Veteran chef Simon Gault says recent changes to immigration rules pose a huge threat to the restaurant industry's future.

Gault, who has just opened his latest restaurant, Giraffe, at Auckland's Viaduct, said he was struggling to find workers to run it.

"I just opened a new restaurant and we're looking for staff, skilled staff in the area of hospitality, and they're not out there. We want to showcase New Zealand but how can we do it if we can't employ people to work in our industry?

"It's almost impossible to get staff to work at restaurants, and you have to rely on the people coming in [from overseas]. A lot of these people coming in come from a lifestyle of families, from hospitality, and they come with a lot of skill that we don't have in New Zealand," Gault said.


"I think it's one step forward and 10 backwards."

Under changes announced this year, overseas workers will need a job paying more than $48,859 a year to get any points towards a skilled migrant visa.

Gault said he believed the Government had failed the industry.

"[The changes] are detrimental to the hospitality industry in New Zealand and it's ludicrous because those are the people who want to work in hospitality."

Like many in the industry, Gault said he believed the Government had taken a blanket approach to curb the number of migrant workers entering New Zealand.

"If you can't employ people, how do you run restaurants and cafes? People are there wanting to work. Kiwis are not very good at the subservient type service that is required to be a good hospitality worker, and we've got people wanting to come here to do that work, but we're no longer allowing that.

"I know of three people in the last week who have been keen to work for us, hugely skilled, and they've had to leave New Zealand. People are coming to New Zealand, spending time here, spending their money here, and leaving in droves.

"I really hope that somebody sitting down in Wellington sees some sense. Do they not go out and dine in restaurants? Do they not see what's going on?


"Having just opened a restaurant, how hard it is to find staff is really annoying. They're making it so hard. I'm trying to showcase New Zealand and I've got the Government trying to cut me off at the knees.

"I challenge these people that are making the decisions to come and spend a week in my restaurant and I guarantee they wouldn't be able to handle the heat - and would be gone in 24 hours."

He said he hated to think of what the industry could look like in five years' time.