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DairyNZ recently made a submission on the Government's employer-assisted work visa consultation, saying that wages and conditions for migrant workers should be inline with New Zealand values.

Migrant workers have been an important part of the industry for decades, DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

"To be frank we're really grateful for their contribution to our businesses and our communities. I reckon they bring a lot, we've talked about diversity a lot recently, well actually in our dairy sector we do have a lot of diversity out there, from all sorts of nations and they bring a lot and they have for decades."


Listen below:

Mackle said the dairy sector relied on migrant workers, as it is currently experiencing a labour shortage that is "not getting any easier".

"For our dairy businesses in general to thrive we do need more people and more good people."

"Ideally there would be a great supply of competent New Zealanders for the roles, but without that supply we are reliant on migrant labour."

With this in mind, Mackle said it is vital to treat these workers the same as their Kiwi counterparts.

"All migrant labour should experience wages and conditions that are absolutely inline with New Zealand values and in dairy we do aspire to have great work places, we want to lead in that space."

DairyNZ also supported the proposition that employers should meet a standard before they can employ migrant labour, said Mackle, who mentioned this was "inline with our sector strategy Dairy Tomorrow".

Mackle hoped the outcome from the Government process will be that "all migrant workers irrespective of skill level can obtain longer visa durations".

"Ideally three years - some of them are having to go back every year."


"The focus in that case would be giving more stability to those individuals, both the employer as well as the employee, and that will help out businesses survive and these people to have a much better time here."

Stability is important not only to migrant workers, but to the future of the dairy industry, said Mackle.

"We've had waves of migrants coming into our sector over many, many decades and so many of them have actually ended up buying farms too. We've got to think about that.

"How do we enable these people to get on that same pathway that the many before them have enjoyed?"

Also in today's interview, Mackle previews the upcoming nationwide Farmer Forums beginning in Timaru on April 17. Find out more at