Faafoi defends immigration reforms from hospo criticism

Source: 1News

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi is defending the major reforms to New Zealand's immigration settings, announced by the Government on Wednesday.

"We want to make sure we're transitioning to a higher wage, higher skill economy. It's going to be better for us in the long run," Faafoi told Breakfast.

Cafe worker (file picture).

The reforms include introducing a medium wage - $27.76 - for most Accredited Employer Work Visas and for Foreign Fishing Visas.

For the tourism and hospitality sectors, a threshold of $25 per hour is in place until April next year.

READ MORE: Major reforms to NZ immigration settings announced

Construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood and seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors will also have lower wage thresholds, before new agreements are made.

A "Green List" is also being introduced for specific jobs with pathways to residency.

The reforms have been criticised by both National and the Greens. National said Labour has no credibility on actually delivering the skilled workers they promise, while the Greens said the Government was effectively entrenching a two-tier immigration system, rewarding high-income migrants and punishing low-waged workers.

Those in the hospitality sector have also voiced their concerns. Hospitality New Zealand CEO Julie White said the sector needs waitresses, duty managers and chefs.

White said consumers will end up with higher prices and less choice due to the reforms.

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"This is an all of us issue now," she remarked.

But Faafoi said the lower threshold of $25 was all about giving the tourism and hospitality sectors time to transition to the $27.76 medium wage.

"We need to make sure we give them time to adjust economically to make sure they can afford to pay more, but also to make sure those workers they've traditionally relied on – those who are coming here for a holiday and will work at the same time – can get back in the country too."

He also pointed out applications for working holiday schemes reopened in mid-March and were one of the first visa categories to open up "so those sectors have the staff available".

"We've made no secret and we've made no apologies that we want to make sure that we have a smart immigration system and move to a higher wage, higher skilled economy and what we've announced in the last 24 hours lays the foundation for that."