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MEDIA RELEASE 25 January 2023

MTA to PM: Please keep automotive sector top priority

Incoming Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and his team must prioritise the automotive sector in the run up to the October election, the Motor Trade Association says.

“Our industry is the lifeblood of our communities, and literally keeps the country moving,” says MTA Advocacy and Stakeholder Manager Brian Anderton.

“There’s a number of issues affecting our industry that can’t wait until a new Government is sworn in at the end of the year.

“In signalling a reprioritisation of Government policies, the Prime Minister has already stated his Government will be focussed on small businesses that are finding it tough going – that includes many in our sector.”

For instance, more roles must be added to the immigration Green List to alleviate the labour shortage that’s affecting many automotive sector businesses.

In December, on the advice of MTA and other agencies, the Government added skilled motor mechanics to the list, but there is still a severe shortage of panel beaters and vehicle painters.

“We know that coupled with the high cost of living, many businesses are doing it tough,” Brian says.

“If repairers and panel-beaters are short-staffed or forced to close, it can mean more unsafe vehicles on the road, as much-needed repairs and maintenance are deferred.

“It also means crucial Government targets in emissions reduction and road safety are affected.”

While changing immigration settings will provide a short-term fix to the labour shortage, MTA also urges the Prime Minister and his ministers to help encourage and support young people in the automotive sector as a long-term solution.

One way to do so is to extend Apprenticeship Boost, which pays businesses $500 a month for each apprentice for two years.

Last year, as Education Minister, Chris Hipkins sang the praises of the scheme, which last year saw the 50,000th apprentice pass through the programme.

“A locally trained workforce provides for greater economic security. It delivers a highly skilled workforce to build infrastructure, or design the technology needed to future-proof the economy, while ensuring good jobs for New Zealanders,” Hipkins said.

Now MTA is calling on Hipkins to back that up by extending Apprenticeship Boost past its December expiry date.

Like many New Zealanders, MTA members are concerned by violent crime, which puts service stations at risk of ramraids and aggravated robbery.

As Police Minister, Chris Hipkins called the number of ramraids “unacceptable” and pledged to help businesses stay safe.

“Now he’s in the top job, we urge the Prime Minister not to lose this focus,” Brian says.

MTA will be engaging with all political parties in the run up to the election to ensure the transport sector, and every New Zealander who depends on it, are supported.