Southern shearers and woolhandlers are being targeted by Australians as a staff shortage starts to bite across the Ditch as their industry back home braces for a stressful season.
Kawau Shearing owner Dave Kawau has been advertising in southern newspapers to recruit shearers and woolhandlers to work in his shearing gang in South Australia.
The work in Naracoorte, a town more than 330km southeast of Adelaide, starts immediately and was guaranteed until the end of the year.
Shearers would be paid $3.75 a sheep - a mix of merino and crossbred.
Experienced woolhanders would be paid $75 per run.
The package includes free accommodation.
When Southern Rural Life called Kawau at the beginning of the month, the sole responder to the advert was a shed hand.
He had hoped shearers would have called to address a "bad" shortage biting across Australia.
"That's why it's important to get New Zealanders coming across."
Normally the shearing rate was $3.35 a sheep in South Australia but was now $3.75 to generate some interest and match rates paid in other Australian territories.
The rate was "nothing to be sneezed at" but shearers were being poached by other gangs with offers of a "ridiculous" rate of $4.50 a sheep.
If anyone from the South wanted to work for him they would need to be double vaccinated and would not need to quarantine on arrival, he said.
"If you got over here in the next day or two, you can make a quick buck for two months before the season starts back over there."
However, he knew of some New Zealand shearers who had travelled to Australia to work in May this year and had to stay longer than intended because they could not get a spot in managed isolation to return home.
Before Covid hit, it was common for a "regular flow" of Kiwi shearers travelling to Australia to work from August and leave before Christmas.
He had worked in Southland for 13 years, shearing for a contractor in Gore and Riversdale.
A trip to Australia to work was intended to be for three months but he and his wife, a woolclasser, stayed on.
"We've made a life for ourselves and it's been pretty good."
New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association member, shearing contractor and farmer Jamie McConachie, of Winton, said he knew Australia was having "all sorts of problems" trying to combat a shearer shortage.
He heard The Shearing Contractors' Association of Australia had floated the idea of chartering a plane to get New Zealand shearers and woolhandlers.
"Thank Christ that never happened - if you have 100 shearers on board and 50 or 60 rousies and away they go, it will leave a big hole."
He expected there to be a shearer shortage in the South this season.
"How short we don't know ... it's going to be a little more stressful this season than it was last year."
The association had arranged a Government exemption to get 40 international shearers spots in managed isolation so they could work in New Zealand.
"I've managed to get six."
One of the shearers was from South Africa, one from France and the rest were from the United Kingdom.
Two arrived in New Zealand last week and were in managed isolation.
"It would have been good to get some woolhandlers in."
Traditionally, about 10 per cent of shearers and woolhandlers working in New Zealand were from overseas, he said.
The number of shearers and woolhandlers working in the South this season would be dictated by the ability to travel nationally and internationally in the next four months.
North Island shearers, who traditionally worked in the South from mid-January to March might not be able to come if Covid restrictions ramped up.
He had heard of Southern shearers wanting to work in Australia this summer but many stayed home because of a lack of flights and a fear of not being able to return due to MIQ spots, and the cost of one.
To help manage the staff shortage this season, farmers and shearing contractors must communicate clearly including the number of sheep and shearing patterns between now and April next year.
"Contractors and farmers are going to have to be twice as organised."