14 May 2021

NZ losing its appeal to high-skill workers as vaccine rolls out - Gluckman

7:18 pm on 14 May 2021

The race is on for New Zealand to lure high-skilled workers to the country as the rest of the world begins to get back on track during the Covid-19 pandemic, business leaders have been told.

New Zealand's chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman.

Former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman. Photo: Jasmyne Chung

This comes as the Prime Minister hinted immigration changes to lure overseas investment and employment was due next week.

Former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman said New Zealand's Covid-19 free status is rapidly losing appeal as the rest of the world rolls out the vaccine and resumes normal travel.

Speaking at the 'Auckland's Future, Now' business conference today, Sir Peter said this meant New Zealand was running out of time to attract high skilled workers to fill shortages.

"The window of opportunity for New Zealand to attract talent is evaporating rather rapidly as the developed world becomes vaccinated. Many Asian countries are now on an aggressive hunt for that talent."

Also speaking at the event, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government was due to announce a rejig to immigration policy next week

"We want to shift the balance away from low-skilled, low-paid work towards attracting high-skilled migrants and addressing geniune skill shortages in order to improve productivity."

She pointed to a strong up-take of the Covid-19 vaccine as a vital part of the country's economic recovery.

"If the most significant thing we can do is reconnect to the world, the most significant factor affecting our ability to do that will ultimately be vaccine uptake."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the region faced additional challenges as the gateway into Aotearoa New Zealand.

"We've had 28 days longer at [Covid-19 alert] level 3, we've had 26 days longer at level 2 than the rest of the country and we continue to face higher risks and higher costs because of this."

While unemployment was lower than first feared, Goff said the economic crunch has aggravated inequities, particularly for Māori and Pasifika.

Meanwhile, Gluckman said clear strategy was needed to make the most of the supercity.

"West Auckland could be our Hollywood. Why do we not place tertiary education, communication and entertainment out there, instead of central Auckland," he said.

"South Auckland is full of distinct social innovation. How can this be leveraged and so forth."

He said the city needed to be more ambitious in planning and embracing futuristic infrastructure and services.

"Urban farming, smart grids, autonomous vehicles, digital services that reach everyone, remote education and health. All of these are part of a mix of a mid-21st century smart city."

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