Today’s announcement on border changes brings much needed clarity for the many dairy businesses that have been in limbo, desperately seeking international workers to fill vacant roles on farm.
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Source: Dairy

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the dairy sector is not unique in needing more workers, and appreciates the Government granting permission to bring in 200 international workers through border class exceptions in 2021.

However, Dr Mackle says that without the ability to get the workers through the border the class exception was not achieving its goal of allowing international workers onto farms.

“We have been working with the Government, putting forward several suggestions as to how our sector could manage the balance between the health risk and our labour needs, such as exploring how on-farm isolation would work. It is rewarding to see this planning has paid off today.”

While the changes announced today are helpful, Dr Mackle says there is still work to be done to ensure that the sector gets the people it needs to address a severe labour shortage.

“With a shortfall of about 4000-6000 dairy workers we have asked the Government for a further 1500 international workers be allowed into New Zealand in 2022,” Dr Mackle adds.

New data shows the New Zealand unemployment rate recently fell to 3.2% – the lowest rate in over thirty years.

“Without enough staff, animal welfare is at risk, environmental progress is limited, and high levels of stress affect people’s health and safety, and enjoyment of work.”

The changes announced today will allow nearly 200 international workers who are eligible for a dairy class exception visa to enter New Zealand in mid March (after their visas are approved) and go into on-farm isolation.

Dairy class exception visas holders have to be fully vaccinated to enter New Zealand.

Dr Mackle says it is also pleasing to see that the Government will be considering allowing more critical workers into New Zealand under class exceptions in April, alongside some international dairy workers who hold a current visa.

He says having a new pathway for some international dairy workers earning above 1.5 times the median wage to enter New Zealand from mid-March is also positive. Typically these people have worked on New Zealand dairy farms previously and their contribution will be recognised through this pathway.

The dairy sector also recently launched a new ‘Join Us’ campaign aiming to connect dairy farmers and New Zealanders and inviting Kiwis to join a dairy job – see for more detail.

State agriculture officials are expected to roll out an income replacement program soon.

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