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MEDIA RELEASE 12 October 2022

"Back to the Future" Immigration announcement little help to automotive sector

Today’s immigration announcement does little to address the chronic labour shortage facing the automotive sector, the Motor Trade Association says.

The Government today announced the re-opening of the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) visa from mid-November, and consultation to begin on a new system for migrants that fall outside current programmes.

MTA Advocacy Manager Brian Anderton said the news brings little cheer to the automotive industry.

“We know the labour shortage is the number one issue keeping member businesses up at night,” Brian says.

“We simply do not have the labour market supply to meet the skills in demand. We have raised this with immigration officials, and recently with Minister Michael Wood.

“Many automotive businesses are at least one staff member short and in a lot of cases, several members short.”

MTA says that the sector is doing what it can to address the shortage by hiring locally, and offering the best wages and conditions it can. Young New Zealanders are entering the industry, but not in enough numbers.

“It’s clear we still need workers from overseas to help fill the roles, support our essential industry and in fact, help the Government achieve its employment and climate change objectives,” Brian says.

“Today’s ‘Back to the Future’ announcement about reopening the skilled migrant category does little to help the sector, because realistically, it’s very hard for automotive roles to qualify.”

That’s despite the automotive sector being a huge contributor to the economy - $3.5 billion in 2021. MTA says that contribution needs to be given appropriate weight in future immigration settings.

“Automotive workers need to be recognised as skilled, and valued as important,” Brian says.

“The glimmer of hope for our industry today is the promise of consultation. We hope that the Government undertakes that consultation in good faith, listens to our sector and acts decisively to smooth the pathway for overseas workers.

“A strong automotive sector is essential for this country’s health and future, and addressing the labour shortage must be a top priority.

“Certainly, we welcome to opportunity to work together with Government on this.”