Young Migrants Thrown On The Scrapheap in Queenstown

Grace MacCormick reports on the sad reality facing Queenstown’s migrant workers.


Grace says thousands of young migrant workers who were a major part of Queenstown’s tourism industry are now out of work due to Covid-19.

The pandemic has destroyed the town’s tourism industry with the number of visitors each year falling from over three million to zero. 

Many migrant workers call NZ ‘home’

Many migrant workers have lived in New Zealand for years – it is here that they call their home. 

In a Southern Lens video made by Crux Publishing Ltd with funding from New Zealand on Air, migrant workers in Queenstown have called for unity after being told to “go home” on social media. 

Holleh Nowrouz, a migrant worker from the UK said, “New Zealand and Kiwis shouldn’t be seeing it as “the migrant workers aren’t our problem, they should go home.

“The reason why this country is my home and so many other migrant workers’ homes, is because of how at home we are made to feel in this country.” 

It’s not easy to ‘just go back home’

Lucy Bateman, a migrant worker from the UK, said it was not easy to just go back home for a lot of migrant workers. 

“I’ve seen a lot of people write ‘just go home’ on Facebook posts and stuff like that. They don’t understand we have moved here and this is home for us.”

Be compassionate’

The Chamber of Commerce chief executive Anna Mickell called on New Zealand to “be compassionate.”


(Chamber of Commerce chief executive Anna Mickell. Source: Crux Publishing)

“We have a leader in this country who has been very clear that she expects compassion.”

“This community here is a compassionate community, but we have to be real that we are a small country at the bottom of the world and our capacity for adequately supporting people is, especially at this time, limited.”

The migrant from Columbia

Juliana, a migrant worker from Columbia, said that she has been treated unfairly. Losing her job the same day as the lockdown started, she says that “even when my employer could apply for the subsidy…he made my role redundant in the worst situation.”

“Many migrants have lost the hope of staying in New Zealand. It’s like a failure for us because we made a lot of effort to come here. It’s frustrating that I couldn’t achieve my dream.”


(Columbian migrant worker Juliana. Source: Crux Publishing)

Mayor Jim Boult outlines the need

Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult outlined that of the 9000-people requesting assistance on the council database, between 5000-6000 are migrant workers.   

(Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult. Source: Crux Publishing)

“We have to remember migrant workers have played a massive part in the development of the tourism industry not only in Queenstown Lakes but right around New Zealand.” 

“We have got to be careful that we don’t just turn around and say sorry we don’t need you anymore. We do owe them a debt.”

Perhaps this is a chance for New Zealanders to work towards rebuilding the economy, along with the migrant workers who have decided to continue to work in our country and help us through this time. 

Now view the Crux video…

Filmed, edited and directed by James Haskard.

Picture credits: Source: Crux Publishing)

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