Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway is asking for more information about the 200 workers being brought in from China to work on building a new high-end hotel in Auckland.
Due to a skills shortage in the construction sector, Beijing-based property developers Fu Wah wants to bring in 200 Chinese tradespeople to help the 300 local workers finish the Park Hyatt Hotel in the city's Wynyard Quarter.
"There'll be a number of skills, mainly around fine decorating including stone work, tiling, wallpapering, painting, veneer work - there's quite a lot timber veneer within the hotel, so they'll bring those skills to us," Fu Wah New Zealand general manager Richard Aitken told Radio New Zealand this morning.
The $200 million-plus hotel is expected to be finished by March next year.
The first of the workers were due to arrive next month on short-term work visas.
Lees-Galloway said he understood the applications were being made 10 at a time, and had asked for a briefing from Immigration NZ.
"This application was made under the settings we have inherited, and there's every likelihood they are legitimate applications and there is a genuine need. I need to make certain of that, and that's why I've asked Immigration NZ to brief me," he told Radio NZ.
He blamed the shortage of skills in the construction sector on the previous Government.
"I can understand why people are asking questions about why New Zealanders are not able to participate in this work. The previous Government failed to invest in the skills that New Zealanders need to participate in that sector."
Government policies including having a year of fees-free post-secondary education and the He Poutama Rangatahi employment scheme - $13 million to get 2000 young people into work in the regions - would help upskill the labour market, he said.
The Government also plans to introduce the KiwiBuild Visa to help build 100,000 affordable homes in 10 years. The visa would bring in up to 1500 foreign workers, conditional on taking on a local apprentice for each foreign worker.
"Where there are genuine skills shortages, and employers need to get workers and to use immigration to get workers, that's where we'll make sure the system works for them," Lees-Galloway said.
The latest unemployment figures, released yesterday, show the unemployment rate at 4.5 per cent, the lowest in nine years.
But underemployment - part-time workers who want to work more - rose to 6.3 per cent, the highest rate on record.
"There is capacity within the New Zealand labour market," said Lees-Galloway, who is also the Minister of Workplace Relations.