Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says farmers contemplating struggling through with workforce gaps should think about the stress that it will bring, especially the toll it will take on the existing staff.
Primary sector groups are welcoming an extra 1580 international workers being allowed into the country by the Government.
Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis said the extra workers are a shot in the arm for employers struggling to recruit enough staff locally.
The new settings include an increase in the current border exception for assistant dairy farm managers, 2ICs, dairy herd managers and dairy farm assistants by 500 to a total of 800 for those earning at least the median wage plus $1 per hour (currently equates to $28 per hour).
“The Federation’s message to farmers is to take up these places,” Lewis said.
“We know that with fuel and fertiliser price rises, concerns in some districts about supplementary feed and other factors, there may be a temptation to try and struggle through with workforce gaps.
“But just remember the stress that puts on you and the rest of the team, the health and safety factors, and the difficulties of rostering to give people decent time off when your staff complement is deficient.”
The meat worker border class exception cap will be extended by a further 500 workers on top of the previous agreed figure of 150 workers.
“There are very real meat supply chain constraints and while some districts are in drought, in other parts of the country farmers have possibly been holding back stock. More of them will send animals to the works to get down to wintering numbers and it will be very positive to close up workforce gaps so that plants can again operate at full capacity,” he said.
Border class exceptions have also been approved for up to 300 silviculture forestry workers and up to 280 wood processors and manufacturers to enter New Zealand.
DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said while the extra workers are welcome, it still fell short of the 4000 needed for the coming season.
“The Government’s decision to increase the number of international workers by 500 is a step in the right direction to reduce the pressure on farm teams. We will continue to advocate for more to be allowed into New Zealand, to help address the significant staff shortage,” Mackle said.
Employers must apply to DairyNZ for nomination and have a class exception visa granted by Immigration NZ.
Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said the 500 extra meat processing workers will help ease the sector’s chronic labour shortages.
She said the sector was 2000 people short, with the situation exacerbated by a number of people isolating or having to stay at home to look after family members with covid-19.
“Right now, there simply aren’t enough people to process every part of the carcase to maximise its value, so these additional workers will certainly help alleviate pressure in the industry,” Karapeeva said.
The meat processing sector predominantly employs New Zealanders, with migrants accounting for less than 5% of the total workforce, she said.
“However, these migrants play a critical role. By way of example, 10 migrant workers enable one night shift to run at a plant employing 70 New Zealanders,” she said.
“New Zealand currently has very low unemployment, particularly in our regions and getting people to relocate is not easy.
“This is despite the sector offering on-job training, strong career paths and very competitive salaries, in many cases above the median wage.”