Iain Lees-Galloway: Making sure businesses can get the skilled workers they need, when they need them

Opinion 27/09/2019

By Iain Lees-Galloway, Minister for Workplace Relations, Immigration, and ACC, Labour Party MP for Palmerston North.

Our economy is going really well, more New Zealanders are in work than ever before and unemployment the lowest it’s been for 11 years.

That’s great news for those of us who are working, but it makes it hard for our businesses to get the workers they need, when they need them, and with the skills to do the job.

When I took up the jobs of Minister of Immigration it was clear to me that our regions had been ignored and were missing out. When I visited businesses, farmers and growers they were all telling me the same thing.

They couldn’t get the workers they needed, with the skills required to help them grow, and when they tried to get support from immigration it could be complex and difficult to work out what sort of visa you needed to organise.

So this month we’ve announced changes to make it easier for regions and industries to get the workers they need to thrive.


Firstly, we needed to ensure that New Zealanders who aren’t working can get the skills they need to do the work businesses need them for.

To do this we are making it easier to get quality skills and trades training around the country (vocational education reform), supporting unemployed young people become ready for work (Mana in Mahi and He Poutama Rangitahi), and working with businesses to ensure the skills they need are being taught either in their region or in their workplace (Regional Skills Leadership Groups).

Minister at purpose built RSE worker accommodation Blenheim

Minister Lees-Galloway with the team behind the new high-quality, purpose built RSE worker accommodation in Blenheim.

Next we need to ensure that when a New Zealander can’t fill the job, we help businesses who need to use immigration to find workers. The system we were left with by the previous government was too complex.

I took that on board and this month replaced six visa categories with one temporary work visa – making it a lot easier and clearer for businesses and workers to get visas.

The change will help around 25-30,000 businesses get the workers they need to fill skills shortages whether you’re a small tourism operator in Nelson, or a big horticulture employer in the Hawke’s Bay. It also helps over 55,000 workers who come to work here on visas.

The change will help around 25-30,000 businesses get the workers they need.


At the same time though, I am increasing expectations on employers to train and employ more New Zealanders over the longer term. In some areas it’s too easy to leap to immigration, rather than think about how to ensure we have opportunities for New Zealanders.

I am determined to make our Immigration system work better for New Zealand business and regions, so we can continue to thrive and fill those skills shortages when and where we need to.

Iain Lees-Galloway is Minister for Workplace Relations, Immigration, and ACC and Labour Party MP for Palmerston North.