Tuesday, February 27, 2024

300 foreign workers not enough for understaffed industry

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The Government’s decision to allow 300 more international dairy farm workers into New Zealand will not resolve the sector’s chronic staffing shortages, DairyNZ says.
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DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the Government’s decision to allow in only 300 dairy workers will be bitterly disappointing to farmers.

The Government’s decision to allow 300 more international dairy farm workers into New Zealand will not resolve the sector’s chronic staffing shortages, DairyNZ says.

The industry requested the Government allow 1500 dairy workers into NZ in November for 2022, but only 300 spots have been given.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said it will bitterly disappoint many under-pressure dairy farmers facing yet another season critically short-staffed.

“This is a wellbeing issue, in terms of mental wellbeing, but also health and safety on-farm. Understaffing increases the risk of accidents and can put animal welfare at risk. Dairy farmers are working long hours to keep their farms going, but it just isn’t sustainable,” Mackle said.

While he appreciated the continued support of Agriculture Minister Damian O’Connor and the MPI, it appeared some of their colleagues in government were not listening.

“Although 300 workers will help a small number of farmers, it’s a drop in the bucket for New Zealand’s largest export sector, which is at least 4000 workers short,” he said.

“This issue won’t just affect the dairy sector; we all access the same domestic talent pool, whether that’s between primary sectors or from support industries like rural contracting and trucking companies. The decision will have a knock-on effect on many other sectors.”

The new class exception will allow 300 international dairy workers to enter NZ. Employers must apply to DairyNZ for nomination and have a class exception visa granted by Immigration NZ.

A 2021 class exception is already open for applications, which allows 200 dairy workers to enter NZ, and has been partially filled.

He urged farmers wanting staff to apply now for one of the 300 spaces as there was no guarantee another opportunity to recruit international workers before calving will be possible.

Federated Farmers National Board member and immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis said the announcement will provide a measure of relief for the industry.

The dairy industry, farmers and the Government have done all they can to attract and retain Kiwi workers in the industry, but the need for international labour remains.

Federated Farmers has worked with the Ministry for Social Development for over a year to attract more than 525 people to work in the sector through its www.getkiwisonfarm.nz programme.

“If we want Kiwis to see an attractive future in the industry and to stop burning out our existing workers, we need the right number of people to staff our farms,” Lewis said.

“Every employer wants to offer a favourable work roster and more days off, but without enough people to employ this isn’t possible.”

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