The primary sector needs to find better, long-lasting solutions to its labour shortages because it will no longer be able to rely on cheap migrant labour that it has done in the past, Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker says.
Speaking at the release of the latest Situation and Outlook Report, he said there was a risk for all of the primary sectors if they maintain their reliance on immigrant labour.
“I think we all need to do better as a country if we are to overcome those labour constraints and I don’t think there will be an appetite for going back to the high rates of net migration that we had pre-covid, which were causing so many other difficulties in society,” he said.
If there is one challenge the industry needs to come together on, it is how can it do better when it comes to resolving the labour issue.
It was a “complex mix” of pay conditions and ensuring a good quality of life for people living in rural areas.
“There’s a lot of work needed in this space to come up with solutions,” Parker said.
In its favour, it had the profitability and capital base to deal with these issues. It was one of the most profitable sectors in the economy, he said.
“If the people in this sector can’t sort out their own labour issues, then they really can’t look to anyone else to do it and they can’t rely excessively on migration to do it.”
While the Government was trying to assist with industry transformation plans to encourage more New Zealanders to take up careers in the primary sector, it cannot fix all of the labour market challenges the primary sector was facing.
“Market pressure are what will and market responses are what are needed to sort these issues out,” Parker said.