September Newsletter

In this edition:

Continued focus on migrant worker exploitation

In a previous article on this topic, we wrote about Immigration New Zealand’s recent imposition of a one year migrant hiring ban on 82 Burger King stores. The ban was imposed because the company was found to have breached the Minimum Wage Act 1983 by paying a salaried manager less than the minimum wage.

The imposition of that ban was a timely reminder to all employers to not only ensure that they comply with the minimum entitlements under New Zealand’s employment laws, but importantly, it was the first clear example of a new era of enforcement action where the government will not hesitate to apply sanctions against any employer where they discover potential for migrant exploitation.

Continuing this focus, Immigration New Zealand has now prosecuted a Pizza Hut franchise owner on 25 charges relating to the exploitation of migrant workers, for offences ranging from not meeting minimum employment obligations, permitting or facilitating the breach of work visa conditions, misleading immigration officers and obtaining by deception. The offending was described as ‘calculating’ and ‘systematic’ and occurred over a period of 5 years in four separate Pizza Hut stores in the South Island. The employer in this case has been sentenced to nine months home detention, 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay $150,000 in victim reparation.

This prosecution comes as no surprise and highlights increasing efforts by Immigration New Zealand (via increased compliance funding) to identify and prosecute employers guilty of exploitation. Convicted employers are also now held personally liable in these types of prosecutions, which prevent owners and directors from simply closing down businesses to avoid paying fines. However, migrant employees of these employees also lose, because they will not be able to secure residency via that employer and most likely will not be able to renew work visas to continue employment.

From an employee’s perspective, it is very important to understand your statutory entitlements and most importantly, to ensure that you are being paid properly regardless of whether you are a waged or salaried employee. In many standard employment agreements a fixed salary is offered based on a standard working week of 37.5 or 40 hours per week, with the addition of a general clause that advises that the employee will be expected to work over and above that from time to time.

Salaried employees must understand that if their weekly fixed salary is divided by the number of hours they have actually worked that week, their hourly rate must be above the minimum wage (currently $16.50 per hour); irrespective of your occupation.

All employees on work visas must also ensure that they comply with the conditions of the work visa they have been granted. This is a particularly important consideration when there is an inconsistency between the visa conditions and the conditions of employment. An employer may well offer you a promotion or change of location, but you need to be aware that you most likely will need to change the conditions of your visa to accept that new role before you change or move. Many employers do not understand this or forget to deal with this, leading to negative consequences for both the employer and employee at a later stage when discovered by INZ.

While compliance measures and prosecutions such as the above may eventually strengthen the integrity/correct the imbalance in the system, the reality is that it is not easy for an employee to make complaints or raise issues with their employer from what they notoriously see as a position of weakness or disadvantage. This imbalance of power and the potential abuse that can result from it does not have a quick fix, however a lot of it can be prevented if both the employee and their employer are aware of and clear about their rights and obligations from the outset of the employment relationship. If in doubt, seek a legal opinion before you start work.

For further information or assistance with emigration please contact Lane Neave Lawyers on + 64 3 379 3720 or email

Māori culture and language – unique to New Zealand

Māori Language Week is celebrated in September in New Zealand, and it’s a great reminder of how important this special language is and how Māori culture shapes us uniquely as a nation. For newcomers to truly settle well into Aotearoa (New Zealand) they need to understand and appreciate  what has shaped the nation; its history, its people, and its stories. This is incomplete without knowledge of the culture of the tangata whenua –  the people of the land. The theme of Māori Language Week 2018 is “Kia kaha te reo Māori” – “To make the language strong”. Newcomers can help with this by actively learning more about Māori culture and the language (te reo), so that they feel strongly connected to the land and the people.

The Māori Language Act of 1987 made te reo an official language of New Zealand. It is used in Parliament, in the law courts, and commonly in signage throughout the public sector. While it is not compulsory in the school system, it is frequently peppered throughout early childcare and school curriculums. Kapa haka (Māori performing arts) is hugely popular in New Zealand schools, embraced by Māori and non-Māori children alike and showcased in annual festivals. Since 1999, the first verse of the National Anthem has been sung in te reo, and in 2013 the names for the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu) and North Island (Te Ika-a-Maui) became officially recognised in legislation.

Since 1975 New Zealand has marked Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) as a way to celebrate the language and promote the use of te reo phrases in everyday life. In recent years the week has grown in popularity, with widespread exposure in the media and the provision of a range of practical resources to use the language. These include helpful te reo phrases to use when ordering coffee and buying public transport tickets. One of the most popular initiatives this year was the launch of an interactive app – Kupu – that helps people translate English to te reo. The app quickly became the #1 top free app in the New Zealand Google Playstore and Apple App Store.

Despite only about a quarter of Māori speaking the language fluently, te reo is currently undergoing a resurgence in popularity throughout the country. Many of those interested in learning te reo are of Māori heritage who were not given the opportunity or were actively discouraged as children not to learn the language. Others are non-Māori who are realising the importance of the language for both professional and personal reasons. It is not just the language, however, that is important to acknowledge. Learning more about the Treaty of Waitangi (the 1840 founding document signed between Queen Victoria’s British government and the combined iwi (tribes) of New Zealand) and Māori tikanga (customary practices) is just as important.

Most newcomers arrive in the country knowing very little about the indigenous culture, other than having seen the All Blacks’ haka on television. Many, therefore, take up the opportunity to enrol in te reo and tikanga classes and visit a marae (Māori meeting house) to learn more about Māori culture. These activities provide a strong basis for feeling well-settled in Aotearoa. All New Zealanders, and those who plan to live here, should have a basic understanding of Māori language, customs, and protocol. It is a rich culture that provides great mana (power, prestige, and honour) to the nation of Aotearoa New Zealand and one that we are proud to share with new Kiwis.

