Immigration NZ has only just received an application for foreign workers from a local subsidiary of a Beijing-based property developer, which has publicly said it wants up to 200 Chinese workers to help build a high-end Auckland hotel.
In response to Radio New Zealand queries yesterday, developer Fu Wah said it intended to bring in the foreign workers because of a skills shortage in the construction sector.
Fu Wah wants the workers to help finish the $200 million-plus Park Hyatt Hotel on Auckland's waterfront, expected to be finished by March next year.
Following media reports, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway sought clarity from Immigration NZ that the application for work visas was legitimate and in an area of genuine need.
Today he released an aide memoir from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment showing that Fu Wah had only informed Immigration NZ of its intentions yesterday.
"On 8 February, 2018, Fu Wah New Zealand's lawyer provided Immigration NZ with a copy of a cover letter for an Approval in Principle application, which they plan on submitting on behalf of their client in the near future," the memoir said.
The cover letter stated that Fu Wah New Zealand has set up a joint venture company with LBY New Zealand Construction, a subsidiary of LBY China. The company wants to bring in 174 experienced workers from China to work with about 100 local workers for the "fit-out" phase of the project.
But the letter does not specify the dates for when the workers will be needed.
It is understood Immigration NZ received the formal application this morning.
The aide memoir notes that the application will be processed in consultation with Work and Income, industry training organisations and the Council of Trade Unions.
Fu Wah New Zealand has supported visa applications for 37 other people since March 2015, mostly for general business visas. These allow visitors to be in New Zealand for up to three months for business meetings and negotiations, but they are not considered to be in employment in New Zealand.
Yesterday Lees-Galloway conceded there was a shortage of skills in the construction sector.
"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.