Smart shift on border exceptions, but shearers still missing
22 September, 2020
The government’s decision today to slightly loosen border entry restrictions to allow in certain specialised staff crucial to the agriculture and fishing industries is excellent news, Federated Farmers says.
“Feds has been strongly advocating for exceptions for skilled operators of sophisticated agricultural machinery key to harvesting and other seasonal tasks for several months. The pandemic response disrupted long-established workforce arrangements,” Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.
“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.”
The Minister has announced time-limited exceptions for up to 30 veterinarians, 570 deep sea fishing crew, and 210 agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators.
“Unfortunately, shearers are still missing from the list of exceptions. 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,” Chris says.
“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.”
“Our sector hears the government loud and clear on its desire to see more New Zealanders trained for these specialised roles, but until these people are available, upskilled, and willing to move to where they are needed, we need to continue to have a limited number of migrant workers able to re-join our primary industries after quarantine.”