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Skills crisis looming for New Zealand & Maori as wage competition and demand ramps up offshore

Authority Chair: Matthew Tukaki

The Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has said the Government needs to move faster to provide certainty to essential workers who New Zealand is at risk of losing to other countries. Tukaki, also a former head of the Worlds oldest and largest employment company, Drake International, has said key critical workers in health and education should be a significant concern – and its not just visa holders, Tukaki is also concerned that we are about to lose a significant skills base of New Zealanders:

“We need to be honest about our current predicament and that is we have essential workers who are Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Early Childhood workers, Radiologists, Mental Health workers and many more that if they all decided to leave because another country offered more certainty then they would go – full stop. And that is what is happening with countries like Canada, the United States and Australia all crying out for these skills. Not only are they offering potential residency and visa certainty they are also offering more wages” Tukaki said

“Then let’s have the other reality check – that not only are these workers in demand but so too are New Zealanders who are just getting job offer after job offer paying better much better wages as well as a range of incentives. The sheen is wearing off working and living in New Zealand for many people – not least of all because wages remain stubbornly less competitive than what other countries are prepared to pay but also just the general cost of living – its going to be near impossible for many essential workers on lay wages to be able to afford a house.” Tukaki said

“And what concerns me amongst the second group is the fact that while the Maori talent drain across the Tasman paused the last 12-18 months the brutal reality is its about to pick up again – but this time its not just the essential loss of Maori nurses potentially and health care workers but also the trades – we cannot train what we need to build what we need here in Aotearoa fast enough without running the risk of losing them offshore – all over again.” Tukaki said.

“The reverse impact is we run low on workforce needed not just to get us through the current pandemic but in our recovery post the pandemic. And therefore, as part of that recovery we need a national workforce plan that maps out what we need, who we need, how many we need and by when we need them. Dovetailed into that we must and need to address the issue of wage competition. For example, if we are not careful our best aspirations of standing up a Maori Health Authority might see is looking for the very health workforce that is just not there to meet demand. Fewer teachers mean larger class sizes, fewer radiologists mean fewer scans and fewer specialist Doctors lead to potential longer waiting times for operations.” Tukaki said

“I want to see more of our essential workers and key critical workers in our economy moving forward not just earning enough to keep their own heads above water but also know we are competitive in the global labour market. That means we need to up our game on wage growth. The second thing I want to see is a National Workforce Development plan that plots our course for the next decade and what skills we need as our key drivers and for Maori that means seizing the moment and lifting our skills base, earning potential and our seat at the various tables.” Tukaki said

“What we also need to ensure is that for those on Visas currently in New Zealand is simply make sure we retain them, and it that means the Immigration system is overhauled then overhaul it. Let’s face it it’s not as if Immigration have not has the chance to get this right the last few years spanning multiple Governments – and that includes the fact that even for the most simplest process its ended up looking like a nightmare.” Tukaki said

The National Maori Authority, with more than 300 members across communities, social services sector organisations and small to medium sized business will be holding an online hui to korero about the challenges facing the workforce and how Maori organisations might respond. Tukaki will also launch the annual “What’s Keeping Maori Awake at Night” survey next week that will run for the month of October and to be published in early November.

· Matthew Tukaki is the Chair of the National Maori Authority


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