Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has acknowledged the key role of the primary industries sector over the last nine months.
However, Federated Farmers says some farmers who hired locals to replace the migrant workers trapped overseas could be facing a tricky situation.
Federated Farmers vice president Chris Lewis is urging famers to carefully read the wording on contracts.
“Before you start thinking about getting Johnny from overseas to replace Paul who is already employed on your farm, read the wordings on the contracts,” he told Dairy News.
“This could become a complex employment issue for some farmers.
“So, take advice before you run off to the immigration consultant.”
Lewis says “a kind spring” meant that many farmers got through calving with the help of new workers.
However, he says most locals don’t have the farm work experience that the migrant workers possess.
“Everyone expects a high level of animal welfare and sustainability practices on farm and we need these experienced overseas workers to help farmers meet those expectations.”
Lewis says at the last count about 50 migrant farm workers were trapped overseas. He couldn’t say how many would still have jobs.
Lewis thanked new Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi for his understanding and making changes swiftly.
“I only wish the last minister had made the decision months ago.”
Faafoi last week announced that visa holders, who must have retained their job or business in New Zealand, plus their partners and dependent children, will be able to apply for this exception from early October when the new category opens.
“Many of these visa holders and their families have lived in New Zealand for years and have built lives here with the hope and expectation that they would be able to stay longer-term in New Zealand. It is only fair to let these visa holders return given their long-standing and ongoing connections to this country,” says Faafoi.
“We are keen to give them certainty and welcome them back to New Zealand.”
DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says this is a real breakthrough for migrants who meet the criteria and gives their farm employers certainty to plan for the future.
“We thank the Government for listening to the sector’s calls for these highly skilled people to return. They contribute to the dairy sector’s success, are invaluable for their experience and skills, and are important for training incoming Kiwi staff.”
The visa holders and their families will follow all border control processes and go into quarantine or managed isolation, before re-joining their communities here.
DairyNZ has been working with the Government since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. The Government did provide a six-month extension on the employer-assisted temporary work visas due to expire by the end of 2020, which was also very welcome news for dairy farmers.