourism Support Network
  • Engaged with national QSR group regarding representation for the sector in future Fair Pay Agreement bargaining.
  • Made a submission on the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Bill
  • Met with Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins
  • Met with Minister for Small Business, Ginny Andersen, and arranged for the Minister to meet with flood-affected members.
  • Met with Minister for Auckland, Michael Wood
  • The Restaurant Association has been actively involved in the workstreams set up to support the roll out of the Auckland flood relief, including
    • involvement in the set up of the Activate Community online platform
    • engagement on the implementation of the Back to Work grants
    • engagement on the implementation of the First Steps health & wellbeing platform and grants


  • Met with Wellington Mayor, Tory Whanau
  • Met with Invercargill Mayor, Nobby Clark
  • Met with representatives of Ringa Hora to discuss future initiatives for development
  • Through representation on the Tourism ITP leadership group, the Association was involved in the official launch of the Tourism Better Work Plan
  • Launched the Cooking up a Storm Cyclone fundraising event (industry dinners around the country on 20 March)
  • Launched the 2023 Restaurant Association Election Manifesto, outlining key priorities for the industry

Older advocacy activity:

Level 4 Cookery Qualification Removed

Responding to pressure from industry, Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced on Sunday 9 October measures targeted to support our industry.

  • Level 4 qualification requirement removed from 18 October
  • Exemption to median wage for some roles to be set at 95% of median wage from April 2023 – April 2024
  • Government acknowledges changes are in response to industry pressure

The Association has met with both the Minister and Immigration NZ to formally request the removal of the Level 4 qualification requirement for chefs. We raised issues during the consultation process and shortly thereafter regarding this requirement. We know this has been causing many challenges for those of you seeking to hire migrant chefs and we are welcoming the news that our requests have been heard and this requirement has now been removed.

For employers with recently approved AEWV job checks for chef roles, this means you can now offer the role to candidates without the qualification.

Covid Support Payment (CSP) confirmed and date comparator criteria updated

The Association has been advocating for additional financial support for hospitality and welcomed the announcement of the Covid Support Payment. The Association then challenged the eligibility criteria for the CSP subsidy and brought to the Government’s attention that the proposed date comparison was inappropriate for our industry as it compared to a period that is seasonally quiet and revenue was already significantly affected. Through our engagement with the Minister of Finance’s office, Treasury and in collaboration with other business organisations, our concerns were heard with the announcement of a change to the date criteria.

We know the change (adding a comparison to 2021) will not provide every business with the ability to access the support. We would have preferred the date comparator to be compared to a ‘normal trading period’ as this would mean many more members would be able to access help. However, this is a compromise and feedback from members has been that it does mean more are now eligible than before, particularly with having the two date options to consider when assessing the 7 consecutive days of revenue decline.

Red level settings updated to allow takeaway under retail settings

In December 2021 the Association questioned the requirements for those businesses that intended to operate under the traffic light framework without requiring customers to present a My Vaccine Pass (ie contactless takeaway only). The government had informed industry that employees would still need to be vaccinated even if you intended to operate contactless takeaways. As a result of our pressure, DPMC, MOH, and MBIE updated their advice and if a business intends to operate for takeaways only, the business will operate under the retail rules, as the public health risk profile is similar. This has 2 very important implications for takeaway businesses:

  • if you are solely takeaway, staff do not fall under the vaccine mandate
  • if you opt to not ask for vaccine passes, you can operate as takeaway, rather than contactlessly (AL3 style). You won’t be able to provide seating, but customers will be able to come inside for ordering and pick up.

Auckland Council announces changes to recognise challenges for hospitality

In September the Association wrote to Mayor Phil Goff and met with Auckland Council representatives, requesting Auckland Council provide targeted assistance for Auckland hospitality businesses, including extending licence expiry dates, fast tracking outdoor dining applications, extending outdoor spaces. This resulted in changes being announced to recognise Auckland’s challenges.

Immigration settings change direct result of #LightsOut

After months of advocacy, and collective action on this issue, the government decided it will provide relief to many hospitality operators, who have battled 18 months of uncertainty.

