The Government's immigration changes to the Skilled Migrant Category and Working Holiday Visa are too little, too late for some Fiordland businesses, MP for Southland, Joseph Mooney, says.
"Serious questions need to be asked as to why the Government has failed Fiordland businesses who, according to a recent survey of 32 businesses, report that they are short more than 244 workers this season.
At least 28 of those businesses indicated that due to ongoing worker shortages, many are closing for days, blocking out bed spaces and guest nights, and operating with shorter hours due to an inability to meet customers' and guests' needs.
In response to the question, "Is the crisis issue affecting owners' and managers' mental health" 21 businesses (or 65.63%) responded "yes", while 4 (12.50%) were unsure.
"Alarmingly, 75% of the businesses surveyed indicated "burn out or stress affecting their teams' mental health if the worker shortages were not resolved".
"This is unacceptable and immoral", says Mr Mooney.
"Milford Sounds is one of New Zealand's most popular visitor attractions and iconic destinations. Businesses are grateful for the return of international visitors, but to now find themselves unable to offer those visitors the world-class experience they expect due to workforce shortages is blame squarely to lay at the Government's policy failures.
"I have persistently advocated for the Government to resolve these issues on behalf of businesses in my electorate during the worst labour shortages in 50 years in our country's history.
"In addition to writing to the Minister for Immigration and Tourism about the impact of the worker shortages on businesses and communities in my electorate, I have also actively met many hospitality providers on the ground to offer them support.
"Just today, I have again written to both Ministers to share the devastating survey results with them as a demonstration of the results of their policy failures on businesses and livelihoods.
"A few weeks ago, Minister Wood was sitting across from me during the General debate in Parliament when I asked what the Government intends to do about the situation. There was no response", Mr Mooney says.
"When my colleague and Spokesperson for Immigration Erica Stanford joined me at a meeting with businesses to hear first-hand their stories of despair, comments on our regular social media posts certainly reflect the general public sentiment.
"Labour has failed businesses by being too slow to act on this crisis”, says Mr Mooney.
"They chose to do an immigration reset during a worker shortage crisis and kept the Skilled Migrant Category closed all year.
"Equally, their changes in August this year to the Working Holiday Visa came far too late, with many working holiday visa workers leaving the country before the changes came into effect.
"Many offshore Working Holiday visa applicants cannot come to the country until 2023 at least, and the application fees have doubled. In the meantime, businesses in my electorate continue to struggle financially and mentally.
"Labour needs to explain why it has taken so long to do something about this dire situation, while skill shortages have continued to hurt Kiwi businesses, driving up consumer prices and holding back the economy.
"Labour should have adopted National's plan to refund application fees, raise the age limit to 35 years, immediately open applications to all countries we offer a Working Holiday Visa, and allowed anyone who has already had a Working Holiday Visa to apply for a second and third visa if they work in tourism, hospitality or agriculture.
"Fiordland businesses have paid the price for Labour's policy failures, and Labour will have to face the music next year when the country scores their actions", Mr Mooney says.
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