Friday, December 8, 2023

Sector welcomes border exemptions, shearers wait their turn

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A limited number of overseas veterinarians and farm machinery operators are being allowed into New Zealand after the Government granted exemptions for these professions.
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Mark Barrowcliffe | September 23, 2020 from GlobalHQ on Vimeo.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says the latest exceptions are for up to 30 veterinarians and 210 agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators, and these exceptions will be time-limited.

Also included in the exemptions, are 570 deep sea fishing crew.

Faafoi says there are not enough New Zealanders to fill current needs for livestock veterinarians, especially in isolated areas.

“Training to be a vet takes years, so these vacancies cannot be filled quickly,” he said. “Vets provide significant benefits to our economy and communities, by ensuring biosecurity and food safety requirements and supporting animal welfare.”

Agricultural and horticultural machinery workers operated highly-specialised machinery across regional NZ.

“Their skills are required urgently to avoid the loss of crop and animal feed that will soon be ready for harvest,” Faaifoi said.

Rural Contractors New Zealand president David Kean welcomed the news, having spent months working with government ministers and officials to secure the approval.

He says the industry was told in June to look to employ more New Zealanders, and responded with supporting expos and various training initiatives.

“Unlike previous years, we have actually been able to recruit people into our industry,” he said.

“Rural contractors have brought on board people as diverse as helicopter pilots, snow groomers and jet boat operators.”

While most coming into the industry can learn to drive a tractor, many simply cannot step up safely into the cab of a complex machine like a combine harvester or one that produces sileage.

“That’s why RCNZ has kept talking to the Government and officials about the need to be allowed to bring in some skilled imports. We started off thinking we may need 700 and eventually whittled that down to 210,” he said.

“Our season is now well under way and some of our members may have given up any hope of this announcement.

“However, as an organisation, we kept our chief executive Roger Parton focused on seeing what could be achieved and we are delighted with what’s been announced.”

The news also pleased Federated Farmers.

The organisation’s employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says they had been advocating for these exemptions for several months.

“We’re very pleased that Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has now recognised it’s impractical to try and train enough New Zealanders in time to meet the immediate need, though that is the sector’s longer-term goal,” he said.

Adding shearers, however, needed to be added to this list.

“Farmers are very concerned that the border controls mean there’s a shortfall of up to 150 experienced shearers on our shores, and if that doesn’t change we are heading for some pretty serious animal welfare issues as hotter temperatures arrive,” he said.

“By a conservative estimate, that workforce gap equals 180,000 sheep a week unshorn. Just like driving a combine harvester, you cannot pick up a handpiece and handle the workload of an experienced shearer the next day.”

In a separate announcement, changes have also been made to help fill labour shortages in the horticulture and viticulture industries.

Faafoi says the sectors performed a critical role in supporting NZ’s covid-19 recovery.

“So, it’s important we support them to keep going, while ensuring that, where there are job opportunities, New Zealanders are given a fair chance at filling them,” he said.

The Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visa will be automatically given to around 11,000 working holiday visa holders in NZ with visas expiring between November 1 and March 31, 2021.

These visas will allow the visa holders to work in horticulture and viticulture roles, where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do this work.

Employers can take on these workers when there are unfilled Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme spaces with an RSE employer, or there are unfilled roles available with an accredited SSE employer.

All RSE scheme workers stranded in NZ who have been granted a more flexible limited visa to be able to work part-time and do non-RSE work will also be able to re-enter the RSE scheme and work for an RSE employer with 30 hours per week, average pay guaranteed.

This change is for the 2020-21 season only.

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