The freight, waste management, and bus and coach sectors are welcoming today’s announcement of changes to immigration settings, specifically the creation of a new temporary residence pathway for skilled drivers through a sector agreement.
Representatives of the three sectors had written to Immigration Minister Michael Wood in October to share their concern at a combined shortfall of more than 9000 drivers, and to call for urgent changes to immigration rules, to enable more skilled drivers to be brought in from offshore.
Simon Bridges, Chair of the Waste Management Industry Forum, says it is pleasing that the Government has listened.
“This change won’t fill all the vacancies, but it’s a good start,” he says. “Without it, it’s almost certain that our three sectors would’ve been forced to cut back services, which would have been disastrous for New Zealand’s economy, and for our living standards.”
National Road Carriers Association CEO Justin Tighe-Umbers says the inclusion of a pathway to residence in the scheme is exceptionally important.
“What we know is that offshore drivers place huge value on the possibility of a long-term future in New Zealand. They’re not just looking for a place to work for a year or two – they’re looking for a stable and secure environment where they can raise a family.
“If we’re going to compete for migrant drivers, a pathway to residence must be part of the deal; otherwise, those drivers will pursue opportunities in other developed economies.”
Meanwhile, Bus and Coach Association CEO Ben McFadgen says that today’s decision would not deter efforts to recruit drivers locally.
“All three of our sectors have been working really hard to fill the gap locally, and we’ve all committed a great deal to local recruitment and training initiatives.
“The problem is, building up a largely non-existent labour pool will be a slow process. Today’s decision means we can take immediate steps to tackle the problems we’re facing, while we wait for local recruitment initiatives to bear fruit.”
The three sectors look forward to working through the details of the agreement with the Government, and to then giving effect to the changes as soon as possible.
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