NZ Government: New Infrastructure Plan- written by Arunima Dhingra

A few weeks ago, we heard an announcement from the NZ government on the new infrastructure plan that will open New Zealand development to the tune of $12 billion dollar investment plan. This will launch infrastructure projects across the country to upgrade New Zealand and is very much of interest for us at Aims Global. We wanted to look at the deeper impacts of New Zealand Immigration and how talent shortages will impact the government in their future realisation of such development goals.

According to Stuff, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden is quoted as saying “the infrastructure spend is the biggest infrastructure package in a generation”. No denying that it is an investment that is long needed in New Zealand. The programme would result in $6.8b being invested in transport projects, with $5.3b of that going towards roads and $1.1b being spent on rail. Under the current coalition Government’s planned infrastructure projects, $62.6b would be spent over seven years, Ms. Ardern said. With Roading being the clear winner, Auckland alone will receive $2.2 billion and most projects will be brought forward by about five years.

But who will build these roads?

The issue with world class development is that it requires world class talent. After years of under investment across the country, there is now rapid demand for projects and staff. Auckland city, as of November (2019?) was in its biggest period of growth ever, and a further $6 billion would be poured into its infrastructure over the next five years.

NZTA estimated between 7000 and 9000 jobs would be created by the first five transport projects that would be funded alone. Given that New Zealand is currently experiencing the tightening on immigration and one of the lowest unemployment rates in some time, it begs the question – who will do these jobs?

Our Prime Minister thinks it will be our youth. She made this statement four weeks ago – “There has never been a better time to enrol in a trade. I’ll say that again. There has never been a better time to enrol in a trade”…. “There are good jobs that pay good money in all these projects … young New Zealanders should consider taking up a building or other trade apprenticeship.”

But Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison was quoted just last year saying that in fact there was an infrastructure skills shortage in New Zealand that will require specialist skills and talent both from a technical and project management perspective.

So even though our prime minister is encouraging our youth to enter trades, the reality appears to be that there is still stigma amongst the local workforce in NZ to take up trades as an occupation. And the supply of existing tradies that are in NZ, are not enough to meet the increasing demand.

At Aims Global, we already know organisations in the skill shortage sector are facing immense resource constraints due to lack of talent. With New Zealand’s unemployment rate falling to 4 percent in the last quarter of 2019, it’s my opinion that businesses in this space, will need to start making migrant talent acquisition plans now, while projects are still within the tendering and bidding stages. As exciting as it is for New Zealand to create these specialist and technically skilled roles, you also need skilled workers to fill these vacancies. If this talent is not found amongst New Zealanders, then it will have to be migrants.

The work visa applications can take up to 3 months to allocate and process. As we know, the Coronavirus issue has caused the Beijing branch to close temporarily, resulting in around 13,400 student and visitor applications being transferred to NZ. To cater to this demand, 50+ immigration officers have been to allocated to work on these back logged numbers, thus creating a much longer wait time for essential skills work visas (from 10 days allocation time until end of last year to up to 6 weeks).

As this issue continues to evolve, my next piece may offer some solutions to the dilemma addressed above: shortages vs. labour

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