Francesca Rudkin: Is it time we slow the flow at the border?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 24 Jan 2021, 12:04PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Francesca Rudkin: Is it time we slow the flow at the border?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 24 Jan 2021, 12:04PM

The Wiggles hit the news this week. Turns out they had a few issues with their visa application, and by the time it was granted, there were no more MIQ vouchers left for the children’s entertainers, meaning, the Wiggles might not make their tour dates.

I thought this may have been the best news of the week for some parents. but apparently not - over 40,000 tickets have been sold.

Simon Bridges got involved – he’s a got a three-year-old obsessed with The Wiggles – while the Prime Minister called for a practical solution.

So we once again have the question of who we should be letting into New Zealand. Entertainers? Filmmakers? Sports teams? Comedians? Drag queens? American Cup team owners?

Sports teams and entertainers don’t sound very essential or critical. You and I could likely survive without them. But for the New Zealanders in these industries, building businesses and reputations, and supporting many others along the way, getting exemptions is essential to keeping afloat.

But are seasoned workers, seamen, and crane drivers more or less important to keeping New Zealand businesses ticking over?

The main criteria for being allowed into New Zealand is whether the skills or experience the person has are readily obtainable in New Zealand, or whether the worker is undertaking a time-critical role in specific areas.

This sounds pretty vague.

When it comes to international sports teams or entertainment superstars who can sell 40,000 tickets – not many Kiwis can do that, maybe just Six60. 

To boost the economy we need big names to come to New Zealand – the kind of visitors who help drive the accommodation, hospitality, and service sectors, while also employing local crews.

Vice-president of the Promoters Association Gray Bartlett has called for a more clarity around the criteria as applied to international music and comedy acts, and has accused Immigration of favouritism.

We have the time now, while in a kind of limbo, to think about how we increase opportunities. This is the time for the Immigration Department to work with the industries, where there’s ambiguity, to come up with a more seamless criteria and process.

I’m for letting workers in to support vibrant industries we so desperately need to boost our economy.

However, right now is not the time.

In light of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the new variant of Covid-19 is not only more transmittable, but also possibly 30% more deadly than the previous variants, combined with our reluctance to use the Covid 19 Tracer App, caution is required.

I think Australia is on the money. If this really is our most critical, high-risk Covid period since the last community outbreak in August, then maybe it’s time to reduce the flow of people returning to New Zealand.

It’s not forever, just until we can vaccinate all border workers, flight crews and MIQ workers. As much as I want to move forward, maybe we should just take a breath, and slow the flow.