Federated Farmers hopes that the Government will take the opportunity of newly available space in MIQ quarantine to bring much-needed workers for the primary industries into New Zealand.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins estimates that the Australian quarantine-free travel bubble will free up 1000 to 1300 beds in MIQ a fortnight.
“MIQ spacing has been continually quoted as a barrier for getting the workers we need. With more beds becoming available it should now allow those with agricultural skills to enter the country,” Federated Farmers Immigration Spokesperson Chris Lewis says.
“With continued low unemployment and the majority of available workers remaining in the urban centres, all of the primary industries are crying out for labour.”
Farm Source, a leading job website for the dairy industry, currently lists over 1100 vacancies on farm, far higher than the usual number for this time of year, Lewis said.
“All of the primary industries have been working hard to attract and upskill Kiwis to work on farms, but unfortunately these initiatives don’t address the immediate labour problem. We need people in our fields, orchards and cow sheds now.”
Federated Farmers have asked the Government to allow 500 skilled dairy staff into New Zealand for the new milking season. A survey was undertaken in March to gain a better understanding of the staffing issues on dairy farms. The survey had 1150 responses in just one week.
Survey results showed that 49% of dairy farmer respondents were currently short-staffed; 46% had vacancies unfilled for more than three months; and nearly a quarter had been unable to fill a gap on their team for more than six months.
Federated Farmers acknowledges the Government has already made some limited border exceptions for agricultural machinery operators, veterinarians, sheep shearers, animal pregnancy scanners and some skilled dairy staff to date.
“However, these limited exceptions aren’t going to go very far with the number of workers needed across the primary industries in the coming months,” Chris said.