Christopher Luxon unleashes on Government over lack of action on dire staff shortages

The leader of the opposition has unleashed on the Government over what he says is a lack of action to address dire staff shortages across the country.

Several sectors are facing an acute shortage of workers including healthcare, teaching, agriculture and hospitality.

A lack of overseas workers has been blamed with experts crying out for the Government to make it easier for critical staff to immigrate or get working holiday visas.

Speaking with AM on Wednesday Christopher Luxon said the Government has to take action to solve the issue before New Zealand loses its international reputation.

"It doesn't matter which sector you go to, which part of the country you go to, we've got labour shortages everywhere and it is actually constraining productive growth in the economy… We really need to make sure we remove the bottlenecks and the biggest bottlenecks we've got is our immigration settings," Luxon told AM.

He said working holiday visa application costs should be removed, the age bracket should be extended to 35 instead of 30 and people who have already visited once should be able to extend their visa for a second time.

"We'd say to you, 'Look, if you've been here before, we'd actually happily have you extend for a second time so you can stay longer, and actually, if you've been here one or two times, we would actually let you extend for a third time. Frankly, if you're actually working in hospitality, if you're working on tourism or you're working in agriculture, we certainly need those workers," he said.

Working holiday visas are available to young people, usually aged 18 to 30 but 18 to 35 in a select few countries, according to Immigration New Zealand.

The National leader said if worker shortages aren't fixed, New Zealand might lose its international reputation.

"The problem is that many of our tourism restaurants across New Zealand, our tourism attractions are actually not operating at full capacity.

"It's a real challenge and it won't take much for some bad experiences to lead… New Zealand gets a bad reputation for poor service."

Luxon also criticised the Government for not making it easier for nurses to immigrate to Aotearoa.

"The thing for me right now is if you look at the fast track or the Green List, it's got about 40 different job classifications on it but it's missing some critical people.

"If you think about the 4000 nurses we're short, you think about the midwives we're short. They shouldn't be waiting two years for a pathway to residency. They should be immediately let in like doctors are and like doctors and health professionals and nurses are in Australia," he said.

The Government came under fire earlier in the year after it revealed its long-awaited immigration reset. As part of the reset jobs on a fast-tracked Green List were able to apply for residence within six months of getting a work visa. But it was met with criticism after nurses and midwives were left off the list. Instead they will be on a "work to residency pathway" which means they can apply for residency after two years.

On Tuesday and Immigration Minister Michael Wood said he will monitor the visa settings for nurses and is open to making changes if they are needed.

"We don't think it is unreasonable for there to be a requirement for two years of work before a residency is attained, and that gives us maximum confidence that visas that are issued will result in people working in that area," Wood said.

"I do reject the characterisation that a person being able to come into New Zealand, work for two years, and achieve residency is anything like a slow track. It is a significantly advanced pathway.

"We think it's landed in a good place, but as I've said consistently along the way: the outcome is what matters. I'll be keeping a close eye on how the settings go, bearing in mind the whole system only really kicked in from yesterday.

"If we need to make adjustments as we move forward to get to the outcomes, then I'll certainly be open to doing that."

The response didn't go down well with Luxon who accused the Government of being all spin and no action.

"What we get with this Government is a lot of spin and no action - no delivery. We've been talking about visas for a good part of a year. Erica Stanford (National's immigration spokesperson) has done a sensational job pushing the Government into taking some actions along the way.

"[But] they're way too slow and when you look at our competitive set of Canada and Australia, we're way off the pace here. It's lovely that [Wood] is going to look at it [but] we don't need people looking at it, we don't need people reviewing it, we need people doing things and getting things done in this country. That's our big problem at the moment and I just wish we'd actually get going," he said.