21 Apr 2020

Covid-19 lockdown: Migrant workers in Queenstown without jobs, food

6:33 pm on 21 April 2020

Some migrant workers in Queenstown have been stranded without pay for weeks, the Salvation Army says.

Colored crosswalk and people in street of city after dusk showing the character of famous tourist spot.

Queenstown at night. (File photo). Photo: 123rf

The resort town is grappling with thousands of workers who have limited or no income after the tourism industry ground to a halt.

More than 5000 requests for welfare have already been made to the district council's Emergency Operations Centre.

Community Ministries Queenstown director Lieutenant Andrew Wilson said those stranded included families and young people.

Many were made redundant before the lockdown and tried to leave but their flights were cancelled, he said.

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They could not access government support so were left to pay for essentials and high rent with no income.

"They're the ones that have now been without income for upwards of four to even six weeks, and are still stuck in lockdown for a considerable period more and are staring down a barrel of no means of supporting themselves whatsoever."

The government needed to offer support, he said.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce agreed, urging the government to review its support for migrant workers.

Its chief executive Anna Mickell said some commercial landlords were subsidising utility bills and rent to help people out.

"I'm working regularly with our members who run boarding house businesses who haven't had payments for their rent for weeks.

"All of them are on subsidised rent. When I asked them 'how many people have paid them', they said 'they can't even get food, let alone pay their rent'," Mickell said.

Migrant workers needed additional assistance as many struggled to pay high rents and for essential supplies, she said.

"They need to be treated as New Zealanders in terms of being able to get either the Jobseeker allowance or some emergency funding needs to be made available to keep these people safe, fed, warm and accommodated during this period of lockdown until we can either get them into work in other areas in New Zealand - because there's no work coming back here in Queenstown in the foreseeable future - or home."

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