Making it easier to build a workforce to build our houses

  • Temporary KiwiBuild Skills Shortage list
  • Streamlined pre-approval process for building firms
  • Labour hire companies to be accredited

The Government is proposing changes to make it easier for the building and construction industry to employ workers from overseas  and help build the houses and infrastructure that New Zealand desperately needs, says Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“We have ambitious plans to build houses, transport links and other infrastructure, but a shortage of skilled workers is holding up the rapid progress we need to make.

“As part of the Construction Skills Strategy, led by my colleague Minister Jenny Salesa, we are proposing a range of measures to assist the building and construction industry to get the workers it needs right now, alongside a comprehensive Action Plan to develop the domestic workforce for the longer term.

“Our proposed KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List means building and construction firms can go through a quicker process to get the skilled workers they need, when they can’t recruit locally.

“We would also look to introduce a streamlined process so firms which have good employment practices and a commitment to employ local workers can be pre-approved to bring in workers from overseas.

“In addition, labour hire companies wanting to recruit from overseas would have to be accredited to reduce the risks of these companies exploiting migrant workers and consequently undercutting the wages and conditions of New Zealand workers.

“It’s estimated we are some 30,000 workers short, particularly plumbers, electricians, engineers, builders and project managers so we need to make changes.

“This is a broader, more comprehensive and quicker approach for the construction sector to get the skilled workers it needs than the ‘KiwiBuild Visa’ that was proposed last year. It’s clear we need workers to be available more quickly; these proposals aim to speed up the process and circumvent the need to create a new visa category.

“I expect the KiwiBuild Skills Shortages List could be in place in around six months, subject to final decisions following consultation.

“These initiatives are based on the successful approach to speeding up the Christchurch rebuild.

“However, any changes would be time-limited so that the sector doesn’t become permanently dependent on migrant workers, but does allow time to train up Kiwis. We are also developing a Construction Skills Action Plan to address medium and long-term labour market needs, and targeted sector engagement is underway.

“We want a sustainable construction workforce to provide opportunities for New Zealanders to train and work in the sector. But that doesn’t happen overnight, which is why we need these changes for the short term. 

“The proposed new settings will go some way to addressing the needs for labour in this critical sector in the interim as more skilled Kiwi workers come on stream through our Construction Skills Action Plan,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The proposed changes to the immigration settings will introduce:

  • a KiwiBuild Skills Shortage List to provide an expedited process to fill specific roles for which we know demand exceeds domestic supply;
  • an employer accreditation or alternative pre-approval model for the construction sector to provide certainty and flexibility for employers who exhibit good practices to recruit overseas workers and allow for simplicity and speed of processing visa applications; and
  • specific requirements to accredit labour hire companies to manage the risk of worker exploitation and the potential for under-cutting of wages and conditions of New Zealand workers that may result and to incentivise good employment practices.

Over the coming weeks, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will consult with targeted stakeholders in the construction sector on the proposals. This will ensure that the potential impacts of these proposals are better understood and to seek views from those who work in the sector.

Attached: Immigration Settings Fact sheet