Monday, April 22, 2024

Dairy, hort sectors welcomes border exemptions

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The Government’s approval of border class exemptions to an extra 200 dairy workers and 50 veterinarians into New Zealand has been met with relief by primary sector groups.
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The exceptions will allow up to 150 dairy farm workers in management roles, up to 50 dairy assistant workers and up to 50 general practice vets to enter NZ, along with their partners and dependent children.

Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says the dairy industry was extremely grateful for the decision. He says it also showed the positive effect the organisation’s letter writing campaign had.

The industry will work through the details with the Government to see how these 200 spaces can be fairly allocated across the country.

Since the closure of the border, farmers have been crying out for dairy farm staff, with almost 50% of farmers surveyed reporting vacancies on farms.

“I have taken many, many calls from people who are struggling to cope without their farm managers and skilled staff. It has been a desperate time for many dairy farming families,” Lewis said.

The staffing shortages were a universal issue, affecting multiple industries across the country.

Lewis also supported the Government’s decision to extend Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) and Working Holiday visas by six months.

Some of these would be held by staff currently employed on farms and it gave them certainty.

These staff still had added pressures of not being able to return home and NZ employers were having to compete with the Canadian dairy industry, who were offering better incentives to live and work in that country.

Lewis says he knew of at least one farmer who had lost a staff member to the Canadian dairy industry.

The dairy industry had requested for at least 500 more workers to enter the country and a recent survey showed the industry was at least 2000-4000 people short across all levels of jobs.

While the industry was grateful for the exemption, it was still going to need more people.

He could not even speculate when these 200 workers would have gone through the arrival process and be ready to work on farms, with calving to get under way in July.

“We still need to find more details,” he said.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the decision was a step in the right direction.

“This is positive news for farmers who will be encouraged that the Government has heard our concerns and responded,” Mackle said.

“We will be ensuring farmers understand the details of the class exception to be able to make an informed decision.”

The six-month extension to SSE’s and working holiday visas was also welcomed by 

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.

“We’re pleased this decision has finally come out as we are losing workers on these visas to Australia,” Chapman said.

“The horticulture industry is still struggling to get enough workers, as winter pruning gets underway and we start to look to next season and the spring harvests, especially asparagus and strawberries.”

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