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Govt Stops The Supply Of Overseas Farm Workers

Government Stops The Supply Of Overseas Farm Workers

Immigration NZ as from July 28 has changed the way NZ dairy farmers may recruit qualified dairy farm workers from overseas. This decision was made overnight, without warning, affecting hundreds of NZ dairy farmers.

The rapid growth of the NZ dairy industry has meant that there is a current shortage of qualified workers for New Zealand dairy farms. In recognition of this, Immigration NZ has allowed NZ farmers to recruit farm workers from overseas over recent years, as farm workers have been deemed to be skills not available within NZ as shown on the current Immediate Skilled Shortage List – See (Beef and Dairy Cattle Farmer (Assistant Herd Manager) (121312 and 121313). Applicants required equivalent to National Certificate in Agriculture Level 2 (a one year entry course into agriculture) or two years work experience on a dairy farm.

As from July 28 Immigration NZ is now requiring applicants to have had two years dairy farm experience plus tertiary qualifications. Unfortunately the dairy industry in the Philippines is nowhere as advanced as in NZ, and having experience dairy farming there is of little relevance to dairy farming in NZ. However, most applicants from the Philippines have agriculture or veterinary degrees, and have proven themselves to NZ farmers to be reliable and responsible workers.

As most dairy farm workers come from the Philippines (the Filipinos have developed an excellent reputation amongst NZ dairy farmers) NZ farmers have come to rely on skilled migrant workers from the Philippines in making up the short-fall in local labour.

What has shocked many NZ dairy farm workers is that on 28 July right at the start of the current dairy farm season Immigration changed the way the interpret their own rules. As recently as May, 2008 INZ advised:

Work visa policy also requires us to issue visas to applicants who are skilled. According to our Immediate Skills Shortages List, the requirements for an assistant herd manager are either the equivalent of a National Certificate in Agriculture Level 2, or two years' work experience, or both. Again, we are flexible when assessing applicants’ qualifications and work experience against these recommended criteria.

The recent decision has meant that many dairy farm workers who had been expecting to arrive for the current season have been unable to obtain their work visas to come to NZ. Many dairy farmers had been relying on these workers to do the farm work. Now they have been left high and dry, having to try to find unqualified and unsuitable workers locally, if they are lucky.

What has outraged NZ dairy farmers is the high-handed manner that the NZ Government can change the way they interpret their own rules and dictate to them how they can run their businesses. While dairy farmers may be prosecuted for breaking employment and immigration laws, this government appears to above the law. What is even more galling to NZ farmers is that the Government and INZ do not wish to comply with the existing regulations in place, changing the way they interpret the rules on a whim.

A leading supplier of skilled farm workers from the Philippines, Immigration Placement Services which is based in Manila and has been supplying dairy farm workers to NZ farmers for the last couple of years, has received many calls from frustrated farmers who have been left without the skilled labour that they had been expecting.

NZ Federated Farmers has taken up the case with INZ officials who have been unsympathetic to farmer’s plight. The Minister of Immigration has been unresponsive.


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