Waitaki and Waimate agribusinesses are suffering growing pains, as finding the right staff is proving a challenge.

Several companies this week said it was hard to find enough people to meet their staffing needs.

Oamaru Meats director Richard Thorp said when the demand for labour increased "trying to find those next ... 40 people, it's really tough."

"I think we're all experiencing across North Otago some good solid activity," he said.

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"It's been a good winter, it looks like it's going to be a good spring. Everyone associated with primary industries is busy ... and I think one of the barriers [to] growth is going to be good labour."

Oamaru Meats, previously Lean Meats Oamaru Ltd, is finding it hard to secure more skilled labour. Photo / Tyson Young
Oamaru Meats, previously Lean Meats Oamaru Ltd, is finding it hard to secure more skilled labour. Photo / Tyson Young

Oceania Dairy operations manager Richard Hickson said the South Canterbury company had grown over the past couple of years, and now had about 260 to 270 people working on the site.

It was often looking for between six and a dozen employees, as it was now, but with an expansion in the works late next year there could be a big push for more staff.
"It could be up to 100 extra," he said.

"Finding skills and labour in this area is a challenge.

"If you put in a plant, and you're looking at say 20 or 30 people in one go, that puts a lot of pressure on finding skills and quality."

At Oamaru's Te Pari Products, the company had, for the first time, produced a brochure and website advertising its vacancies in order to fill several positions, marketing director Jeremy Blampied said.

The company's export division was growing and the company decided to be "a bit innovative".

"We just decided that ... sometimes people are looking for change but they mightn't be active in the job market," he said.

Mr Thorp said at Oamaru Meats the belief was migrant workers could be required to strengthen the business.

Oamaru Meats had approval last year for 12 Chinese staff, but because the process took "so long" and the season last year was coming to an end, the company decided not to bring the workers in.

"We've pretty much fully engaged all our workforce now ... and it's just [gone] winter, so we've got a lot more lift of capacity to go yet and we're concerned where we're going to find that labour from," Mr Thorp said.

"So we will be talking to Immigration New Zealand again ... and if there's anyone out there that is concerned that we're bringing in some migrant labour and they wish to work at the plant, we're most welcome to see those people if they turn up for an interview."

Alliance Pukeuri plant manager Phil Shuker said since the processing season at the plant began at the end of July the company had recruited almost 80 employees, but labour shortages in the region "continue to be challenging".

With the plant now at full production, Pukeuri had more than 60 roles to fill for up to 11 months.

About 960 staff worked at the plant at the peak of the season, which was estimated to inject about $100 million into the local economy every year.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the area was not alone in dealing with a limited labour pool.

Another limiting factor for the area could be housing, despite the Waitaki District Council processing record numbers of building consents, he said.

"We're better off than some, but you see some of this growth that's predicted and expansions that companies are wanting to do and you wonder where we're going to put those people."