Following a deal with the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says 35,000 workers will be needed to complete the massive job. He says that means a shortage of 17,000: where they actually come from "...will depend on their skills and ability to speak English."
It's not just the rebuild where immigrants are being targeted. A number of job ads now ask specifically for foreign workers. A Nelson fishery recently advertised for workers fluent in Russian. Our orchards traditionally employ seasonal overseas contractors, and now 20% of our dairy workers are foreign. But with NZ unemployment sitting at more than 6%, does that mean kiwis are missing out?
Well, the problem is: there just aren't enough NZ workers with the right skills. The govt is working hard to up-skill kiwis into work, but they have to be motivated. Woodhouse: "Any employer will tell you that when Work and Income sends some workers to them, they'll have some of those barriers. That is, they're not skilled or educated enough. They may have some issues with drugs, alcohol or mobility, and those are barriers that we need to continue to move, so Kiwis are first in line for the jobs."
So until those on the unemployment line get motivated to actually work for their money, there can be no justification for any mutterings about migrant workers (of any ethnicity). Modern thought processes leave no room for the shameful anti-Asian sentiments, actively promoted by NZ politicians in the late 19th/early 20th century.
The jobs are there. If kiwis don't want 'em, immigrants will happily step up.
The concerns will be if Asian workers bring their problems of drug-smuggling, money-laundering, biosecurity food-smuggling risks, Triad gangs and the like. If they make efforts to integrate into NZ society, they'll be warmly welcomed...