The city of Christchurch is still struggling to recover following the devastating earthquake which struck the region in January, 2011.
New Zealand immigration authorities have assisted the rebuild process by making it easier for foreign construction workers to come to the region, but now the hospitality industry is claiming it too is in dire need of workers.
The 6.3 magnitude earthquake which took 185 lives and caused NZ$15 billion (£7.6 billion) worth of damage also resulted in a mass exodus from the region, slowing down the city’s ability to recover quickly. With the rebuild still to being in earnest, the government has made it easier for foreign construction workers to obtain a New Zealand visa, setting up an online service aimed at helping employers find foreign workers. The government’s skills shortage list initially targeted builders and engineers but now includes plasterers, roofers and other trades workers.
However, as businesses begin to find their feet again several owners have called for similar help to be granted to the hospitality industry. Just half the city’s 1,000-plus cafes, restaurants and bars have reopened since the quake and many more are due to reopen to capitalise on the summer season yet many fear a ‘lost generation’ of workers who left following the disaster will hinder the industry.
One Christchurch cafe owner said he had 32 members of staff before the earthquake; within a fortnight of the tragedy, all but five had left the region. Marisa Bidois, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, said she intended to speak to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) about getting hospitality workers places on the skills shortage list. “What we’ve heard from the industry is that the Canterbury region is definitely struggling to find key skilled hospitality workers to fill those,” said Ms Bidois.
A spokesperson for INZ said the skills shortage list would be reviewed in February and then after every quarter to ensure employers would be able to find enough workers.