Guy Trafford says while our borders are shut is the ideal time for a frank discussion to be held over the number of tourists allowed in and under what terms

Guy Trafford says while our borders are shut is the ideal time for a frank discussion to be held over the number of tourists allowed in and under what terms

Throughout the world there have been a myriad of oddities thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic. A recent one I came across was the UK initiative “Pick for Britain”.

At the moment, not unlike many western countries, including New Zealand, only 30% of foreign workers are in the UK. So, the Brits, falling back on their WW2 experience, did a general call to all and sundry to go out and help bring in the harvest. Never a nation to avoid a challenge people signed up in their droves. The project received support from plenty of high-profile people ranging from Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice to Prince Charles. The publicity was such that the website showing where the jobs were crashed and had to have its capacity increased.

Many people that were furloughed from government and army jobs were ‘allowed’ to participate while still receiving 80% of their ‘real’ salary. Some even chose to work for free. According to articles most of the ‘harvest’ was focused on fruit and vegetables, the more perishable products.

Given that Britain has a similar land mass to New Zealand but about 12 times the population I doubt a similar project would work in New Zealand. In fact, recently a dairy reported advertising for a worker and only got three replies from Kiwis - all coming from non-rural backgrounds. Therefore, he deemed them unsuitable. It did pass through my thoughts that perhaps he should have been pleased to see such people applying as that may be the future of the labour force for a while.

Many folk would say the reason fewer Kiwis apply for these jobs says more about the job than the applicants. Given that society is trying to move to a future that has more recreation time and fewer, be it more productive, work hours dairying as a paid job is seen for many prospective employees as the job of last resort. The long and anti-social hours dairying require and for some what is seen as an isolated occupation mean in its current guise it is going to struggle to attract the numbers it needs.

For some, however, it is the job of choice and so for the right person on the right farm there is plenty of satisfaction.

But if the dairy industry wants to attract greater numbers something needs to change.

If the closed borders policy persists for longer than, say the six months that look likely, to the nations that supply the bulk of the international workers that staff many of our dairy farms, then change will be forced on all the agricultural jobs that rely upon ‘imports’. However, more than six months closure is unlikely and so any real change to employment conditions and habits are also unlikely to change much.

Another area I have had trouble with is the attitude much of our tourist industry has.

There have been many comments posted about how Kiwis should make the most of the opportunity while the international visitors are not here to see the country. This is a tacit admission that the excess in numbers of tourists visiting the country have a negative impact upon both the lifestyle of kiwis and potentially the environment.

While the numbers that were coming in certainly provided more employment, again it was often having to be topped up by internationals due the low wages of the industry. While still under border control and with elections on the near horizon it is the ideal time for a frank discussion to be held over the number of tourists allowed in and under what terms.

Botswana and Bhutan are both noted as countries which have had aims of low volume but high value tourism. Bhutan still adheres to this ideal but Botswana does appear to have succumbed to the temptation of allowing greater numbers, and therefore profits in, However, in their 10 year plan released in 2019 among the 15 “main activities” they still have an aim to preserve the important facets of the country

  • Evaluate Botswana’s environment and natural heritage resources (including the flora, fauna, bird and marine life) and give recommendations on their use for tourism purposes with appropriate protection and conservation measures
  • Evaluate Botswana’s cultural, spiritual, tribal and historic heritage resources and give recommendations on their use for tourism purposes with appropriate protection and conservation measures

While not suggesting we need to follow either of Botswana or Bhutan’s policies we do have the opportunity for a reset. It may be that as we are currently seeing, if there are less international tourists more Kiwis may continue to enjoy visiting their own country. This could also take up some of the monetary shortfall for the tourist industry.

The other anomaly coming through at the moment is the short memory we seem to have about how the health of our cities seemed to (dramatically) improve under Alert levels 4 and 3. The air was cleaner and waterways health improved. There was a lot of talk about how this could be a blueprint for the future with more (many more) people working from home. Petrol bills would drop, and people would lead more flexible and improved lifestyles.

Now the mantra has switched to go back to work in the CBD; the businesses there need you. No doubt they do but isn’t it surprising how quick we forget? So will the population, once having got back into the grove (rut) of normal living and commuting to work and inflicting increased GHG’s  yet again, go back to pointing at the farming sector as the problem?

We have had a chance to see how at least in part our GHG footprint of the transport sector that has had the largest increase over the last 30 years (an increase of over 80%) can in fact reduce it.

Obviously, things are complex but the lack of any conversation around the issues other than economic survival is disappointing.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Nearly all meetings for the suggested discussions will be a waste of time at the end, as experience suggests.


Better not have any meetings then, just let the Dear Leader decide on their own, right?
Or let the CCP decide for NZ as well, even better.

