Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Kate Hawkesby: Dire straits for Queenstown hospo is heartbreaking


“All I do is cry” was the quote that broke my heart over the weekend.

The ODT had a story about the state of Queenstown at the moment, and it talked to café and restaurant owners who’re still in dire straits over lack of staff. They claim there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, and that this is worse than Covid was. 

Hospitality NZ’s regional manager was quoted as saying that it’s such a pressure cooker situation that, ''It's becoming a luxury for our operators to open at the moment.'' Imagine that. A luxury to even open your doors.

As a business, that has to be soul destroying. They’re over worked, under staffed and burning out. And I feel for them. Because they’ve been promised time and time again that it will get fixed, and it just isn’t getting fixed. So much so, that some operators are leaving hospo altogether.

One café operator said that .. ''chefs don't want to be chefs anymore — [they’ll] go work as a labourer instead, and they get paid really, really well to do that.'' Even though this café owner argues she still pays top end.  

Famous Queenstown establishment The Cow, it’s co-owner said the same thing, ..”there are no new people at all, you could put an ad out, '$100 an hour, they're not going to turn up… in 21 years ''I've never seen anything like this before..”

He’s apparently now having to close two nights a week. And that’s a familiar story for many operators, not just hospo.

I heard from friends returning from Queenstown the other day that they were shocked at how much was shut, how many cafes were closed, or operating at half steam still, how many shops had staff wanted signs in their windows, how down and out many of the business owners were.

The vibe had changed they said, it felt different and it felt desperate. And that’s because they are desperate. And they don’t see an end in sight. 

One of the café owners said.. ''We've got people that want to come and work for us but they can't find anywhere to live, so they're now looking for jobs that have accommodation with them.''

She said it’s ‘more stressful than Covid 'because at least [with Covid] you knew when you were going to get out of it, but this, you just don't know.'' So they’re at breaking point many of them, without a way out.

They’re not the Government’s biggest fans, as you can imagine.

Lone Star’s owner slammed the Government for its ''lack of conviction to try and fix it''. And that’s got to sting because it’s not like they haven’t been banging on about how bad it is for a long time, it’s not like Ministers don’t know what’s happening in Queenstown.

‘Restricting the labour market to drive up wages’, as Lone Star’s owner accuses the Government of doing, isn’t working. As The Cow’s co-owner said, it’s not about how much you pay, it’s the fact there’s nobody there to pay it to. There’s just no workforce.

So how bad does it have to get, before the Government actually gets more people into this country?

Not just 'opening up opportunities’ for them to come, but actually getting them in.

Aged care, tourism and the health sector I'm sure would love to know the answer to that question too.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

1 comment:

CXH said...

So, after a couple of years, these businesses have just waited for cheap labour to come into the country and rescue their sorry arses. People happy to live in a camp ground or 10 to a room.

Maybe it is time for a culling of the industry.