Monday, July 15, 2024

Immigration strategy to ease pressure on primary sector workforce

Immigration exemptions are set to deliver much needed help for New Zealand’s meat, forestry and dairy sectors, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Forestry Minister Stuart Nash announced today.

The Minister said the changes open the door for 1,580 additional experienced workers to come to New Zealand for jobs in the dairy industry, meat processing, and forestry.

“Our reconnecting strategy includes special immigration provisions to allow critical workers to enter New Zealand, ahead of a full reopening and the wider re-set of border rules later in the year,” Minister O’Connor said. 

“Our food and fibre sector continues to lead the economic recovery from COVID-19. Food and fibre export revenue is expected to hit more than $50 billion by 30 June 2022, and it’s vital the sector has the experienced workforce it needs to achieve this.

“New Zealand’s food and fibre sector continues to show its resilience and ability to adapt and respond to the challenges brought about by COVID-19, but extra help is needed.

“It’s clear our red meat sector needs access to experienced processing workers to tackle workforce challenges and preserve vital supply chains. Our previous border exception for 150 meat processors is fully subscribed. We are expanding the provision by an additional 500 workers,” he said.

The Government has also increased the current allowance for migrant dairy workers.

“We’ve boosted the current dairy worker immigration arrangement by an extra 500 workers to enable our dairy industry to build capacity in the lead up to calving.”

“This takes the number of migrant workers under this border exception arrangement to 800. There are no caps on particular roles in order to provide flexibility,” said Mr O’Connor.

Minister Nash says the Government has also agreed with an industry request for up to 300 silviculture forestry workers and up to 280 wood processors and manufacturers to enter New Zealand.

“The forestry industry is a big presence in our rural communities and regional economies, bringing vital jobs to regions across the country,” said Mr Nash.

“The forest planting season runs from May to September and a shortage of workers could limit the number of trees going in the ground, and their survival rates. Silviculturalists also add value to the wider forest nursery industry through their management of plantings.

“The forestry industry also needs skilled workers in wood processing and manufacturing, across a range of roles like kiln operators, electricians, sawmill workers, timber machinists and carpenters. Extra help from migrant workers will keep building and construction supply chains open and meet the growing demand for timber and wood products.

“The forestry sector employs around 35,000 people and skills shortages in one area have flow-on effects given its highly integrated nature. Today’s changes will help lift the wider performance of this sector of our economy, and ease pressures in rural communities,” he said.

The border class exceptions take effect from today, 12 April, and will address critical worker shortages in the lead up to implementation of the new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) which opens on 4 July 2022.

Minister O’Connor said the Government was committed to working alongside the food and fibre sector to meet the challenges from COVID-19.

“I’d like to acknowledge the ongoing efforts of our farmers, growers, fishers, foresters, processors and others who contribute to keeping the engine room of New Zealand’s economy ticking.”

 “The sector is providing vital food and fibre products for Kiwis and millions around the world, and the Government is committed to working alongside the sector to tackle COVID-19 challenges head on and support the sector’s long-term success,” he said.

Meat worker border class exception:

  • Increasing the class border exception cap by a further 500 workers (on top of previous agreed figure of 150 workers).
  • Workers must be paid a minimum pay rate of the median wage across the shift (currently at least $27 per hour across each shift).

Dairy worker border class exception:

  • Increasing the current migration border exception to 800 (increase of 500 workers from previous 300) for assistant dairy farm managers, 2ICs, dairy herd managers and dairy farm assistants earning at least the median wage plus $1 per hour (currently equates to $28 per hour). These workers are not eligible for the 2021 Resident Visa.
  • This change does not affect the other existing border exception for up to 200 assistant dairy farm managers, 2ICs, dairy herd managers and dairy farm assistants with different minimum pay requirements depending on the role, which expires on 30 April 2022. All approved workers under this class exception are eligible to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa if they enter New Zealand by 31 July 2022.

Forestry worker border class exception:

  • Border class exceptions approved for up to 300 silviculture forestry workers and up to 280 wood processors and manufacturers to enter New Zealand.
  • These workers must earn at least the median wage (currently $27 per hour).

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