Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

'Charity muggers' offered free flights

Fundraising firms recruiting foreigners to tout for donations on our streets and want job put on Immigration NZ’s skills-shortage list.

Ed from Bradford in England has been working in New Zealand for three years asking passers-by for money. Photo / Michael Craig
Ed from Bradford in England has been working in New Zealand for three years asking passers-by for money. Photo / Michael Craig

Many of those annoying people hustling passers-by in city streets for charity donations are paid professionals from overseas - and more could be on the way.

Charity marketers and industry watchdogs believe there are not enough experienced bucket rattlers in New Zealand and are asking Immigration NZ for street fundraisers to be added to the immediate skills-shortage list, to make it easier for them to enter the country for work.

Backpackers and tourists from Britain, Europe and America are even being offered free flights to New Zealand to work as "face-to-face" collectors - known in Australia as "chuggers" or "charity muggers".

"There is a shortage of skilled face-to-face professionals in New Zealand and we have formed a group to look into this," said Karen Ward, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association. "We think they should be on the skills list.

"We support organisations seeking to attract experienced professional staff into New Zealand's face-to-face industry and we understand organisations may offer a contribution towards travel expenses when recruiting them," Ward said.

Charity marketer Cornucopia Consultancy offers to pay $1500 for return flights for people to work as collectors at intersections and footbridges in Auckland and other major cities.

Its contractors collect for the Red Cross, Fred Hollows Foundation and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

Under the "free flight" deal, foreign collectors are expected to work for six months and sign up at least three donors a day.

"Great fundraisers are hard to find and the free-flights incentive is offered to experienced fundraising professionals," Cornucopia spokeswoman Lisa Cory said.

"Applicants are required to go through a strict and comprehensive recruitment process."

Consumer New Zealand chief executive Sue Chetwin said people were unlikely to welcome more professional collectors on city streets.

"It is hard to believe this is an occupation that might be considered for any skill shortage list," Chetwin said.

"Many consumers have an issue with professional charity collectors as some can be aggressive in their approach."

Ed, from Bradford, England, was collecting in Auckland city centre this week for the Red Cross. He said he had been working in New Zealand for three years and was employed by Cornucopia Consultancy.

Ed would not give his full name and his three colleagues refused to talk about free flights before trying to avoid being photographed.

"I am not allowed to speak to anyone from the media," Ed said. "I don't know anything about free flights."

Immigration NZ said the skills-shortage list identified occupations where there was a genuine shortage of New Zealand workers.

It was not designed for lower-skilled or seasonal labour shortages.

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- Herald on Sunday

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