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Primary Sector Workforce Support In Dairy, Meat And Forestry

Critical skills gaps in the primary sector are being eased with a decision that opens the door for 1,580 additional experienced workers to come to New Zealand for jobs in the dairy industry, meat processing, and forestry.

Exceptions are being made to usual immigration rules to deliver much needed help for our meat, forestry and dairy sectors to keep up the momentum of economic recovery, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Forestry Minister Stuart Nash announced today.

“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,” Damien 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.

“The Government has also increased the current allowance for migrant dairy workers. Our calving season kicks off in June and July, and the dairy sector needs extra workers during this busy period.

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“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 Damien O’Connor.

Forestry Minister Stuart 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 Stuart 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,” said Stuart Nash.

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.

Damien O’Connor said the Government is 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,” Damien O’Connor said.

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