5 Mar 2015

Fijian workers 'second class citizens'

10:55 am on 5 March 2015

The employer of three Fijian forestry workers struggling to gain residency says the men feel like second-class citizens.

The three, who are also volunteer firefighters, have lived in New Zealand for 10 years but have not yet satisfied Immigration New Zealand's requirements for permanent residence.

Heslip Forest Contracting director Warren Heslip said the shortage of skilled forestry workers was a problem that needed to be recognised.

He said he had struggled to find young New Zealand workers comparable to the three Fijian men, who have fought fires throughout Australia and New Zealand.

"These guys have been fighting fires in New Zealand and Australia for 10 years.

"They're basically making our forests for the future. You know, forestry is the second biggest earner for New Zealander.

"If forestry and rural fire was recognised as a skill shortage we wouldn't be having this problem."

Mr Heslip said they have had to pay about $1100 annually for work visas and should be granted residency.