Wellington Scoop

Free trips


by Lindsay Shelton
During two decades when I was responsible for international promotion of the New Zealand film industry, I learnt to be cautious about people who needed to be given free tickets before they would come here.

The only reliable visitors (I discovered) were the ones could pay their own way, because they were employed by well-resourced media outlets which gave me a guarantee that we’d get coverage – something that wasn’t so secure from the many hopefuls who couldn’t afford the price of the ticket.

No doubt it’ll be different with the people who are being chosen by WREDA to get a free trip to Wellington for a job interview. (Though these days there’s technology which means you don’t really need to fly people around the world to ask them questions.)

The Wellington LookSee scheme has exceeded all expectations in terms of numbers. But it’s brought a warning from NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller who says that immigration is not the answer.

“While the Wellington campaign has garnered over 48,000 applications, it doesn’t mean that tech skills shortage is solved…New Zealand should not depend on immigration as the silver bullet to the tech skills shortages, so the work the education system is doing to help build local talent is critical.

He is however complimentary about the over-subscribed marketing campaign:

“This means we can now select the very best and bring high quality talent into the country. The campaign was designed to fill about 250 open senior developer roles in Wellington. There are firms right across New Zealand that are still struggling to find enough people with digital skills … Once Wellington has finalised the LookSee campaign the plan is to ensure as many other roles are filled throughout New Zealand from the highest quality applicants.”


The campaign got attention last week from the New York Times (though its report is somewhat confused, datelined Wellington but illustrated with photos of Auckland.) It tells its readers:

A municipal program to fly in 100 developers next month — wine them, dine them and offer them jobs — was expected to draw 2,500 applications. But the recruitment effort, called LookSee Wellington, was besieged with more than 48,000 entries, including workers at Google, Amazon, Facebook, M.I.T. and NASA. At one point so many people checked out the program that the website failed….

The LookSee Wellington initiative … was initially focused on Americans. Then word began to spread. By the time the contest was finally cut off on March 30, India had overtaken the United States in applications.

The New York Times re-tells the salutary story of Peter Thiel, who made a big profit from a joint venture with the government, and then moved his highly-profitable new business to North America.

It quotes Rod Drury of Xero as being an enthusiastic supporter of the LookSee campaign. He wants to make it an annual affair.

After all, it takes the expensive problem of recruitment off Xero’s hands and lets the government do it.

Expensive, yes. But it’s not the government that’s paying. The scheme is a partnership between the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (owned by the city council and the regional council) and Workhere New Zealand, a private sector business specialising in global recruitment marketing. So the wining and dining and the air tickets are being paid for by Wellington ratepayers.


  1. TrevorH, 17. April 2017, 8:02

    More corporate welfare from the Wellington City Council. Why are ratepayers subsidizing private companies?

  2. Troy H, 17. April 2017, 11:22

    Good question TrevorH. And why are we funding Xero?

  3. Mary M, 17. April 2017, 15:52

    I find ratepayer subsidizing of private companies to be an outrageous abuse of power.

  4. Kay, 17. April 2017, 19:01

    The costs of the initiative. are shared between WREDA, WorkhereNew Zealand (a private company) and Immigration New Zealand (NZ Government). Employers who recruit a candidate seen through the initiative will pay a market recruitment fee. Judging by the media attention so far, some of the costs of the campaign could be transferred directly from tourism advertising budgets. We should get many more visitors to New Zealand than the hundred candidates and any partners.

  5. TrevorH, 17. April 2017, 21:51

    Thanks Kay: and are ratepayers to be reimbursed from the market recruitment fee? Whose pocket does that go into to?

  6. Troy H, 18. April 2017, 13:23

    Kay, but that does not answer the ‘why’ question. Why should the ratepayers be made to fund any of the costs of a private company’s human resources?

  7. Ms Ethical, 18. April 2017, 13:54

    After an exhaustive search to find Workhere New Zealand’s directors…I could find none.It is unclear who is driving and benefiting from this “platform” and website, which is all it seems to be. Free trips? Since when do we as a New Zealand and Wellington community find it acceptable to offer free “incentives” for people to come to New Zealand – whether that be Singapore Airlines or individuals as in this WREDA undertaking?

    It is not acceptable for our rates to be diverted into private pockets…whether they be Ian Cassel’s profit at Shelly Bay (a project without any possible public input into the resource consent because it is a fast-tracked Special Housing Area for “affordable..yeah right” housing) or other private pockets such as the runway extension, the Convention Centre and film museum, Wairarapa “water use” aka an irrigation project.

    Councils were never establlshed to be immigration consultants, bribing people to come to Wellington. We should not accept this misappropriation of our funds.

  8. Henry Filth, 21. April 2017, 13:49

    Are New Zealanders too stupid to train, or is it too limiting to profits to train New Zealanders?