Regions around NZ calling for more workers from overseas

04/10/2017

The total population of New Zealand is projected to reach 5.2-6.3 million by 2038.

Auckland is expected to reach a population of 2 million in the early 2030s.

Many Kiwis are calling for those new to the country to be redirected to the regions.

Ashburton is one town that will benefit from the population increase because it doesn't currently have enough people to fill the available jobs.   

Mayor of Ashburton Donna Favel said Ashburton tends to lose a lot of its population as people enter their early 20s.

However, the town's migrant population is thriving.

"Many of our big employers now 30% of their payroll is migrants.

"At our last citizenship ceremony 67 new New Zealanders were sworn in on the one day, [from] right across the world."

Ms Favel said the town would be "very bland" without migrants.

Yet, the mayor said there are "hundreds" of jobs unfilled in the Canterbury town.

"We still have a lot of employers looking to fill positions [in] teaching, health, truck drivers, agriculture – we desperately are still looking for employees in our district."

"We have a lot of employers who tell me they're struggling to get employees."

She encouraged migrants to move to Ashburton rather than Auckland, claiming that people could buy three houses in Ashburton for the price of one in Auckland.

"We've got really good stable employers who are generous, they're open, they welcome people. Whether you've moved across the district, across the country, or across the world, this is a welcoming community who want to see you succeed."

Ms Favel said she would upload more information about available positions on her public Facebook page for anyone interested.

One major sector that employs migrant workers in the regions around New Zealand is farming.

Hanzon Jobs specialises in finding the best match possible between the aspirations of machinery drivers and agriculture workers from abroad and the requirements of contractors and dairy farmers throughout New Zealand.

Richard Houston, who runs Hanzon Jobs, said current immigration policies aren't allowing enough essential migrant workers to gain visas.

"It’s the worst I've seen since I've been in business. We've been running for 10 years. We can't always fill the positions but this year…I've never seen anything like it."

Mr Houston said the major barrier is that machinery drivers and agriculture workers are classified as 'low-skilled' according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZCO).

He said New Zealand immigration services take the ANZCO skill level of workers into account when considering whether to grant their visas.

ANZCO specifies seasonal workers need to earn at least $35/hr to qualify as 'high-skilled'. 

Mr Houston estimated current rates for trained workers in their early 20s are between $20-$25/hr.

He warned that if visas continue to be denied for their 'low-skilled' status, it could become a health and safety issue.

"One particular guy has advertised for four months and hasn't had a single person apply for the job…His farm's quite steep, it's quite dangerous, you need skilled people."

"[Farmers] are going to have a $200,000 tractor parked up at the yard without a driver and they've got two options: they can either leave that tractor parked at the yard and have money go down the drain every day it's not working, or they can try and find someone like a school-leaver who can do the job, but hasn't had the right training."

Mr Houston suggested an alternative could be adopting an apprenticeship programme for school leavers already living in New Zealand to be trained in the necessary skills to take up those positions.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam, and Richard Loe 5-7AM Saturdays and Sundays.