At crisis point – Skills shortage boils over as hospitality sector takes collective action against Government

In the grips of a staffing crisis, hospitality business owners across the country, led by the Restaurant Association have come together to launch collective action in response to the Government’s immigration reset announcement.

“The situation is now beyond critical,” said Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois. “We have businesses across the country reducing hours, changing decades-long operating schedules, and closing whole services, in order to cobble together a semblance of operations and give their existing teams a break.

“With the Government’s recent immigration reset announcement there is palpable fear that their approach to ideological based policy could see our industry scythed once again: but this time it will be Government-induced.

“We were experiencing a skills shortage prior to border closures, but the sector is in the midst of a skill shortage at levels never seen before. 92 per cent of our members say it is difficult to recruit for mid to senior skill-level positions.”

“Under normal circumstances approximately 30 per cent of our industry is made up of those

on temporary work visas and in some cases that figure is closer to 60 per cent.

“The industry currently has around 15 per cent of the workforce on temporary work visas, and the dialogue around that workforce’s future in Aotearoa is nowhere to be seen. We stand to lose 15 per cent of our total workforce with no viable replacement.”

“After months of lobbying on this issue we’re pleased to see that the Government is finally listening with today’s announcement to extend the working holiday visas, but this does not go far enough.

“Most of our temporary visa holders are on essential skills work visas and there is still no plan to extend these”.

The Association says that they are proud to be partnering with government on key, fit-for- purpose training. However, it believes there is room for even more support as the skills gap is now too large and the sector desperately needs Government engagement in order to find workable solutions that keep businesses operational.

“Our migrant workforce is a source of valuable expertise, bridging both local skill gaps and staffing shortfalls. These are our baristas, our chefs, our cafe managers, they are also our neighbours, our friends, our whānau. The Government owes it to them to listen.”

The Restaurant Association of New Zealand is calling on policy makers to work with the sector to ensure any immigration setting changes are practicable and provide workable solutions.

“Conversations to date have led nowhere. If this continues, we will be in a situation where

businesses will have to reduce operating hours or shut up shop altogether,” continued Bidois.

The campaign, nicknamed The Reset, is a two month long collective action to remind the Government of the impact hospitality has in New Zealand.

Following today’s announcement to extend the working holiday visas, the Reset now has three key asks of Government:

  • Pause the planned hourly wage threshold increase to $27.00.
  • Provide an urgent additional visa extension for employer assisted work visa holders currently in New Zealand to allow employers to retain their existing migrant workforce.
  • Allow border exceptions for other critical workers from other industries such as hospitality where there is a proven need and extend the number of working hours permitted for those on student visas.

“What the Government is threatening to put in place with its immigration reset is extremely concerning, so we need an immediate intervention to ensure the survival of our industry,” concluded Bidois.

The petition is live on the parliament petitions website:-

Information is available on the Restaurant Association website at

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