Opinion piece Aaron Martin Immigration lawyer NZIL
The Government has just announced a five-step plan to reopen New Zealand’s borders, starting on 27 February. It’s great news that will bring a lot of relief to New Zealand citizens stuck overseas, but for employers desperately waiting for migrant workers, things are not that straightforward. Like everything we’ve heard lately from this Government, the complexity within the details of the plan is going to cause frustration.
In the Government press conference, there was a lot of talk about New Zealand being in high demand. I think the Government has underestimated the damage that has been done to this country’s reputation through our COVID-19 management.
Given our recent history of essentially abandoning working tourists and leaving them with no income and no support, it’s going to take a lot of courage for people to decide to come to New Zealand and risk that happening again.
There’s been a lot of recent criticism of the Government’s approach to reopening the borders, and I feel that this plan is another classic example of a rushed and reactionary announcement that lacks vital detail.
Where we’re going wrong
Like many New Zealanders, I’ll be interested to see how the Government’s approach to managing Omicron changes as the borders open. Right now, it seems we have a dual approach which is out of step with the rest of the world. Other countries are learning to live with Omicron by opening the borders, relaxing restrictive conditions, and minimising self-isolating time. Yet visa holders entering New Zealand are still subject to restrictive COVID-related conditions including the potential for weeks of self-isolation with no income.
We need the borders to open, and it’s a relief to see that finally starting to happen. But, despite the Government’s assertion that New Zealand is an attractive option to migrant workers and tourists, I think they have overreached on that statement. They seem to think people’s views about international travel and the associated risks have somehow dramatically changed because New Zealand is opening its border? I just don’t see that as the reality.
Yes, we have great jobs on offer, but we also need to offer reassurance and confidence that New Zealand is a safe place to work and that international workers will be supported. If you’re asking people to pick up their lives and leave everything that gives them safety and security to relocate on the other side of the world, then you need to offer them a destination that makes them feel secure about their future. And the past treatment of migrant workers by this Government falls well short of that.
What we need is a relaxation around the ability to get workers into New Zealand. It’s what’s needed for the development of business and to boost economic activity, and it’s what businesses want.
The Government is still operating under a pre-COVID mindset and until that changes, I don’t see a fast resolution to New Zealand’s urgent need for migrant workers.
Aaron Martin – Principal Immigration Lawyer at New Zealand Immigration Law
Aaron Martin is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded immigration law practitioners. He has extensive experience in assisting individuals, SMEs, and large multinational corporations.
With over 20 years in general legal practice and a thorough working knowledge of relevant tax law and commercial law, Aaron is skilled in assisting investor-category applicants and migrants planning to establish a business in New Zealand.