Article provided by Lisa Burdes – SkillsConnect Canterbury Business Advisor at the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber offers migrant employment assistance, and support to employers of migrants in Canterbury. This service is fully funded by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). If you have questions about living and working in New Zealand, you can visit, email your query to or ring the INZ Contact Centre on +64 9 914 4100.

NZ salaries on the rise

Salaries are slowly rising across New Zealand. Wage growth has remained sluggish in recent years, despite New Zealand’s unemployment rate at its lowest level in a decade.

1 – Information & Communication Technology (Management) $129,870
2 – Information & Communication Technology (Architects) $127,839
3 – Accounting (Financial Managers & Controllers) $124,510
4 – Insurance & Superannuation (Management) $124,333
5 – Real Estate & Property (Retail & Property Development) $123,476
6 – Banking & Financial Services (Corporate Finance & Investment Banking) $120,979
7 – Engineering (Management) $120,175
8 – Mining, Resources & Energy (Management) $119,500
9 – Construction (Management) $119,325
10 – Construction (Project Management) $117,417

* Source: SEEK Salary Report, July 2017 – June 2018 vs July 2016 – June 2017

Salaries on the rise

The latest data from SEEK illustrates that salaries are looking up across New Zealand’s five biggest regions this year. Wellington led the way with a 2.7% lift and recorded an average advertised salary of $84,466. This may be due to the high proportion of public sector workers, who in many cases earn more than those in the private sector.Salaries in Auckland were up by 2.4% and the average pay packet was $78,415. In Hamilton, salaries increased by 1.6% with an average of $71,700. Meanwhile, Christchurch recorded the lowest growth in salaries with a 1.3% increase and an average of $74,948.

Where are the highest-paying jobs?

Wellington led the list of highest-paying roles, taking out the top five spots this year. First place went to Retail & Property Development ($142,777 average). With an expected population growth of around 50,000 people over the next 30 years, property development is a key part of Wellington City’s Urban Growth Plan. Medical specialists in Wellington are the second biggest earners in the country ($135,227 average) while management roles in the region’s superannuation and insurance industry placed third with an average salary of $134,250. Information Architects in Wellington came in fourth place with an average salary of $131,356. There is a strong demand for IT professionals in the public sector as the government responds to changes in the digital world.

There may be more to life than money, but it’s one of the greatest incentives when it comes to attracting top talent. Enterprise Recruitment is a full range agency with a nationwide presence throughout New Zealand. We offer complimentary insight into any candidate’s employment prospects.

Article provided by Steve Baker – Enterprise Recruitment and People.

Enterprise Recruitment and People has a national presence. We remain interested in providing obligation free advice to offshore candidate’s about their chances of securing employment in New Zealand. Steve can be contacted on or 00 64 3 3530680.

Steady economic growth good for migrants

New Zealand’s economy has put in a good performance over the past four years, growing in aggregate by 14.5%. That works out at about 3.6% per annum on average but the most recent growth rate in the year to June was recently reported as 2.7%. A slowdown has occurred but it is a very mild one not just by our recent standards but standards of a world still struggling in many instances to achieve stable post-GFC growth.

In fact the latest growth rate is bang on the average for the past two decades. Can it continue? If one were to blindly base forecasts on business sentiment readings then the answer would be definitely not. That is because a net 45% of businesses in one recent monthly survey said that they have a bad outlook for the economy. A net 5% said they plan cutting investment and a similar proportion plan cutting staff numbers.

These readings are not only below average, they are below average taking into account that there is a Labour government in power. There is a 40% point gap between confidence levels when Labour are in power as opposed to National.

There is actually a massive disconnect between the depressive attitudes of businesses and what is actually happening in the economy. For instance, output rose by 1% during the June quarter which is a lift from 0.5% in the March quarter. The September quarter may be a similarly strong outcome.

Consumer confidence is positive but slightly below average, however growth in household spending remains strong. The labour market is not just tight but by all anecdotes seems to be getting tighter. Export commodity prices are at very high levels, the tourism sector is going gangbusters, the government is increasing spending on most things including infrastructure, there is a house building boom underway, some banks have just cut mortgage lending rates, and the Kiwi dollar has fallen near 8% on average this past year.

There are three key problems facing businesses which we think account for a lot of their high anxiety. First, businesses have lost pricing power and maintaining margins has become very difficult. This loss comes about because consumers no longer blindly accept it when prices go up. We all can, at near zero cost, search for alternative products, prices, and suppliers online. Plus we will write negative things in social media when businesses raise their prices.

Second, businesses are struggling to adjust to a new world of labour shortages. For four decades the prevailing situation in New Zealand has been one of an abundant supply of reasonably skilled people. Now businesses cannot get unskilled or skilled people easily and their mindsets have yet to grasp the implications of this structural shift.

In particular businesses have yet to realise in most instances that they need to seek better profits through cutting output and cutting high cost inputs rather than necessarily trying to grow and meet customer demands at an impossible pace.

Third, businesses are facing a speed of change in their operating environment the likes of which they have never seen before. Old certainties regarding product life cycles, the nature and intensity of existing and new competition have gone.

So the chances are that even though we expect the economy to continue to grow over the next three years at a pace near 2.5% – 3.0%, businesses are still going to struggle and they are still going to desperately need to find labour – especially now that many employees are feeling good job security and likely to be thinking about leaving or demanding higher remuneration.

For potential immigrants this is a positive environment, helped by the government pulling back on earlier thoughts regarding radically cutting migrant inflows, and house prices stabilising for two years now in our biggest city of Auckland.

Article provided by Tony Alexander – Chief Economist, Strategy & Business Performance, BNZ. 

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