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‘Worst it’s been’: Hawke’s Bay businesses reduce hours amid staff shortage


Temporary closure and staff wanted signs in Napier shops. Photo / NZME

Staff shortages are continuing to plague hospitality, retail and tourism businesses in Hawke’s Bay with owners forced to reduce hours or even shut temporarily.

Hawke’s Bay Today surveyed the main streets of Napier CBD last week and found three eateries temporarily closed with signs citing staff shortages, while a further 16 stores, bars and eateries had “staff wanted” or “now hiring” signs in the window.

Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Karla Lee said retaining staff was of huge importance amid staff shortages and low unemployment (3.3 per cent).

“Many business owners and operators in the retail and hospitality sector in Hawke’s Bay have made the difficult decision to reduce their opening hours to protect the staff they do have,” she said.

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“The issue of staffing shortages will not go away overnight … current labour market projections aren’t looking positive for a rapid upswing in employment in the sector, the return of migrant workers will build slowly over the course of the year – and likely beyond.”

She said, on a positive note, it was an excellent time for people looking for work to move back into the workforce with attractive benefits.

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO Karla Lee says it is a good time to enter the workforce. Photo / Warren Buckland
Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO Karla Lee says it is a good time to enter the workforce. Photo / Warren Buckland

Staffing shortages have been a major problem throughout Covid with few or no travellers available to work in hospitality or retail among other industries.

Sickness has also caused problems for staffing including with Covid isolation.

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Napier Labour MP and Tourism Minister Stuart Nash’s office supplied statistics highlighting 25,000 working holiday visitors had arrived in the country since last March, and another 18,000 had been approved to come to the country on working holiday visas, which should help bolster staffing.

However, the general manager of a popular eatery in Napier, who did not want to be identified, said he did not see staffing improving anytime soon.

He claimed staff shortages were currently “the worst it has ever been” and could get even worse when students return to university.

“[We] have a lot of students, and even high school students, and once they all start back to school we are not going to have enough people to operate things.”

He said it was “slim pickings” finding workers, and they had given up on trying to sponsor overseas workers to work and live here permanently as he claimed the process took months and was difficult to navigate.

Cellar doors are also finding it tough to get enough staff in Hawke's Bay. Photo / NZME
Cellar doors are also finding it tough to get enough staff in Hawke’s Bay. Photo / NZME

Hawke’s Bay Tourism chief executive Hamish Saxton said many in the tourism industry were having to deal with staff shortages.

“The most critical shortages at the moment are at our cellar doors, in our restaurants and at tour and transport companies, who rely on drivers.

“We are also seeing increasing difficulties in recruiting and retaining housekeepers at accommodation providers.”

He said the shortage of housekeeping, service staff, chefs and baristas at accommodation and hospitality venues was, at times, impacting operating hours.

“Many of these frontline service and kitchen roles were once filled by international visitors on working holiday visas, so we are certainly looking forward to a significant influx of these travellers to bolster the workforce.”

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