You think the border isn't going to be closed for longer than 6 months? Wow.

Partial easing of border should start from October onwards depending upon how rest of the world is able to contain the virus and hopefully IF we do not have second wave of virus.

Certainly for China, it will just have to be. Case in point. On 27 January, about two weeks after the Wuhan area was closed off, a Chinese national was intercepted at Washington DC with a poly bag of dead birds in his luggage. He neither knew,thought or cared if there was anything wrong about that. And there are millions of them just as ignorant as that, ready to get to any part of the world, one flight away, carrying their peculiar cuisine and lotions and potions with them. No thanks, not into NZ they won’t be, if they can’t come here.

World wide recession will hit tourism and especially long distance international tourism hard even if Covid-19 totally disappeared tonight. However if a cruise liner is declared NZ national territory it could bring in several thousand tourists with its cruising to NZ considered part of quarantine. So if Covid-19 does hang around as seems probable we have an opportunity. Even then who wants to visit NZ in winter other than skiers? We need a tourism bubble with the Covid free Pacific Islands.

Yep thats a good idea. Set alight a cruise liner for two weeks heading to NZ. Call it their quarantine. Hmm I think we all know how that turns out.


This article deserves a better heading: the troubles with cheap labour and short term thinking. But the points the article makes are very important. Why do fit young NZ people who want to do hands on work happily work in the building industry but not in dairy? Why do we need overseas workers to prop up our tourist industry? The answer for both is low wages, bad working conditions, managers with lousy people skills and few career prospects (unless you are the son/daughter of the owner). These industries need to shape up !

Farming and building both suffer from a deep reluctance on the part of the generation in charge to change the way things are done and make the job more attractive. In fact, even medicine suffers from this problem. The 50-year-olds want the younger generation to suffer in the same ways they did. I worked for six dollars an hour in 1980? So should you! I went three years without a holiday? So should you! It's not a good way to attract people into the industry, and it also overlooks that for every advantage younger people have (internet) there's a disadvantage the older generation didn't have to face (absurd housing prices).

Absolutely! The best thing that could happen to agri and tourism is to stop/limit their supply of cheap/compliant labour. This would improve productivity and wages, while reducing the total number of jobs - which isn't a problem as there doesn't seem to be enough labour supply anyway.
Anecdote - saw an Ad in Situations Vacant in local rag recently for dairy farm job 8 days on 2 off. Most young kiwis would say bugger that regardless of pay. Better that farmer puts in a rotary semi-auto shed etc etc and reduce labour component.

Separating calves from their mothers and shoving them into crates to be hauled off to be killed does not come naturally to someone who has not been around it most of their life and not given it a second thought. And yes, that the grimy, unsocial hours work that does not lead to the reward of ownership down the track is a completely understandable other.

Why do fit young people work in the dairy industry and don't want to work in building? The answer is courses for horses. The young farmers I know wouldn't want to be builders, they want to be farmers. I expect its the same for builders where they prefer working with wood to working with livestock.
Latest farm remuneration survey: the mean farm employee remuneration package for dairy farm workers rose by 9.7% to $57,125...the mean total remuneration package for a dairy assistant manager has jumped $10,643 (20.6%) to $62,317, while the mean package for a dairy operations manager is now up by $1,658 (1.96%) to $85,986."

There are over 35000 people employed on Dairy farms in NZ. That survey covered 1670 employees. 4% at best. Assume the exploiters don't reply to the survey request.

It also includes accomodations which tends to be of extremely variable quality with generally no recourse to choose to live elsewhere and over priced.

redcows IRD requires market rents are charged for provided on farm accommodation.

So $57 - say $15 k housing and perks = $42 k - 20% tax (let alone gst on purchases) 33 k in hand or $634 how the hell could anyone ever get ahead on that with a family given cost of living in NZ... and that average not medium so will be screwed upward by a few higher salaries

Survey companies like Colmar Brunton etc say that you only need to survey a cross section of 1000 people to extrapolate the results across the whole NZ population. On that basis, the remuneration survey reached enough dairy farm positions to be considered a robust number by survey standards. ;-)


This from Sir Paul Callaghan (2011), on NZ's economic performance:

Just to maintain our current dismal national performance, the average Kiwi worker needs to be producing $125,000 a year in business earnings. To match Australia, we would have to lift that productivity to $170,000.

"What does tourism earn? About $80,000 a job, about two-thirds of what we need. The more tourism, the poorer you get. Tourism is great for employing unskilled people; it is absolutely not a route to prosperity," says Callaghan.

Agree Doris - We need to keep saying this stuff loudly. Do we really want to be like Bali?

Tourism - 6% of the economy, but 9% of employment. Theres your productivity story right there.

