Morning Briefing June 10: Govt moves to relieve severe labour shortages

The Government tackles labour shortages with further visa extensions and border exceptions, while new research reveals good news for the Pfizer vaccine.

Farmer milking cows - stock image Source:

Onshore visas have been extended for approximately 10,000 migrant workers on working holiday and supplementary seasonal employment visas.

Those with visas due to expire between June 21 and December 31 will now be able to stay in New Zealand for another six months, with Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi saying the extension should help with ongoing labour shortages. 

Meanwhile, border exceptions have also been approved for an additional 200 dairy workers and 50 vets to come to New Zealand.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says it’s hoped the exceptions will fill a gap while Kiwis upskill in the dairy and veterinarian sectors. 

The Government last month outlined its long-term “once in a generation” reset of the immigration system, where it’s encouraging employers to recruit New Zealanders rather than relying on temporary migrant workers.

Some say the new visa extensions have made a mockery of those plans, while the Restaurant Association has today begun a two-month campaign railing against the reset, saying they need to draw attention to their own critical shortage of workers.

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No clot link for Pfizer vaccine

The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine is not associated with blood clots, according to a new study led by a Victoria University epidemiologist.

The study is the first analysis of bleeding and clotting events for an entire country following vaccination, with more than five million people in Scotland taking part in the research. 

New Zealand officials also moved yesterday to recommend pregnant people be routinely offered the Pfizer vaccine. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says data from around the world shows no additional safety concerns with the Pfizer vaccine during pregnancy. 

The findings come as New Zealand’s general population prepares to get vaccinated with the Pfizer jab from next month – although there’s still some confusion around the rollout.

GPs say they’re as confused as the public about the vaccine schedule, with claims many are still waiting to know what their role will be during the wider rollout.

Meanwhile, there’s concern some people could be jumping the queue for a jab. 1 NEWS has discovered there’s no limit to the number of household contacts a border worker can nominate to be vaccinated – and nobody is checking that they actually live with those they nominate.

Stranded Kiwis head home

New Zealanders stuck in Melbourne for the past two weeks have begun arriving home with the first quarantine-free flight from the locked-down city landing in Auckland last night.

Those 'green flights' come as officials reveal three people from Melbourne were put into managed isolation in New Zealand last week after misleading officials about where they had travelled from.

Another woman who left Victoria during lockdown and travelled through New South Wales into Queensland has also put officials on alert there after she tested positive for Covid-19. 

Meanwhile, a returnee who had been staying at Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility has been admitted to Middlemore Hospital with Covid-19 and pneumonia. The confirmed case had arrived from Malaysia earlier this month. 

'Tough road ahead' on climate change

A report into New Zealand’s action on climate change shows the country’s not on track to meet its emission targets, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern describing the road ahead as “steep and tough at times”.

The Climate Change Commission has delivered a roadmap for New Zealand to become carbon neutral, including the suggestion that all imported cars be electric by 2035.

The report also detailed the cost of doing nothing on climate change for the first time, predicting a price tag of 2.3 per cent of GDP by 2050 – almost double the cost of acting now.

The NZ Herald has put together this lengthy explainer, detailing why the report is a big deal for all New Zealanders – and what happens next.

Some have criticised yesterday’s report, saying it’s missed the mark on methane goals. Greenpeace says the Commission “has failed to take responsibility for the industry that is causing the most climate pollution in New Zealand ... the dairy industry”.

The ACT Party, meanwhile, says the Commission is asking the Government to "ban and ban and tax its way out of climate change" and that their report should be binned

Nurses make voices heard

Nurses and DHBs both say they’re keen to get back to the negotiating table after yesterday’s eight-hour strike action.

Thousands of nurses walked off the job and took to the streets around Aotearoa to voice their demands for better pay and work conditions.

Health Minister Andrew Little addressed those striking outside Parliament yesterday but was drowned out by heckling at times. He told nurses, “I hear your message and we don’t disagree.” 

The strikes come as nurses continue to share the pressures they feel at work.

Emergency department staff at Waikato Hospital told the NZ Herald they are so stressed they usually wind up crying every shift, while another nurse told 1 NEWS they simply can’t attract new nurses to the profession. 

Calls to overhaul retirement villages

New Zealand’s ageing population means retirement village living is increasingly popular, but a new report paints a dire picture of the situation facing some of the country’s most vulnerable people.

The Retirement Commissioner is now calling for an urgent review of the legislation governing retirement villages, with the 20-year-old legal framework at risk of becoming unfit for purpose.

Proposed changes include eliminating unfair contracts and changing the way complaints are handled. 

Other news of note this morning: 

- Leaders are beginning to arrive in England for the G7 summit, marking Joe Biden’s first foreign trip as US President

- Samoa's political crisis continues as the caretaker Prime Minister is served with a motion accusing him of contempt of court.

- Bay of Plenty’s Tasman Mill will close by the end of the month, with approximately 160 workers being made redundant. 

- More needs to be done to reduce New Zealand’s methamphetamine demand despite this week’s global crime sting leading to the arrests of senior gang members, an expert says.

- A new report shows many of the 25 richest Americans regularly pay no income tax.

- The Queensland Maroons have been humbled in the State of Origin opener against New South Wales.

- And Raiders of the Lost Ark star Karen Allen has reminisced about making the film as it marks its 40th (yes, 40th!) anniversary.  

And finally...

Rhys Mathewson presents Auckland Mayor Phil Goff with a tiny trophy. Source: Seven Sharp

The pandemic has shaken up the Economist’s annual ranking of the world’s most liveable cities, meaning Auckland has topped the list for the first time.

Seven Sharp celebrated the achievement by presenting mayor Phil Goff with a very tiny trophy last night, before chatting to the GM of Marketing for WellingtonNZ about the capital’s own leap up the rankings to fourth place.

Turns out they’ve been very gracious and diplomatic about Auckland’s higher ranking but still point out you can’t beat Wellington on a good day. Perhaps the Economist’s judges missed it this year?