Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president Andrew McGiven reflects on the need for more skilled workers in the farming industry and the barriers being thrown up by Immigration New Zealand's "broken" system.
Farming needs skilled workers. As I travel around the agribusiness sectors, one of the most common themes I hear from employers is how skilled staff shortages are impacting negatively upon their businesses, and how much they are struggling to maintain or increase productivity and profitability.
With the New Zealand labour market currently very tight, immigration policies need to focus on allowing local businesses to access qualified and talented employees to fill the shortfall, and be able to do this in an efficient and timely manner.
Read more from Federated Farmers here.
Likewise, from the potential immigrant's point of view, they will also want some sort of security that, if they make the move from their country to ours, unless it is only on some sort of short-term visa, they will have options to be able establish themselves here and plan some sort of future.
Dairy industry shortages
Currently the dairy sector is facing massive staffing issues and, in many instances, these are being filled by immigrants who have a fantastic work ethic.
An example of this is the extensive Filipino population who are living and working on New Zealand farms and are in many cases the backbone of those businesses.
They are skilled and tireless employees who would be a huge loss to the industry if they ever had to leave.
Yet that is the case under current immigration rules, as many of the junior and mid-level management roles within dairy farming are not classed 'essential' under Immigration New Zealand (INZ) policy.
This means that, in many cases, these Filipinos cannot bring their families into New Zealand with them and must go back to the Philippines after three years, regardless of how much training and tuition an employer may have invested in them. This is bad for the farming industry, and the rural community as a whole.
There have been some examples of this over the years, the most recent being INZ declining residency and initially looking to deport a Ukrainian family who owned and operated a successful restaurant in Auckland, or the British man who operated a successful business in Nelson and was a volunteer firefighter fighting the fires earlier this year.
And yet the Minister of Immigration initially allowed a convicted drug-smuggling fraudster to remain here, and in my opinion only public outrage saw him revisit his decision.
We are all the same
With the tragedy in Christchurch, we need to increase security at our borders more than ever.
But at the same time, this tragedy showed us that we are all the same, wanting the same things for ourselves and our families – be it safety, security, prosperity or aroha.
In my opinion the current immigration system is broken.
If we are to be considered by the talented as a place to live, we need an immigration system that not only protects New Zealand's interests but also can deliver to those who make the huge leap to move here.
It should be a win-win.