Interesting comments from Sharon Zollner in the dreaded OneRoof the other day:

"While net migration is of real importance to the economy, Zollner says the country’s reliance on people coming in is “cheating” because this is not quality growth.

“It’s more bums on seats, it’s not productivity growth, which makes people better off, and we’ve basically been determined to keep real wages low in this country by importing labour every time it looks like it’s getting expensive,” she says.

“I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about this one because you don’t turn into a high wage economy that way and it’s coming home to roost now.”

Just one of the countless articles over the years. . If your industry needs to exploit foreign workers on rotating work permits in order to provide a sufficient return on capital. You don't actually have a viable business. Even if you don't exploit personally. You still benefit from the wage suppression in creates. Unless you are a shareholder with a beneficial interest in the tax-free capital gain of the underlying assets. Then you are wasting your time getting involved. "Therefore, he deemed them unsuitable" Most likely because they would somewhat ofay with their rights and could not be easily exploited or threatened with deportation if they refused to work an extra 10- 20 hours a week for free. A business can just simply fail to keep the employment records that would prove the exploitation and receive only a slap on the wrist. Successive goverments look the other way to preserve international competitiveness. How kind is that?


Regarding tourism I have a simple metaphor. When I was young and single going to a catered party and the beers were free at the end of the night there were half drunk bottles everywhere, vomit and broken glass on the floor. At those parties that charged a token fee ( say $1/$2 ) there was no waste and minimal damage.
Our tourism has too much of the former. What makes us special, our natural beauty and cultural heritage is getting trampled under foot.

But unlike your example, tourism is not free

No, we have the opposite problem. It cost so much, people are breaking the TV, punching holes in the wall, and stealing the beer because they think they have been ripped off.

Yvil, apart from the cost of getting here much of our tourism is as near as to free.
Go to a public toilet and wait while a freedom camper removes their dishes and/or washing from the sink.
Go to the beach in provincial NZ and see if you can get parking between the campers cramming the shoreline.
Go and look at Tane Mahuta for free, Visit Cape Reinga for free. Hell take a picture of the Kawa Kawa toilets for free.
And what are the kiwis employed to do? Wash the toilets, serve the meals, drive the buses, make the beds. How is that value added?

We got lots of trouble with the overseas adventure tourists coming here, getting lost in the bushes, snow, mountains and we have spend millions to rescue them. How can we get our money back from these tourists who raid our treasury so nonchalantly ?

And let us not forget the hospital bills. Those that damage themselves understandably or just plain stupidly, carefree and uninsured. Who pays for the days of care in hospital? We do, all of us taxpayers!

Everything these days seems to boil down to faster, harder, more, more, all to stay in the same place. It is ludicrous and I just hope the whole world wakes up to absolute and utter pup we have been sold with expansionist capitalism and neo-liberalism.
As far as tourism goes, it has become more like McTourism. The same has happened there, margins pared to the bone so that you have to have so many more through just to scrape a living out of it.


Tourism ... 3.8 million tourists came to NZ last year. It is claimed that the tourism and hospitality sectors are worth $40 billion to the NZ economy. We are told that all the spinning around is worth $40 billion. But what they can't tell you is how much of that "sticks to the sides" in NZ. Too many of the players in this game are not organic locally grown. How much of that $40 bn finds its way back overseas. Tour bus operators. Hotels. Who owns Juicy Rentals and other campervan operations

Tourism is not an identifiable "thing" or business. It is the largest activity in NZ Yet, there is not one public tourism company listed in the NZX50. Two listed proxies are Air NZ and Auckland International Airport. Would you invest in them right now? The government has thrown $900 million at ANZ and a further $400 million at the "tourism industry" whatever that is. Air NZ is mothballing its fleet in the Australian Outback graveyard. AIA is stranded

iconoclast, well now, that puts a rat amongst the chickens. Wonder whether you could persuade some of our vaunted and famous journalists to ask some of those uncomplicated but uncomfortable questions, on behalf of all of us.

Chinese tourists are a case in point. Most of the money changes hands in China. They arrive in Chinese planes, stay in Chinese owned hotels, are transported round in Chinese owned buses driven by very doubtfully qualified Chinese drivers. (think of all the recent bus crashes that fit this profile) Where they have to interact with NZ owned businesses these are generally through prearranged deals that minimise the return to NZ. As we have seen through the media many of these groups sight see at facilities that are free to all paid for by our tax payers. They are not beyond trespassing onto private property to give the tourists sight seeing experiences.

