Francesca Rudkin: A chance for the Government to sort out border exemptions

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 21 Mar 2021, 12:31PM
The Lion King stage show is being held at Auckland's Spark Arena and has been granted border exemptions. (Photo / Supplied)

Francesca Rudkin: A chance for the Government to sort out border exemptions

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 21 Mar 2021, 12:31PM

In a big news week, we still had time to get upset about lions and Wiggles.

The Wiggles received death threats! Think about that – the Wiggles received death threats! I appreciate many are upset about the Wiggles taking emergency spots in managed isolation but it’s not the performers fault - management organising the tour didn’t get sorted earlier.

Nor should the cast of The Lion King become targets of our frustration at the government’s unpredictable immigration policy.

In both cases the cast and crew applied for border exemptions through the other critical worker category, and the government approved them.

So rather than vilifying a radical retelling of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, maybe it’s time for the government to communicate more clearly what it’s priorities are when it comes to critical workers, and how managed isolation is allocated to the different categories of people wanting to enter New Zealand.

I understand why families unable to reunite, industries desperate for migrant workers, and New Zealander’s still trying to get home, find the decision to let in so many members of The Lion King hugely disappointing and perplexing.

In the last day or so we’ve heard from skilled migrant workers planning on leaving New Zealand after being separated from their families for a year, with no sign of when they would be able to join them.

But I was surprised to learn this week, that not as many people as I imagined had been let into New Zealand under the critical worker category.

This week Immigration NZ said that since 20th March 2020, 159,546 people entered New Zealand. Just under 124,000 were citizens and permanent residents, 35,612 were allowed in as temporary or non-permanent resident visa holders – including 11,036 critical workers.

Out of those critical workers, roughly one third were health workers, and the rest came from various industries – including the entertainment industry.

It would be fascinating to see all the applications for border exemptions under the critical workers category. Each of us would have a different set of priorities as to who we would be happy to allow entry into New Zealand - depending on our taste, interests and professions.

But I think we’d all agree, we need to be paying more attention to our existing industries crying out for workers in order to survive.

And that’s why 126 cast and crew feels like a lot.

Surely in this multicultural nation, with its booming and busy entertainment industry, we could have found a few more than five young local performers to join the cast and crew? Equally, I’m sure some of them would be happy to stick with the production where ever it ends up.

Lack of local opportunities aside though, there are benefits worth mentioning; 300 locals will be employed to stage the show, and it will help fill our hotels, our restaurants and bars. It will provide locals with an incentive to head into the CBD, and it gives us something to look forward to - if musicals are your thing.

It’s not a perfect scenario, but I don’t think many of the 40,000 people who crowded into Auckland’s viaduct on Wednesday night to celebrate Team New Zealand successfully defending the Americas Cup were terribly concerned the event had only taken place because participants had been granted an exemption as critical workers to be in the country.

It would be great to see the government looking at the areas so desperately in need of migrant workers and come up with a more pro-active strategy to get them into the country, and more effort go into reuniting families who have been separated for far too long now.  Immigration processes seem to be sitting still instead of adapting and improving.

Perhaps one part of it will be the trans-Tasman bubble – hopefully this will ease some demand for MIQ spots, giving the government some breathing room to finesse the system.