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Cooks businessman calls on NZ to put Fiji on transit visa waiver list

Friday 22 April 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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Cooks businessman calls on NZ to put Fiji on transit visa waiver list
Cook Islands business Island Craft has invested time and money into online marketing to help them get by during the pandemic. Photo: Island Craft

A Cook Islands businessman is calling on the New Zealand Government to add Fiji to its transit visa waiver list to help its labour shortage.

Steve Anderson, who owns Pacific Property and Anderson Ltd, among other businesses, said a severe worker shortage was suffocating employers with around 700 vacancies in the Cook Islands, largely driven by people leaving for New Zealand.

He said he's lost a quarter of his staff to New Zealand after paying thousands of dollars in relocation fees to bring workers over from the Philippines.

Anderson said there has been a lot of discussions around organising a 'one-off flight' from Fiji to bring workers over, but it was not practical.

"Fiji isn't, as I understand, part of the transit visa waiver so it is difficult to get Fijian workers via New Zealand," Anderson said.

It would be more viable to have workers arrive in dribs and drabs, he said.

"A direct flight is unlikely in my view, and others, because we would have to fill the flight and it would of course be going back empty."

Immigration New Zealand said although Fiji was not listed as a transit visa waiver country, people can apply for a transit visa.

Anderson said that was good news but it was also just another hoop employers needed to jump through.

He also felt New Zealand businesses could help by not stripping the Cook Islands of vital workers.

"They just need to consider how they would feel if Australia was actively recruiting their staff, how would they feel if they were taking somebody else's staff," Anderson said.