DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the government announcement allows many valued international dairy workers to become residents and recognises their years of hard work on farms and positive contribution to the dairy sector.
“We are genuinely delighted for these workers and their families. Many dairy workers can now plan and look forward to a future in New Zealand with their families,” says Dr Mackle. “Their contribution will assist the dairy sector to continue playing a key role in New Zealand’s economy.”
For the past 18 months, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers have worked in close partnership to ensure the best possible outcome for migrant dairy workers and their employers.
“We appreciate that the Government has acknowledged the pressure farmers are under, due to being short-staffed, and also recognise the critical role international workers play.”
A number of dairy workers have had residency applications on hold since before Covid-19 affected New Zealand in early 2020. Many have been without their families, who are overseas.
“We have a significant number of international dairy workers in New Zealand who have been here for many years. They play an essential role in our farm teams and enable dairy to continue its vital contribution to New Zealand’s economy,” said Dr Mackle.
“Our country and our rural communities will benefit from these workers and their families formally becoming New Zealanders. Their children help keep our rural schools open and their partners bring skills to our rural regions at a time when many employers are struggling to find staff.”
The announcement does come too late for some workers, as a number of migrants wanting to become New Zealand residents have already left for Australia or Canada, which offered certainty about residency rules.
While today’s decision is positive, it doesn’t fully address the scale of the staff shortages on farm – dairy farmers are still short an estimated 2000 to 4000 workers.
DairyNZ and the Government want to attract more Kiwis into dairy careers and DairyNZ’s GoDairy campaign enables New Zealanders to find out more about working in the dairy sector.
Dr Mackle says that it’s been a really tough time for many farmers, particularly during calving. A DairyNZ farmer survey showed around half of New Zealand’s dairy farmers have been coping with a staff shortage.
“However today many farmers, employers and employees will be celebrating and we celebrate with them.”
The 2021 Residents Visa will be open to an estimated 4,000 dairy workers. Anyone working as a dairy cattle worker can apply, along with those working in dairy roles in New Zealand for three years or more, or workers in New Zealand for a shorter timeframe on a higher skills visa earning above $27 an hour. Dairy workers who are granted a class exception visa and will enter the country over coming months are also eligible.