Kiwis reluctant to join dairy workforce

By Carmen Hall

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Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink says there is a shortage of Kiwis willing to do the work. Photo / File
Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink says there is a shortage of Kiwis willing to do the work. Photo / File

The number of migrant dairy workers coming to New Zealand is on the rise.

Immigration New Zealand figures show there are 2262 migrants working in the industry - 526 are listed as dairy cattle farm workers and 1736 have the occupation of dairy cattle farmers.

In the 2012/13 financial year, 2134 temporary work visas had been issued compared with 1894 in 2011/12 and 1770 in 2010/11. Migrants from the Philippines accounted for more than 50 per cent of the workers, followed by India, Fiji, Chile and Britain. Canterbury recruited the most after Southland, Waikato, Otago and Hawke's Bay.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Willy Leferink says there is a shortage of Kiwis willing to do the work because of the misconception that agriculture is a low-paid, low-skilled career. "We'd love to hire capable Kiwi workers, but I see New Zealand exploding and the economy growing and we were just short of workers, full stop."

Federated Farmers had produced a practical all-in-one electronic document to help dairy farmers navigate and simplify the process to hire migrant workers.

Mr Leferink said he arrived in New Zealand 20 years ago with nothing.

"I now have two sharemilkers who are on the highway to farm ownership.

"They are earning big money and doing a great job. Four years ago they had nothing - they didn't own the couch they were sitting on. "There is huge opportunity in the industry and it's not all about hard work, but smart work."

Leferink says today's generation is different from that of 10 years ago, being motivated by different values and having a different attitude.

Bay of Plenty commissioner for social development Mike Bryant says it has 537 Bay of Plenty job-seekers with dairy farming skills or who were looking for dairy farm positions.

It only had four dairy-related vacancies listed with Win. "The good employers we work with attract and retain quality workers. "We would welcome the opportunity to work with Federated Farmers or the industry to help job-seekers into employment within the dairy sector."

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