Topics: Housing, Politics

Govt wants speedier process to hire foreign KiwiBuild workers

By Talisa Kupenga

The government wants to change immigration requirements so it's easier to employ overseas building and construction workers to fill a desperate skills shortage.  However, National says it is "rank hypocrisy" given they campaigned on slashing immigration numbers.

The government is scrapping its KiwiBuild visa plan so migrants can fill jobs quickly if firms can't recruit locally.

National Leader Simon Bridges says "this is rank hypocrisy by government for pure politics.  Prior to the election they were going to slash immigration.  Immigrants were all the problem."

If nothing changes the government says there's a risk of KiwiBuild cost blowouts.  Around 30,000 plumbers, electricians, engineers, builders and project managers were needed with demand expected to grow by up to 15 percent by 2022.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says, "It's always been our policy that we would be bringing in skilled workers from overseas because we've inherited a situation where the former government simply didn't invest in the workforce."

Bridges says it now seems everything about KiwiBuild is foreign.

“It's foreign flat-pack companies, it's foreign capital and Phil Twyford is talking to the banks and now they've finally come to the party and realised they actually need foreign construction workers as well.  Well, we've been telling them that for months we've been telling them that for years."

The proposed changes include:

  • A temporary KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List; for faster processing to fill specific in-demand roles.
  • A streamlined pre-approval process for building firms; to allow for simplicity and speed of processing visa applications.
  • Labour hire companies to be accredited; to manage the risk of worker exploitation.

Bridges says, "We've always said actually you need sensible immigration for the skills and the capital that they bring and now it seems the government has very belatedly come around to this."

The temporary Skills Shortage List could be in place as soon as December and would allow time to up-skill kiwis for these roles.