NZ - Queenstown pleads its case for migrants

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Jacqui Dean, MP for the New Zealand region of Otago, is concerned that any tightening of New Zealand immigration regulations would adversely affect Queenstown's service and hospitality sector.

The southern New Zealand city of Queenstown depends heavily on tourism such as skiing, boating and mountain biking and relies on its service sector to support visitors.

In August, more than 3,000 foreigners were estimated to be working on employment visas. The visas were designed to assist tourism-related businesses in filling labor shortages during the busy season, but are being issued year-round now.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe asked for a review of the visa system, citing problems such as guest workers' expectations that the temporary visas could lead to permanent residence and that the migrant workers could be taking jobs away from the local population.

She stated that the government should consider Queenstown a special case when reviewing how the visas might be impacting the New Zealand labor force, pointing out that the tourist city's unemployment figures were almost non-existent.

"There's no point in claiming that these workers are taking jobs away from the statistics, there is no unemployment in Queenstown," she said.

"Queenstown is a unique region which, I believe, has a special case when it comes to securing unskilled overseas workers to meet the needs of the tourism and hospitality sectors," she added.

She warned that the long-term affects of limiting immigration to Queenstown could be dire.

"There's an identified shortage of unskilled staff in Queenstown, so by moving the goal-posts here and blocking overseas workers the Government is effectively cutting off the lifeblood of the country's fastest growing regions," she said.

"This is a short-sighted policy shift which is, and will continue to have, far-reaching ramifications for business in Queenstown."