South’s migrant workers ‘valued’
‘‘We do struggle to fill roles, hence there's so many foreigners.’’
Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker says he will be stressing the value and contribution of the region’s migrant workers when Immigration Minister Iain LeesGalloway comes down on a tour of his electorate.
Walker has been accused of ‘‘irresponsible fearmongering’’ and ‘‘stoking fear and uncertainty’’ by the Minister because of his criticism that the cuts would be disastrous for the southern economy.
However, he was pleased to hear that the Minister was prepared ‘‘to experience first-hand just how much fear and uncertainty there is’’ about a Labour policy that would reduce migrant numbers by between 20,000 and 30,000, from 70,000 a year.
Lees-Galloway stressed this would be a targeted, regionalised approach ‘‘matching migrant workers to regional skills shortages’’.
Otago Federated Farmers dairy chairman Stephen Crawford, who farms near Clydevale in the Clutha District, said there was clearly a shortage of good people. His six employees all come from overseas and had been with him many years. ‘‘We do struggle to fill roles, hence there’s so many foreigners.’’
However, Federated Farmers was working with training organisations to create apprenticeship schemes to encourage a local workforce, to help steer people into the industry, ‘‘but it’s not a quick fix’’, he stressed.
‘‘It’s hard to replace that level of experience, but it’s not to say Kiwis can’t do it. We’ve tried but you just can’t get Kiwis.’’
‘‘I would love the opportunity to talk to the Minister. We need to work with the Government on this because we can’t operate businesses without staff.’’
Te Anau’s The Ranch Bar and Grill owner Daniel Anderson echoed similar concerns from the hospitality industry perspective. He cannot open the upstairs of his restaurant at the moment because of chronic under-staffing.
‘‘We’ve got no Kiwis that want to work. I want to know why they’re still on a benefit. There’s a lot of places looking for workers.’’
He welcomed a ministerial visit, to show what it was like to run a business without staff.
A spokesman for the Minister said he was unsure when the visit would take place, but that it was definitely ‘‘on the agenda’’.
Walker comments on English resignation, page 20.