It’s time for a good old-fashioned letter writing campaign. I am not a psychologist or a therapist, but my skills at helping others when they are at near breaking-point have been getting a good work out lately.
I take a call every day from someone who is desperately trying to figure out how they can keep running their farm, because the work is constant, there are no breaks and there is no relief in sight.
My role at Feds is to be the spokesperson and advocate for all things to do with immigration and employment. This used to be the gig at Feds where you’d find yourself a couple of times a year in a high-powered meeting with the likes of the CTU, Work & Income, MSD, DairyNZ and other industry bods, trying to explain – again – that agriculture needs more high skill workers. We’ve never had enough people.
Then COVID came along and the meetings have been more frequent, our message is the same and we’ve tried to deliver it with more facts, and more intensity. Either there are no hard working Kiwis at all around to employ because they all have jobs, or the very few that are, simply don’t or can’t do the job. And I’m not just talking about dairy staff here, it’s right across the primary sector. Agronomists, combine harvester operators, shearers… we simply don’t have enough of any of them.
So, back to letter/email writing. I’m telling everyone that calls me to tell someone else, let’s send Wellington a message what it is really like with vacancies in your business, that makes you overwork and mentally stressed every day you are at work without a break for your family and yourself – WRITE down what is happening on your farm and send that message to someone who really needs to hear it.
Get your kids to write to the Prime Minister and tell her how many days straight Dad/Mum has been in the milking shed. Get you mother (grandmother) to write and tell your local MP how many days she’s spent in the last month babysitting your kids. CC that email to us at Feds, and to the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi. Damien and Kris already know it’s bad. Telling them our stories will help them fight our corner.
Other things to write in your email: We need more spaces in MIQ. We need skilled farm staff with New Zealand residency to be allowed back in the country. Like contract milker Joey from Southland who is stuck in India. These people are not ‘migrants’, they are Kiwis. We are banning the use of the word ‘migrant’ from our communication. It is disrespectful and not even accurate. We need the high skilled farm workers who are entitled to work in New Zealand.
#BringThemHome is our Twitter/Facebook hashtag for the workers and the families stuck overseas. Use it where ever you can.
The Ministers that make the decisions are:
– firstname.lastname@example.org Prime Minister Jacinda Adern
– email@example.com Agriculture Damien O’Connor
– Kris.Faafoi@parliament.govt.nz Immigration Kris Faafoi
– Your local MP firstname.lastname@example.org so they are aware of the problem.
Write to them all and make sure you CC in Federated Farmers at email@example.com so we can hear your stories too.
Taking five minutes to write now could make all the difference for getting the workers and contractors you need for the coming season. You can also have a listen to Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis on The Country this week talking about the industry’s dire need for workers here.