Federated Farmers has backed the Government's proposed set of immigration reforms, which include introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas.

The Government says the reforms will simplify the system and make it easier for businesses and regions to get skilled workers.

"The proposals released this morning by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway are a step in the right direction from the government, especially as they acknowledge the difficulty that some employers face when they can't find suitable New Zealand workers to hire and train for a role," said Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis.

Read more: Govt unveils new proposed employer-led immigration rules

Advertisement

Federated Farmers welcomed the regional approach to skills shortages, said Lewis.

"The problems in places such as Balclutha, Methven and Ashburton are not the same as in Auckland and it's important that we have a framework that doesn't punish farming businesses for the housing and other infrastructure pressures face by population growth in our major cities. In many cases, it's the families of migrant workers that provide the critical mass to keep provincial community resources like schools and sports clubs alive."

Allen praised Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway for implementing the changes.

"It's great that the Minister has proposed reversing restrictions on migrant workers' families coming with them to New Zealand because that is really important for rural communities.

"We're also glad that the policy of enforcing a stand-down period after three years is being reviewed, but action can't happen soon enough. The problems associated with this change when combined with 12-month visas have been patently obvious since their introduction and we have been discussing the impact they have been having on farmers for some time."

"New Zealand needs to be an attractive proposition for the best migrant dairy workers. Since even those with experience are currently considered low skilled, and subjected to their jobs being advertised annually and with no prospect of staying after three years, we aren't going to able to attract the best or keep the people that we have invested in over the first three years."

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said addressing labour needs by region would lead to more productive primary industries.

"It's a fact that New Zealand needs people in the regions where we grow fruit and vegetables, far more than we do in the cities", says Chapman.

"By analysing each region's needs, both in terms of numbers and expertise, these changes will help areas in need of more workers, while also placing temporary migrants where their unique skills are most in demand.

"This will also help prevent over saturation of labour markets. We don't want competition for work between Kiwis and migrants, we want migrants to shore up numbers where Kiwis are unavailable. Our industry aims to get New Zealanders into work first, but some regions have virtually no New Zealanders available during harvest and pruning.

"These changes will allow regions to make their case for specific types of workers, and direct labour to the areas that need and value them most.

"Today growers around the country are experiencing a shortage of workers due in part to the low unemployment rate. This proposal will address those concerns, and is welcomed."

DairyNZ said it also welcomed the government's consultation on temporary work visas and the proposed introduction of Regional Skills Shortage Lists, as labour shortages were a very real and serious problem for the dairy sector.

"Dairy farmers, just like any other business owners, need a stable, reliable and productive workforce," said DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle.

"Right now, many of our migrant farm staff have to reapply for their visas each year and can't bring their families to New Zealand or stay longer than three years. This significantly impacts our workforce and our rural communities.

"We hope this consultation will result in many of our valuable dairy employees being classed as mid-skilled rather than the current incorrect classification of low-skilled.

"We are working to attract more Kiwi candidates in the regions where the jobs are," said Mackle. "But until we have enough people with the right training and passion for farming, who are attracted to rural regions, we will continue to need migrant staff – particularly in Canterbury and Southland where there is a greater shortage.

"Regional Skills Shortage Lists would be a positive step during this transition as we attract more Kiwis into the sector.