NZ crews fear fallout following immigration changes

3 Oct 2011 

The Techos’ Guild (NZ Film & Video Technicians' Guild) views the recent Government announcement of changes to immigration in the entertainment sector as but the latest in a series of ill-conceived moves illustrating a dangerous lack of understanding that will ultimately endanger the local screen industry. 
Techos’ president Alun Bollinger comments “John Key seemed blithely unaware, on the Mumbai set of Bollywood film 'Players' earlier this year, that this particular production had left New Zealand with damage to locations and thousands of dollars in outstanding debts.  Mr Key chose this visit to posit the government's intention to make it easier – through changes to immigration policy – for such productions to come in to work in NZ.”
The new rules announced last week cede sovereignty in deciding who should or should not work in New Zealand to foreign interests. This is inappropriate.
The Guild anticipates the changes will raise a variety of concerns for the industry, but notes serious concerns around losing a point of contact with visiting productions. 
Until February this year, the immigration process included a valuable dialogue between guilds/unions and all productions bringing in workers from overseas. 
In the absence of this dialogue, the potential now exists for increasing damage to life and property during filming of such productions, even if visitors’ intentions are to operate safely.
Those expecting voluntary compliance might be in for a shock. The Guild regularly directs visiting productions toward assistance where otherwise none would have been in place. Though such assistance is usually taken up willingly, plans to film here regularly lack consideration or understanding of local rules and conditions.
The government makes the claim that all businesses operating in NZ are bound by NZ laws and regulations. The question remains: who’s going to advise – let alone monitor – an isolated and very mobile sector as it goes about its business, when there is no way of even identifying who is working in the country?
The record of ministers overturning guilds/unions objections is cited as evidence of redundancy of the process, when in fact the opposite has been shown to be true.  In one example, following a Guild objection based on a lack of local crew, one rogue production shut down a major road-tunnel during filming, without permission.  
Without connection to local expertise or obligation to care for public places, parks and private land, such episodes are likely to increase in frequency and severity.
All short term productions will  be free to operate 'off the grid' - anything could happen.
The government ignores the many positives inherent in the process, in favour of painting it as redundant and bureaucratic. On countless occasions guild negotiations with producers have circumvented the formal objection process, gaining agreement to employ local over international crew, with associated benefits for safety and compliance.
The screen industry is divided into short – two weeks or less - and long term engagements, with careers often being built up of many small jobs. Under the changes proposed, immigration for the short term sector will now be unregulated, as will many individual short-term positions on long term jobs. As a result the plan to allow any worker in NZ for 14 days or less to enter without a work permit could have a profound effect in this sector.
There is no way of identifying who the government refers to when it claims the industry will benefit from the changes, as the process has lacked transparency at every stage, and the official information act has failed to shed any light on actual industry submissions.
Any government reassurance of reviewing the process further down the track rings decidedly hollow given the drawn-out and murky process leading up to the changes said to come into effect in March 2012.
The Guild was not notified prior to the latest release, but, judging by Dr Coleman’s comments, anticipates a system unchanged from that proposed in highly controversial consultation documents from earlier this year

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