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Farmers support majority of immigration changes

Farmers support majority of immigration changes

Source: Federated Farmers

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Federated Farmers welcomes continued access to migrant labour where it’s needed.

"We’re pleased that within the suite of changes announced by immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today, farmers - especially in the dairy industry - will continue to have access to migrant workers in situations where there are insufficient New Zealanders available to fill vacancies," national board member Andrew Hoggard says.

"However, we have concerns with the current process and some of the proposed changes."

Immigration is vitally important to agriculture, which grapples with increasing urbanisation taking available labour away from rural areas. In the foreseeable future farms will continue to rely on migrants for part of their workforce even though there are a number of initiatives underway to attract more Kiwis into agricultural sectors, Andrew said.

"Finding enough New Zealanders is a tough nut to crack because we are not just asking to them to come and work on a farm often in a remote location but also, in many cases, to move away from their families to rural areas where they have no existing contacts or support networks."

Immigration is putting pressure on Auckland infrastructure but in the rural areas the opposite is true, Andrew says.

"Migrants make a vital contribution to local schools, social organisations and community groups that would be struggling without them. They also increase the base from which our rural roads and utilities are funded."

Federated Farmers welcomes the changes proposed to the skilled migrant category for residency. The current skilled migrant occupation classification is a blunt instrument that does not account for highly skilled farm employees and makes it virtually impossible for them to achieve residency.

"The upper salary threshold of approximately $73,000 will mean that some farm managers who are highly sought after, and therefore highly paid, will at least be able to entertain the prospect of long term residency. This new initiative will be of great benefit to the migrants and for the agricultural sector.

"We are also pleased with the announcements around the one-off pathway to residency for some South Island employees, as previously signalled by the Minister in 2015. This will apply to many dairy farm workers who have contributed to the industry and the community for a number of years, but are not yet able to claim skilled migrant category status," Andrew said.

Federated Farmers will work closely with Immigration NZ in the implementation of the changes announced for temporary essential skills visas. The farmer group is concerned about the implications of the three-year cap on temporary migrants, although it acknowledges that salaries for entry level staff will increase over the three-year tenure.

"In many rural areas there are just aren’t New Zealanders to employ and in a lot of cases, when farmers seek applicants from Work and Income NZ, no-one is put forward for the job.

"In that instance I’m concerned about the prospect of a migrant being forced to leave after three years, after they have worked hard to develop a core set of skills, just for the farmer to have to employee another migrant because there were no New Zealanders available," Andrew says.

"It may be that over the course of the three years employed on the farm the migrant’s salary is increased to a point where the cap will not be enforced, but we have to work with Immigration NZ on that point."

ENDS


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