Tuesday, 9th August, 2016

A breakdown of Auckland’s high immigration numbers shows most add value to the city, but also that we could do much better to target areas where skill shortages are greatest, says Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett.

“The two key government agencies responsible for employment - Immigration and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - need to link arms with Auckland’s business organisations. The current ‘fine tuning’ approach to meet demand by offshore recruitment isn’t working. A more strategic and fast-footed response to cover skill shortages is required.”

He was responding to recent criticism that Auckland is being flooded by immigrants adding to the city’s housing shortage.

“That’s not clear at all. But what is clear is that we are not targeting skills where there are immediate and long-term shortages, especially construction – skills that could help Auckland gear up to build more houses.”

Around 800 new Aucklanders are currently settling in Auckland each week. A breakdown of the 68,000 net migrants to New Zealand in the year to June, shows over a quarter include temporary work visa-holders who originate primarily from the UK, France, Germany and Australia. This includes young people on holiday work schemes who may be in New Zealand for only a year.

Another quarter include New Zealanders who have been overseas for more than a year and are returning home to live, and Australians who intend to live here for longer than a year.

Just under a quarter are foreign students, who are counted as net migrants because they stay here for one year or more. And under a quarter include new residents, of whom 45 per cent are Indian and Chinese nationals. They apply for residency here after completing their New Zealand qualifications.

But none of these categories directly address Auckland’s well documented and persistent skill shortages – long term and immediate shortages in construction, engineering (30,000), health and social services, ICT (1500) and electronics, and areas such as teaching, chefs, trades and heavy truck driving (some 500).

“I agree with government that current immigrant categories can’t easily be reduced, but what I strongly believe is that a closer relationship between businesses and immigration agencies needs to be forged if the skills shortage is to be dented in coming years,” concluded Mr Barnett.

For more information contact Michael Barnett, mobile: 0275 631 150.
Michael Barnett, Chief Executive, Auckland Chamber of Commerce.