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Pacific Island workers welcome, but what about those already here? - EMA

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

EMA Chief Executive Brett O’Riley is calling for the Government to declare an overstayer amnesty alongside allowing more RSE workers from the Pacific Islands to come here quarantine-free from next month.

"We know a large proportion of those who have overstayed their visas are from the Pacific Islands, and given they are already here and part of our community, why wouldn’t we be looking at supporting them first?" he asks.

"There is no doubt that Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers will fill labour shortages, particularly in the agriculture sector, but potentially people for those jobs are here already so I’m not clear on why we’re not giving them first crack."

Mr O’Riley says businesses across all regions and sectors are struggling with skill shortages and there is a need for this kind of approach from the Government, but overstayer amnesty should have been the first step.

"We’ve got people who need the work but are scared of coming out of the shadows for fear of being sent home because of their temporary status, and who won’t have the financial security they used to," he says.

"The shortage in workforce in infrastructure and construction has caused delays on major projects, projects that are reliant on and benefit from the Pacific Island workforce. Access to more labour currently in the country would be well received and help reduce the ongoing pressure on both industries."

Mr O’Riley welcomed calls from Tongan Princess Mele Sui’ilikutapu Kalanivalu Fotofili for a clearly defined pathway to residency in New Zealand, as the next logical step to strengthen the relationship with Pacific Island communities and countries.

"These countries rely on New Zealand, and we need a much more transparent and aspirational pathway for their migrants, who end up supporting both their own and New Zealand’s economy".

"We are keen to work with the Government on how an overstayer amnesty and residency pathway like this would help fill the skills chasm, now and in the future."

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