Immigration Changes For Transport Risk Hindering Growth

In News3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineApril 12, 2024

The sudden closure of the Work to Residence pathway for truck and bus drivers could risk slowing the economy, and increasing costs for businesses and families, Transporting New Zealand says.

Minister of Immigration Erica Stanford announced last week that the Work to Residence pathway for bus and truck drivers is closing to new applicants, alongside several other changes to the Accredited Employer Worker Visa scheme.

The Residence Pathway was established under the Transport Sector Agreement, confirmed in April 2023, with applications for residency opening in September 2023. The change affects bus and truck drivers who apply for an AEWV from 7 April 2024 onwards.

Transporting New Zealand Interim CEO Dom Kalasih said that while the residency pathway was always intended as a temporary measure, the sudden closure will come as unwelcome news to road freight companies looking to employ skilled migrant drivers as an important supplement to the domestic workforce.

“The residency pathway has allowed members experiencing acute staff shortages to recruit migrant drivers and get parked-up trucks back on the road and operating productively,” he said

“Keeping the pathway open for at least 12 months rather than closing it after only seven months of operation would have allowed the sector a more adequate time period to address long-term skills shortages.

“New Zealand businesses are competing with fierce international competition for migrant drivers from countries including Australia and Canada, who are also suffering from the global truck driver shortage (over three million drivers according to the International Transport Union). Offering a pathway to residence after two years of commitment to New Zealand was an important incentive to attracting skilled, experienced operators in a highly competitive international market.”

Kalasih said Transporting New Zealand is urging the Government to keep the option of restoring the Residency Pathway on the table as it starts its comprehensive immigration work programme to reform the system, while simultaneously boosting infrastructure investment. The reform also offers the opportunity to support domestic workforce development through government support for road transport industry training.

“We’re going to need a lot of experienced truck drivers just to shift the aggregate required for the Roads of National Significance programme and cater for the growth in the economy and freight task that the Government wants to achieve,” Kalasih said.

“We will continue to advocate for workforce development and immigration settings that support a sustainable long-term workforce and reduce the vulnerability of migrants to exploitation.”