SEEK Employment Trends: regional spotlight on Queenstown and Wanaka

A popular tourist destination for local and international tourists alike, the beautiful region of Queenstown and Wanaka has long attracted a seasonal workforce. However, an increasing population and a push to attract new visitors throughout the year is bringing a new meaning to ‘peak season’ for this stunning area of the South Island.

SEEK job ads showed year-on-year increases for most industries in Queenstown and Wanaka. Jane Bamford, Director of Queenstown-based recruitment firm Add Staff, says the region is booming all year-round. “We've been in business for 17 years and when we first started, we did 70% of our business from January-March,” explains Bamford. “That is not even close to the case now. Demand is spread quite evenly across the year and we don’t really have a down time.”

Tourism on the up

Tourism to the beautiful Queenstown and Wanaka region is increasing. Statistics New Zealand’s Commercial Accommodation Monitor shows that the number of guest nights rose by 2.5 per cent to 298,498 in August compared to the same time last year. SEEK job ads for the region’s hospitality and tourism industry also experienced growth, rising by 59% year-on-year.

“Our tourism numbers are up, our visitor nights are increasing and organisations like Destination Queenstown are doing a very good job of encouraging visitors to come in the quieter months of May-June and September-October,” explains Bamford. “In an ideal world, we'd love to be consistent year-round so we don't have fluctuating staff numbers. A few years ago, we didn't have nearly as much work to give to our staff in May. What we're finding is that that's not really happening anymore.”

Queenstown and Wanaka’s engineering industry also saw significant year-on-year percentage growth in September, with job ads up by 300%. “We're experiencing a commercial construction boom and it’s scarily similar to pre-GFC times,” notes Bamford. “Our last big commercial construction boom was in 2006, when the Hilton was going up and we were building Remarkables Park, which included a big local shopping centre hub. Then the GFC happened and a lot of the commercial building stopped.”

In related industries, SEEK job ads for the region’s construction industry increased by 40% year-on-year, while trades and services grew by 35% over the same period. Meanwhile, job ads for CEO and general management roles increased by 200% year-on-year and information and communications technology job ads were up by 67% compared to the same time last year.

Laws of attraction

Bamford says that while Queenstown and Wanaka are booming, attracting talent from some of the larger markets, such as Auckland, can be a challenge. She notes that this is particularly the case for industries such as accounting, where SEEK job ads grew by 233% year-on-year. “Auckland has a lot of large corporations, so their finance team might have a hundred people in it and there are specific roles for each person,” she explains.  “In Queenstown, because we've still got a lot of small to medium-sized businesses, people wear a lot of hats.”

The region’s growing population is also leading to a growth in the real estate and property market and SEEK job ads for the industry increased by 100% year-on-year in September. “The property market is strong right now and it’s not surprising that job ads are up,” says Bamford.

The growing population is also having an impact on the region’s healthcare and medical industry, which saw a year-on-year increase in job ads of 40%. “Our residential figures have gone up, so therefore our need for health services has gone up,” says Bamford. “We need more doctors, more nurses, more healthcare in general.”

Bamford adds the growing population is also having an impact on the retail and consumer products industry, which experienced year-on-year growth of 48%.

Consistency counts

As Queenstown and Wanaka’s employment market becomes more consistent across the year, Bamford expects some industries to experience less demand for new recruits to fill roles once left by a more transient workforce. She says this may be the case for industries such as manufacturing, transport and logistics, which saw a year-on-year decline in job ads of 31%. “As we become less seasonal, the work becomes more consistent, so you tend to attract a different type of candidate who is willing to commit for longer,” she says.

The region’s banking and financial services industry also saw a year-on-year decline in job ads of 60%, while farming, animals and conservation was down by 33% and government and defence experienced a decline by 40%. “Our council went through a major shake-up a couple of years ago but I’d expect to see growth in jobs soon,” says Bamford.

The transformation of Queenstown and Wanaka’s employment landscape from seasonal to more consistent is having a positive impact on the region. “It’s good news for employers,” says Bamford. “If we have less seasonality, we have better retention and that’s the ultimate goal for everyone.”