Southland Federated Farmers dairy chairman Graeme McKenzie said initiatives designed to help young New Zealanders into the industry were vital in attracting “the brightest and best” to dairying.
“The present time is relatively settled in regards to dairy employment. There isn’t much movement, but the labour pool is still small for those looking for further employees.
“To address this, the sector is working hard in Southland and nationally to attract an array of potential employees. Here in the south, it would be great to see further support for the likes of the Southland Youth Futures programme and a good uptake on the newly launched Dairy Apprenticeship scheme.
“Coupled with attracting motivated Kiwis, there also needs to be consideration that migrant labour is an important part of the total employment conversation. Migration policy should be reflected at a regional level rather than a national level, I believe.”
Warrick Ryan, whose firm Cross Country Recruitment, helps place about 200 Filipino dairy workers in the domestic sector each year, was optimistic the recent change of Government wouldn’t impact on his business activity.
In July, the company had looked at establishing a regional office to serve the Southland market but had since decided to consolidate the business at its Hamilton headquarters, although that didn’t reflect a decreased demand for migrant dairy workers in the south, Ryan said.
“We don’t believe [a Labour-led Government] will have an effect on immigration in ‘in demand’ areas of employment, such as dairying. We have to prove there are no Kiwis suitable for the jobs we place, and the demand for such remains very strong throughout the country.”
The Philippines remained the best candidate for filling the shortfall, he said.
“Southland has been at the forefront of taking on foreign staff, with the North Island also growing more strongly over recent months. The supply of workers from the Philippines is reliable, principally because they speak good English, and are coming to New Zealand for genuine reasons. It’s still a dream for many of them to come and build a life here.”
Ryan saw the demand continuing in the short to medium term.
“The only check we can see on the horizon could be a change to greater sustainability in dairying, where you have fewer cows on the land and therefore a decreased requirement for staff to oversee them, but we believe that’s likely to be longer term in its effect.”
Both Ryan and McKenzie said Southland remained an attractive prospect for migrant dairy workers from within and outside New Zealand.
“Southland is a beautiful, scenic part of New Zealand with a strong existing community of migrants, supported by passionate dairy farmers who want to make it work,” Ryan said.
In addition, McKenzie pointed to the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS), with its goal of a further 10,000 residents for the region by 2025.
“We’ve got a friendly, welcoming community, and we’re looking for ways to make Southland even more attractive through initiatives like SoRDS. It’s a good time to get into dairying.”