Relief and excitement are just some of the feelings in the Tauranga community following news that New Zealand’s border will reopen earlier than expected.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the border will fully reopen from the end of July, including for cruise ships and international students.
It comes with a range of other immigration announcements, including sector-specific agreements to support a shift away from low-skilled migrant labour, and a new 'Green list' of 85 hard-to-fill high-skill roles that provides a priority pathway to residency.
Visas for some 20,000 migrants already in the country are also being extended, and there will be new restrictions on students being able to work. Read more here.
Tauranga Business Chamber spokesperson Laura Boucher says with regards to business, the border announcement comes as a relief for a number of industries, but especially primary, construction and tourism-related sectors.
“When coupled with the immigration changes, this should alleviate some of the pressure businesses are currently feeling to recruit both skilled and unskilled staff.
“While this change won’t happen overnight, it is the beginning of a return to some pre-Covid normalcy, and will enable businesses to re-staff and re-group after a challenging few years.”
Tauranga Business Chamber spokesperson Laura Boucher. Photo: Salina Galvan Photography.
New that the maritime boarder will open is also being welcomed.
Tāpoi Te Moananui ā Toi/Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Oscar Nathan says they are absolutely delighted that the date for the maritime border reopening has finally been set, and that the full reopening of our aviation international border has also been brought forward.
“Our whole sector has been pushing for today’s announcements, and while the Coastal Bay of Plenty won’t start to see the full benefits until next spring and summer, it ensures everyone can start confidently planning towards our next peak visitor and cruise season.
“The timing of this announcement is vital for cruise line companies, which need long lead-in times to sort out their schedules and port reservations.
“But it’s also timely for international travellers who want to start planning their holidays and for our onshore tourism operators who will need to restart or rebuild their services before cruise passengers start arriving here.”
Tāpoi Te Moananui ā Toi/Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Oscar Nathan.
Oscar says they know many residents enjoy seeing these voyages arriving and departing from the harbour and “are very much looking forward to seeing them return”.
Reopening borders earlier than expected, and clarity around immigration settings will be welcome news to Kiwi businesses, says Buy NZ Made.
Executive director Dane Ambler says the announcement will start to relieve the pressure on SMEs.
“International travel to New Zealand is crucial to so many SMEs, be it through tourism, trade or custom.
“Bringing the date forward means more customers, more foot traffic, more international skills and talent on-shore sooner.
“New Zealand is facing unprecedented skill shortages right now. Businesses have strived to grow their own skills in the workforce, and reopening borders will ensure we can close skills gaps.”
The early opening of the borders is necessary and not a moment too soon, says the Restaurant Association.
“They have clearly read the room, and realised they need to do something about our dwindling workforce and fast,” says CEO Marisa Bidois.
“Our industry desperately needs skilled workers and with more tourists set to arrive, our businesses need to be operating at 100 per cent to help our sector recover.
“Those coming in on student and working holiday visas make up a critical part of our workforce so we need to start getting those people into the country long before our summer high season.”
Marisa says 94 per cent of the association’s members have indicated they’ve found it extremely difficult to recruit for mid-high level positions.
She says businesses should be able to rely on the immigration lever when talent cannot be found in the country.
Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois.
“Data from Student Job Search notes a 52 per cent decrease in applicants for hospitality work in Auckland since October 2021, and a 34 per cent drop nationally.
“Without the ability to access a migrant talent pool, hospitality proprietors are making serious sacrifices, by not operating at full capacity at a time when there is so much accumulated debt to pay back.
“Whilst the transition arrangement on the immigration rebalance settings for hospitality sounds promising, we look forward to hearing more details on what that looks like.”
Marisa says the announcement to extend some essential skills visas is also welcome news for the sector.
“After months of advocacy raising awareness of the pressure on our industry caused by staff shortages, this decision will provide relief to many hospitality operators, who have battled 18 months of uncertainty.
“We still have a number of ongoing concerns around the rebalance settings and what this will mean for our industry, and we look forward to meeting with Ministers in the coming weeks to further discussions about the future of hospitality in New Zealand.”