Yes, and the chinese tour operators welsh on the debts and obligations after the sight-seeing
Check this out - only a week old

Yep. The Chinese have it sorted in our local tourist route. Bus from Queenstown, stop at chinese owned shop for food/ souvineers ( only shop in town) , then use public toilets adjacent (ratepayer owned). Bus on to Milford Sound, return to restaurant owned by same Chinese crew that own the shop previously visited. Then stay in hotel recently purchased by Chinese crew. Bus loads of these a day ( pre lockdown obviously).

It would be great to see the net return to nz from these tourists. PS this is not a dig at the Chinese. Clever them!

The other story is the gap-year travellers in the cheap rental vans. They are on a shoestring, and contribute little financially on thier travels. The freedom camping available had made nz the domain of the budget tourist. Safe, affordable and beautiful! The only problem for nz is the sheer numbers that have to visit for us to gain any value from them. Surely we can move up the food chain of the tourist ladder. This would lessen the footprint on our country. Simple in theory, but how we implement it is the issue. I think by the time the boarder opens, we will be in a beggars cant be choosers situation.

quote from article - Now the mantra has switched to go back to work in the CBD; the businesses there need you

Not sure I agree with that statement Guy.

I work for a large business and no one I've talked to in our IT dept (the biggest dept in the business) has any plans of going back to working 4 days in the office and one at home, it's now 4 days at home and 1 day in the office. I've not been to work for 3 months now and love every minute of not being there and until someone tells me I need to be there I'll happily work from home.

People need to think carefully about the possible ramifications of all working from home. Business will be looking hard for cost saving initiatives. The offshoot is loss of job due to wider market as location is not a barrier. Also people value social interaction at work. This will be diminished.

NZ doesnt need a "pick for NZ" campaign, we have plenty of people who can and should do this type of work. What we need to do is allow in higher value jobs, forget backpackers and students who want to work... they add little to the economy.
We should accelerate the higher value work visa and international paying students.. they should do 14 days mandatory quarantine at their own expense in approved facilities and should then be only allowed to work or study at the specific employer... at the end they should return home where they can reapply again if they want - no overstayers welcome.

Lets ban freedom camping.

Despite the low pay as I see it tourism jobs have some advantages:

- they are less likely to be eliminated by ongoing technological changes. Many jobs are now moving online, only to be offshored, and then ultimately replaced by AI. Tourism jobs invovling person to person contact (e.g. guides) at specific locations are less amenable to being automated out of existance. A low paid job is better than no job, especially if it could be supplemented by some form of UBI.

- tourism provides jobs in rural areas and small towns (think Karamea, Taupo, Kaikoura etc) where there would otherwise be few jobs.

- tourism provides jobs for less skilled workers. There was comment above about tourism jobs being unskilled. I'm not convinced of this. Many tourism jobs are more skilled requiring the ability to engage with customers, computer and literarcy skills as well as technical expert knowledge. To the extent that the jobs are unskilled or requiring limited skills then this is an advantage. 50% of the popluation are by definition below average in IQ and not everyone most simply do not have the ability to be retrained in high-end knowledge economy. In the medium term finding any jobs for people at all is going to be the challenge and Tourism fits the bill here at least to some extent.

The other thing is this - a low paying low wage job is way better than no job.

The hard lesson New Zealand learned is that tourism as a business is ephemereal. It has little substance. They suddenly learned that it is not a business that is within their control. It can evaporate instantly. Gone. Subject to events elsewhere. Overseas. The government is making a collosal mistake throwing $400 million at it trying to resuscitate it. That $400 million will be a sunk cost this time next year. Put the money into clearing wilding pines, clearing gorse, culling wallabies, erradicating predators. All labour intensive activities. All backpackers have "volunteer" to do 3 weeks service. No pay

The govt has advanced $100m to the cause of clearing wilding pines, of which there is an estimated 1.8m hectares, spreading at the rate of 90,000 hectares a year. Shane Jones has so far advanced $200m to the cause of planting (mainly) pine trees on productive farmland, through his billion trees programme. Wilding pines presumably sequester carbon dioxide as efficiently as radiata pines, so wouldn't the best solution be to stand back, do nothing, let the taxpayer keep the $300m, and continue to enjoy the benefits provided by the productive farmland?

Jones and co are to thick to see the irony here! The only difference between wilding and plantation pines is one is planted in straight lines and other by the wind. When the great carbon grab runs its course and the speculators leave, we will be left with huge plantations of wilding pines that no one wants! Pine is a rubbish timber and with no silverculture is good for pulp. The carbon speculators wont spend a cent on silverculture. Leave the land as farms! ( I do realize that wilding pines are mostly a different pine to pinus radiata)

Sorry, Guy, fixed this sentence for you: "with elections on the near horizon it is not the ideal time for a frank discussion to be held over the number of tourists allowed in and under what terms. Let's get re-elected first, and then we'll think about a working group on this very topic so important to our Team of 5 Million."

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