NZ Equity has expressed its disappointment at the NZ Government’s decision to change the immigration process for the entry of temporary entertainment workers into New Zealand.
“The immigration process that has been in place for decades, was there to ensure that New Zealand performers were provided with reasonable opportunities to work on all film and television productions,” said NZ Equity President Jennifer Ward-Lealand. “The new minimal process will now provide carte blanche for New Zealand taxpayer supported productions to engage non-New Zealand performers for any and every role. This is contrary to the Government’s stated election policy of ‘Kiwi’s First’.”
The rule changes will include allowing producers to avoid providing appropriate consideration to employing available NZ entertainers or professionals.
“This means that producers won’t have to first test the NZ employment market through a casting exercise to see if there is any performer suitable to do the job. If this was proposed for plumbers, carpenters or any other trade there would be a national outcry. Employers have an obligation to test the employment market in those industries. Employers in the entertainment industry should have a similar obligation.”
The changes will focus on those entertainment positions that are 14 days or less.
“While 14 days work may sound like a short length of time, this would account for the vast majority of roles and work in film and television – including lead roles. Periods of work less than 14 days are the nature of the job.”
Under the planned new system a so-called “silent approval” process has been introduced where a production company no longer has to seek prior guild or union approval through a letter of non-objection.
“The silent approval process is fundamentally flawed and will lead to significant administrative, bureaucratic and potential legal problems for Immigration NZ. This is because Immigration NZ will not require evidence that an applicant had provided the legally required information to the appropriate guild or union. The process is now open to significant exploitation.”
“The current system has worked effectively as a critical regulatory tool for the creation of jobs and opportunities for New Zealand performers. At the same time it ensured that the specific needs of particular productions and the broader needs of the industry were taken into account. NZ Equity’s approach to consultation has also been fair, reasonable and efficient, ensuring appropriate consideration has been given to employing available local performers who as a group experience effective unemployment rates of 95 per cent. The new system will lead directly to the loss of jobs and opportunities for NZ performers. Claims of potential growth in the sector by the Government simply glosses over the fact that NZ performers will be left playing the bit parts and supporting roles and demonstrates a lack of commitment to fostering a domestic production industry.”