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Govt must allow border exemptions for tech professionals - NZTech

By Shannon Williams, Tue 8 Dec 2020

Border exemptions are needed to allow skilled tech professionals into the country, says NZTech. 

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says a review of New Zealand's immigration settings is imperative.

"There is a major COVID bottleneck within Immigration NZ and [I] want an immediate border exemption for key tech people," he says.

"We have asked Cabinet ministers to urgently consider allowing more rapid entry of targeted candidates with critical advanced digital skills."

Muller says border restrictions set in place as part of the Government's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is affecting inward technology investment, while starving the economy of critical skills that are needed now. 

"We would like to see an immediate border exemption for skilled tech people, with at least 50 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) places a day reserved for skilled migrants needed by technology and other economic contributors," he says.

"We must have a separate and expedited Immigration NZ approvals process for tech investors and migrants with in-demand technology skills."

Over the past five years, to support the rapid digitisation of businesses, New Zealand has imported approximately 5000 technology specialists with advanced skills. 

 "With closed borders, it is obvious that what was once a skills shortage could quickly become a catastrophe if not managed well," Muller says.

"Many Kiwi tech firms and organisations are now unable to find people with critical digital skills such as data analysts, software programmers and cybersecurity experts," he says.

Muller says it is not just tech firms that need these skills, but also banks, agribusinesses, government agencies and health boards. 

"Post-COVID, technology will continue to reshape how we work, learn and play and this will have a profound impact on our society," he says.

Muller says technology is a major COVID-proof economic contributor. 

Last year, the tech sector employed 114,000 people, was the country's third largest export and contributed 8 percent of GDP. 

The country's 200 largest tech exporters generated overseas sales of $9.4 billion with annual sales growing at 8.3 percent to $12.7 billion.

"The sector has been resilient through COVID," Muller adds. 

"The majority of firms have continued trading, providing support and services; exporting and creating jobs across New Zealand," he says.

To date, New Zealand has seen 2,079 cases of Covid-19, with 1,997 recovered cases and 28 deaths, 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shut New Zealand borders to international arrivals, with some exceptions.

Worldwide, there have been 67.3 million cases of the virus, with 1.54 million deaths. 

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