13 Aug 2022

National says government must revoke idea backpackers not welcome in New Zealand

4:07 pm on 13 August 2022

The National Party is criticising the Tourism Minister's comments on backpackers as harmful to the sector.

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National's tourism spokesperson Todd McClay said backpackers provided vital seasonal work. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Speaking at the Tourism Export Council, Stuart Nash said the country's tourism needed to attract "discerning travellers" and not those travelling on a shoestring.

National's tourism spokesperson Todd McClay is demanding the minister withdraw his comments, which he said were damaging to the sector, still struggling from the effects of Covid.

Backpackers were the lifeblood of hostels around the country, and provided vital seasonal work, McClay said.

"Many backpackers who come to New Zealand are allowed to work and you know the tourism sector and horticulture desperately need workers at the moment, they don't have enough.

"It would be a shame if they thought New Zealand wasn't welcoming them, the minister's got to fix this quickly."

He estimated 65,000 backpackers came to Aotearoa in 2019.

One hundred hostels had closed their doors, cutting bed numbers by 7000, McClay said.

Kiwifruit grower Geoff Oliver said the minister was out of touch with primary industries that relied on backpackers.

The Kiwiberry NZ chairperson said there was not enough interest from New Zealanders to work in horticulture.

"To some extent the wages have gone up, but it just, there's times we advertise and there are very few, if any, applicants. That was at packing time and that's when the industry is really short - all the fruit categories are short. We had a lot of apples not picked and that's because we had very few backpackers in the country."

Being short of staff had caused production delays and cost increases, Oliver said.

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