Jacinda Ardern reveals Government wants to open borders to skilled workers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants businesses to be able to access the skilled workers they require.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants businesses to be able to access the skilled workers they require. Photo credit: Getty Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed the Government is considering loosening border restrictions for skilled workers. 

Strict border controls to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19 have been in place since March, meaning only citizens and permanent residents have been able to enter the country, with a few exceptions. 

Ardern told Stuff's election podcast Tick.Tick border restrictions have taken a greater toll on some sectors, as they require skilled workers from overseas. 

"There are sectors that are paying a higher price and that's not just tourism there are those where they are reliant on international skills to be able to continue operating."

The Government wants these businesses to be able to access the skilled labour they need to grow the economy post COVID-19.

Ardern said border controls don't have to bar skilled workers from entering the country and there is already a system in place allowing exemptions for people who will create opportunities, or if their absences risks having a sector close down. 

Ardern said work needs to be done to allow for even more skilled workers to enter the country: "Probably what we need to do is start thinking in terms of numbers, we've got roughly 7000 in terms of [managed isolation] capacity, a big chunk taken up by our citizens and permanent residents."

Ardern explained the Government needs to find a way to balance border controls whilst allowing access for skilled workers as New Zealand is in a unique position.

"Our film and screen sector is fully operational and in other places in some cases it won't be. There are chances here for us to build innovative sectors because we are fully functioning and so let's use that," she said.  

"It is about saying look within what kind of capacity can we create for those other advantages because we are in a unique opportunity."

Ardern said those exempt would pick up the cost of isolation but New Zealand would still bear the cost of health checks. 

Asked about the trans-Tasman bubble, Ardern said it was a matter of waiting for Australia to be free of community transmission: "We'll be ready to go at a time and a place when they're ready to go."