Member Advisory

COVID-19 Update: 20 May 2020


To: All members of Federated Farmers
We appreciate the ongoing support of our 13,000 members. Remember we are funded from a voluntary membership so please join if you are not a member and encourage your friends and neighbours to join if you are.

We are updating our website as new information comes to light so please click COVID-19 Updates on our web page.

This is our last regular COVID-19 Member Advisory. From now on we will provide updates, if and when required, as part of our weekly Friday Flash. Please remember to refer to our website for up to date information.


Table of contents:

  1. Government refused to fix tenancy problems for new farm employees
  2. Migrant workers: Streamlined priority application process for moving workers between regions
  3. Our website: A reminder that the following information is outlined on our website
  4. Need an employment agreement - but can’t wait for courier delivery? Try out our digital version

1. Government refused to fix tenancy problems for new farm employees

The Government has refused to make changes to emergency COVID-19 legislation that prevents, in other than exceptional circumstances, farmers freeing up farm accommodation for new employees, sharemilkers and contract milkers if the current tenant refuses to shift out (even if it was absolutely clear that they were expected to).

On 6 May 2020 we wrote to the Minister of Housing (Hon. Dr Megan Woods) requesting a change to the legislation to allow tenants to be required to vacate on-farm accommodation where it was required for new employees, contract milkers, or sharemilkers. Our letter was immediately transferred to the Associate Minister of Housing (Hon. Kris Faafoi).

We expected the Government to make the necessary changes to the COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Act on the basis that the effect on on-farm accommodation was an unintended consequence of the Act. Changes could have been easily made last week using the same fast track process that was used to pass the Act in the first place. Of deep concern is the lack of understanding of the consequences for new farm employees, contractors and their families of the Government doing nothing. The current tight restrictions on enabling on-farm accommodation to be freed up and prepared for new employees or contractors remains in place until at least 30 June 2020.

We will place increased pressure on the Government to find a fix for this problem. In the meantime, we encourage you to continue seeking to resolve any issues you have while we seek to find a solution. Our letter to the Minister of Housing and the Associate Minister’s reply is on our website, under the 'On-farm Accommodation' heading.

Please email if you are having problems with providing an empty house for incoming employees, sharemilkers or contract milkers and provide details - put “Tenancy problems” in the subject line. (Or call 0800 327 646 if you don’t have a good connection). Also, if you know of someone who is having problems in this regard, get them to contact Feds.


2. Migrant workers: Streamlined priority application process for moving workers between regions

Federated Farmers and Dairy NZ have been working hard on a range of immigration and labour issues with Immigration NZ and MPI. We have been having daily conversations and regular meetings highlighting issues around visa renewals, variations of visa conditions and tenancy issues. Because of the number of applications and the rapidly approaching new season, Immigration NZ has committed to prioritising visa applications where migrants are moving between regions.

Immigration NZ has provided the following update and summary of the issue:
Immigration NZ understands that a number of employers in the dairy industry wish to arrange for migrant workers to work in different regions from those specified on their visa, in time for the traditional dairy moving day on 1 June 2020.

When a dairy employer requires a migrant employee to move between regions for work, they must apply for a new work visa. We are receiving many applications related to this.

Taking the 1 June Moving Day and the current employment environment into consideration, Immigration NZ is prioritising these applications and is committed to ensuring these applications are assessed as quickly as possible.

Applications still need to meet all requirements for the work visa including evidence that there are no New Zealanders available to do the job.

Work visa holders may apply for a new work visa, unless they meet any of the following situations: -

Employers may request to vary the visa conditions of workers in essential services, if the work visa holder is:
  • Changing occupation, but the employer and region remain the same; or
  • Changing employer, but the occupation and region remain the same; and
  • Changing their employment conditions on a short-term basis, and intending to return to their previous role.
Work visa holders may apply for a standard variation of conditions if they are:

The holder of an essential skills work visa, and

their new occupation is listed on an Essential Skills in Demand list; and
they meet the requirements of the list; and
their new occupation is not at a lower skill-band.

The holder of an accredited employer work visa, and
they will undertake employment for another accredited employer; or
they will undertake employment for another employer who is not an accredited employer, if their employment is no longer available due to reasons beyond the visa holder’s control; and
their new base salary offered is no less than the base salary that was required at the time the initial work visa application was made; and
their new employer meets immigration instructions for employers.

The holder of a different category of work visa, and
The varied conditions meet the objectives of the instructions under which the visa was originally granted.

For more information contact your Immigration Consultant or Immigration NZ.

3. A reminder that the following information is outlined on our website:

1.1 COVID-19 Alert Levels Summary

1.2 Getting support with your feed planning

1.3 COVID-19 Support Package (Business and organisations)
Wage subsidy
Leave support scheme
Greater flexibility for statutory tax deadlines
Small business Loan scheme to support small business
Temporary (tax) loss carry-back scheme
Income equalisation assistance for farmers and growers
Changes to provisional tax thresholds

1.4 Employment
On farm tenancy restrictions
Safe365: Health and Safety COVID-19 support
Farm Business Health and Safety Protocols for COVID-19
COVID-19 Support Package (as above)
Mental Health at Work During COVID-19
COVID-19 Immigration FAQs
14 May -Immigration NZ Official Update

1.5 Moving Day Guidance

1.6 Helpful links
Understanding Alert Level 2 – MPI

Advice from Worksafe is here:

What Travel is permitted under Alert Level 2?

Govt Business Website: Workplace operations at COVID-19 alert levels

Trade Works' Media Release: 'NZ's Trade Leadership Vital, Says Major Food Exporters'​

4. Need an employment agreement - but can’t wait for courier delivery? Try out our digital version

Having an employment agreement in place for all your staff (and that includes family members) is not just a legal requirement but a useful part of establishing a positive working relationship and helps avoid misunderstandings by either party down the track. Hiring staff can be a stressful experience, especially if this occurs in association with Moving Day. Also, as you probably know, there are significant delays to courier deliveries. There is a better way.

The team at PaySauce provide a Federated Farmers’ digital Contract Builder. With this tool, you can create your own employment agreements, save them as templates and even email them to your employee to sign. It’s great knowing you can go paperless and contactless with this great technology and, subject to the quality of your digital connectivity, this can be done very quickly.

The Contract Builder ensure you remain compliant, locking in the clauses you legally need, while letting you add or remove the rest. Do it all online, creating, sending, signing, returning and even negotiating contracts. No fluffing around with paper, scanning documents or hoarding boxes full of musty old contracts. Get your people on board faster and cleaner. Check out the contract builder here.


Gavin Forrest
GM Policy and Advocacy
Federated Farmers of NZ