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The MP based in New Zealand’s longest geographical electorate has hit out at Immigration Department inefficiencies which are causing rural industries to lose good, stable and reliable workers.

National List MP based in West Coast-Tasman, Maureen Pugh says her letter to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway in mid-June requesting some intervention to speed up the processing of visa applications so that remote workers could remain here, has not brought any tangible response.

“Meanwhile, we are forcing capable, willing workers out of the country,” Maureen Pugh says. “From agricultural workers to health professionals, this region is seeing people having to leave New Zealand because their visas are about to expire – and people know that their chances of being allowed to stay if they reach the ‘over-stayer’ status is immediately in jeopardy. Three months to process a simple application is unacceptable.”

Mrs Pugh says the incredible growth in tourism in the past few years makes some urgent action essential. “I don’t like hearing that businesses in remote areas are facing closure, when it’s caused by what can only be called inefficiencies.”

Ben Monk, who runs the Paringa Salmon Farm and 40-seat restaurant 260 kilometres south of Greymouth says planned expansion of the attraction is hinging on finding the right staff. “It’s becoming ridiculously hard to keep workers over the summer, when we have 15 to 20 coach loads arriving each day. Because we are so far from any main town, we rely on tourists to staff this operation and processing delays make it just about impossible,” he says.

Queenstown enjoys a special arrangement for the quicker processing of visa applications and Maureen Pugh has asked the Minister that West Coast-Tasman be afforded the same deal.

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