NZ's marine industry losing jobs and millions of dollars due to border exemption rules

Laura James
Source: 1News

New Zealand's marine industry is losing millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs have been cut, because super yachts booked for refits here have been unable to get into the country.

Some vessels have turned to overseas competitors, prompting calls for the Government to urgently look at applications to enter.

The Marine Industry Association Executive Director, Peter Busfield says “we’re losing boats everyday”.

“The New Zealand marine industry is a 2 billion dollar business, and the refit and maintenance we believe makes up 25 per cent of that business," said Mr Busfield.

"So we're talking a couple hundred companies, several thousand workers, and unfortunately several hundred have already been laid off."

Family business Holton Marine is one of the companies struggling.

The workshop, based in Auckland’s Orams Marine Village, would usually be “manic” according to owner Rodney Holton, but yesterday staff were working on home projects to keep busy.

"This time last year we would have had 19 permanents, and contractors on top of that, now we're down to about 8 permanent staff," said Rodney Holton, owner.

“No business wants to lay off anyone, it's definitely been hard,” he said.

Mr Busfield said in a six month period, they would expect "150 vessels between 25 and 100m in length”.

“Unfortunately a lot of those boats coming down to New Zealand have deviated and now have gone to Australia, cause Australia have opened up their borders two or three weeks ago... and they’re letting these boats in for servicing here and now." 

A new maritime exception announced Friday will allow vessels to enter the country when there is a "compelling need", which includes for refits and repairs.

In a statement yesterday, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told 1 NEWS: “Anyone wanting to use the maritime exceptions to bring vessels in for refit and repair needs to plan for self-isolation and healthcare issues”.

But he said Immigration New Zealand won’t be ready to accept applications until later this month.

“They are first implementing changes to help reunite families, maritime changes will be made soon after that," said Mr Galloway.

But Mr Busfield says companies desperately need work in the next few weeks.

“We need work in the door, or I've got to go down again," said Mr Holton.

“It'd be a real pity to have lost this company from my grandfather starting it in 1956, under my watch it'd be terrible, so let’s get back into it now," Holton added.

The Marine Industry Association is calling for a clear process to be outlined by the Government, and a clear point of contact that can deal with applications in a timely manner.

Mr Busfield says streamlining the process would be a common sense approach.

"We've got some of the wealthiest people in the world that are looking to spend their money in New Zealand and so why don’t we take it?

“A vessel that has 4 or 5 million dollars worth of work to be done in New Zealand, might come to New Zealand with 10 crew, so we're getting 3 or 4 hundred thousand dollars worth of investment, from each of these people. Compare that to an average tourist that comes to NZ that might spend 2 or 3 thousand dollars."

Mr Busfield says the beauty of the vessels is they take between one and three weeks to sail to New Zealand.

"They’re basically quarantining while they’re on their vessel on their way to New Zealand and we think it's easy to control this," he said. 

"They've got enough money to keep a whole lot of families going down here," adds Mr Holton.