Government announces plans to bring in thousands of Kiwibuild workers

Government announces plans to bring in thousands of Kiwibuild workers
Photo credit: Getty

The Government has announced major changes to bring in thousands of builders and construction workers to fill a desperate skills shortage.

New Zealand is experiencing a shortage of 30,000 such workers, particularly plumbers, electricians, engineers, builders and project managers.

A Kiwibuild Skill Shortage list will mean a shorter overseas recruitment process for construction firms that are struggling to recruit locally.

It's a big shift from the Government's original Kiwibuild Visa plans but not unprecedented - it's the same way workers were brought in to rebuild Christchurch. 

The Government's now-scrapped Kiwibuild Visa would have had firms take on a local apprentice for ever overseas worker. 

There will also be a "streamlined" process for "approved building firms" - that is, firms that pay the market rate.

"This is a broader, more comprehensive and quicker approach for the construction sector to get the skilled workers it needs than the 'KiwiBuild Visa' that was proposed last year," Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said.

"It's clear we need workers to be available more quickly. These proposals aim to speed up the process and circumvent the need to create a new visa category."

The Minister said changes would be "time-limited", with the hope that New Zealanders could fill the shortage once trained up.

The Opposition says the plan shows up Labour's "xenophobic hypocrisy".

"Prior to the election Labour cynically blamed foreigners for rising house prices, including through its infamous 'Chinese-sounding surnames' campaign, and it threatened to slash the number of migrants by up to 30,000 a year," Mr Woodhouse said.

In mid-2017, Labour said it would cut immigration by 20,000-30,000 by targeting "low-quality" courses attracting students from overseas. 

"All along employers and the National Party told them they were wrong and that we needed the skills and capital those migrants bring."

"In the last few days [Twyford] confirmed some KiwiBuild-backed apartments might be sold to foreigners, that they might be built by foreign flat-pack companies, that he's been meeting with Chinese banks to fund them and now he says they’re going to be built by foreigners," Judith Collins said.

"This is a shameless climbdown and there’s nothing Kiwi left in KiwiBuild."

Changes to immigration settings, in a nutshell:

  • KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List aims to speed up the process to fill in-demand roles
  • An employer accreditation scheme for construction employers that exhibit good practices to recruit overseas workers and allow for simplicity of processing visa applications
  • Specific requirements to accredit labour hire companies to manage the risk of worker exploitation and the potential for undercutting of wages and conditions of New Zealand workers and to incentivise good employment practices.