We’re pleased the Government has listened to our concerns and acknowledged the pressures felt by businesses across the country, while COVID border restrictions remain in place. The extension will give many of our businesses some breathing space, affecting almost 10,000 workers in the hospitality sector, while we build our future workforce.

The changes announced include:

  • From 19 July 2021, the maximum duration of Essential Skills visas for jobs paid below the median wage ($27.00), will increase from 12 months to 24 months.
  • The application process for Essential Skills visas will also be simplified for migrant workers remaining in their current roles:
    • Employers won’t be required to complete a labour market test where a worker is applying for a visa renewal for a role they are already holding.
    • These applicants also won’t need to provide medical and police certificates to Immigration New Zealand if that information has been supplied previously.
    • Note, a labour market test will still be required where employers are filling a job vacancy.
  • In addition, the new Accredited Employer Work Visa, which was due to come into effect on 1 November 2021, will be delayed until the middle of next year (2022).

Wellington City Council – Parking Changes

Under the Wellington City Councils Long Term Plan, Fees & hours changes were proposed for central city parking. These changes included restricting parking to 2 hours before 10 pm, therefore making it difficult to enjoy dinner or attend a show or movie. The Restaurant Association and a collective of local business groups petitioned the Council to amend this change with an open letter. On 30 June 2021 the council voted not to adopt the change in parking time, which was a win for the organising group.

Regulating to reduce merchant service fees

For several years the Restaurant Association has advocated on the costs associated with credit card transactions. In February 2021 the Government began consultation and the Association welcomed the opportunity to make a submission on ‘Regulating to reduce Merchant Service Fees’. We support the Government’s appetite to regulate merchant fees and welcomed the announcement in May 2021 that a Retail Payments Systems Bill will be introduced later in 2021 to require reductions in interchange fees.

Changes to current Alert Level framework requirements

Our reliance on an alert level framework to guide us on the requirements for trading will be in place for the foreseeable future. Alert levels will still play an important part as we navigate through the coming months, which will introduce a roll-out of Covid-19 immunization and gradual reopening of our borders (starting with Australia and Pacific Island bubbles).

The Restaurant Association has proposed some robust alternatives to the current regime, addressing both operational and fiscal changes that can be implemented to help support the ongoing economic wellbeing of the hospitality industry. Our advocacy on this has resulted in an invitation by the government to discuss our perspectives on improving the current framework.

Wage subsidy criteria

The Association challenged the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy and brought it to the Government’s attention. This has resulted in the requirements being changed to allow comparison to 2020 or 2019 turnover. This will result in many more affected business becoming eligible for this much needed support after the week long level change.

Hospitality Springboard

Through our work with the Ministry of Social Development, a new joint initiative has been launched in 2021 to fill the critical skills shortage in the hospitality industry. The Hospitality Springboard is a pilot initiative that will initially work with around 80 members to upskill and train their employees so businesses can retain staff and keep them employed.

The joint Government-sector initiative will bring employers and employees together to nurture current talent and encourage career development in hospitality. It will provide wellbeing support, wage supplements and wrap-around training, ranging from three to 24 months across a range of courses – from short entry-level courses to certifications such as Licence Controller Qualification, leadership training and up to 2 years NZQA Level Four courses, such as chefs training.

December 2020 Immigration Changes

Following extensive appeals to the Minister for Immigration, the Government made a welcome announcement in December 2020 that migrant workers in New Zealand would be able to stay and work here for longer, following adjustments to visa settings. Immigration New Zealand indicated it would contact all eligible visa holders.

Tautoko Hāpai Ō – Hospitality Workers Support

Following support from the Government’s COVID-19 Workers and Workplaces Assistance Fund, the Restaurant Association launched a worker support service at the end of 2020 named Tautoko Hāpai Ō – Hospitality Workers Support initiative.

The service ensures hospitality workers are able to access support through an online resource portal, as well as employment opportunities and specialised advice. The service also aims to support apprentices who have been displaced due to COVID-19, and help them reconnect to employment within hospitality.