News that Filipina rest home worker Julie Garcia could be deported despite being a valued employee at Kaitaia’s Switzer Residential Care home for the past ten years, has angered those who say we need migrant workers to boost our aged care workforce.

Immigration New Zealand refused to renew Garcia’s working visa on the grounds that the job could be filled by a New Zealander, according to Radio NZ. Garcia and her family were reportedly given two days to leave the country.

Rest home manager Jackie Simkins said while she understands that Immigration NZ wants to see New Zealanders offered jobs, it will not be easy to replace Garcia, who had all the skills, experience and training to do the job well.

Garcia has recently completed a qualification and will be eligible for residency once she receives it. She is appealing the decision, and has the support of her employer and local mayor, John Carter.

“We would welcome her as a Kiwi,” he told Radio NZ. “She’s going to be a real asset to us and quite honestly a good taxpayer, a good citizen. We need her.”

Garcia’s case is indicative of a problem facing many residential aged care facilities in New Zealand.

Last year the Government made it harder for rest homes to recruit migrant registered nurses by pushing up the number of points required to gain residency under the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC).

The New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) opposes the points increase. Chief executive Simon Wallace describes the change as disappointing, especially when it comes at a time when it’s widely accepted demand for aged residential care services is continuing to grow.

The NZACA claims the sector is committed to employing New Zealanders with the “right attitude”.  The NZACA is working with the Ministry of Social Development and Work and Income New Zealand to get more young Kiwis in employment, but Wallace says the problem is that they can’t recruit enough youngsters who are available and willing to learn.

Radius Care managing director Brien Cree agrees.

“The reality is that we don’t have New Zealanders lining up to take the jobs that are available; we just end up with vacancies and major gaps that need filling.”

Human Resources Manager at Glen Innes’ St Andrews Village, Lee Keegan, says they do try and employ Kiwi workers where possible, but often they do not bring the same level of attitude, knowledge or experience as migrant workers.

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