28 Mar 2023

Immigration minister reviewing settings, industry needs to review pay rates Fullers boss says

From Checkpoint, 5:07 pm on 28 March 2023
A Fullers ferry leaving the Auckland Ferry Terminal

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Mass cancellations of ferries prompted Transport and Immigration Minister Michael Wood to call a crisis meeting late last week, bringing together Auckland Transport, Waka Kotahi and Fullers. 

Crew shortages saw some services to Half Moon Bay, Birkenhead, Bayswater and Te Onewa Northcote point cancelled over the weekend.

At least 30 percent of Fullers 360 trips a week were cancelled due to staff shortages.
Fullers 360 chief executive Mike Horne told Checkpoint the minister had now agreed to change immigration settings. 

"I'm really pleased he seems to be listening and considering things," Horne said.

"The plan of attack is that he'd really like the industry to come together and just confirm as an industry what we're after, which I think is pretty reasonable and we have four or five weeks to do that."

It appeared to be favourable skippers and deckhands would be on the green list for visas, Horne said.

The industry commitment to train and progress people alongside that was needed, he said.

"The interesting thing is often you're bringing skippers across to New Zealand to start as deckhands and the reason for that... is lining up the qualifications and that's why the training and the assessment on this side needs to be so slick."

Maritime New Zealand and training providers needed to also be part of the plan, he said.

Pay rates for skippers offered by Fullers were up to domestic standards but were not internationally competitive, he said.

"If we want to be internationally competitive so that people come to New Zealand for example as opposed to going to Australia, we've got to get the immigration settings right, which I think we're working through, and we do need as an industry to review what we're paying the top end of our skills."

Horne said he was probably stretching his people too far.

Auckland Transport paid for Ubers and taxis used when services were cancelled, he said