The Government has approved border class exceptions for an additional 200 dairy workers and 50 veterinarians to enter New Zealand, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor announced today.
"It is clear from conversations with the dairy and veterinarian sectors that they are facing workforce pressures. These border exceptions will go a long way towards relieving those pressures," O'Connor said.
The exceptions will allow up to 150 dairy farm workers in management roles on farms, up to 50 workers in dairy assistant roles, and up to 50 general practice vets to enter New Zealand, along with their partners and dependent children.
"What we have also made clear to sector leaders is that we need to ensure there is a strong incentive for New Zealanders to take up entry level roles and develop careers in dairying."
The Government and food and fibres sector had been working hard to mitigate worker shortages by training and upskilling New Zealanders, "but we know that takes time," O'Connor said.
"This announcement recognised the immediate need for additional expertise to come through our borders."
Dairy managers and vets had specialist skills developed over many years, "which we can't replicate overnight," O'Connor said.
"With the new dairy season kicking off last week, migrant dairy farm workers will supplement the domestic workforce and provide critical support.
Despite the previous border class exception for vets, a domestic vet skill shortage remained acute, including in hard to recruit roles in isolated rural practices, O'Connor said.
The new class exception would allow vets to enter New Zealand if they had between 3-5 years' experience and met the remuneration threshold of $85,000 per year.
O'Connor said dairy farm workers and vets played a key role in animal welfare, food safety, and safeguarding New Zealand's international reputation as a producer of safe and sustainable food.
"In making this decision, we've balanced the need to keep New Zealanders safe and ensure appropriate MIQ capacity, with seasonal and strategic skills shortages, and seasonal variations for overseas New Zealanders travelling home.
The Government had previously approved exceptions for vets, along with shearers and rural mobile plant machinery operators to relieve workforce pressures, O'Connor said.
"These new border exceptions will help drive New Zealand's economic recovery from Covid-19," Damien O'Connor said.