21 Nov 2018

NZ shearers dominate after pay rise creates shortfall in Australia

10:57 am on 21 November 2018

Australian shearing contractors reliant on New Zealand shearers are struggling to fill vacancies after New Zealand increased its pay rates.

Shearing sheep.

A pay rise for some shearers has had a positive impact on retaining workers in New Zealand. Photo: 123rf

Normally New Zealand shearers flock to Australian wool sheds in search of higher wages, but earlier this year New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association (NZSCA) raised its pay rates by 25 percent in an effort to keep workers.

NZSCA president Mark Barrowcliffe said New Zealand had long struggled with a shortage of shearers and this change did appear to be having a positive impact here.

"We've had a lot of feedback from shearers, a lot of the ones that have been in Australia are looking at coming back, or they haven't gone to Australia ... so instead of doing a season in the North Island and then going to Australia, they've done a season in the North Island and then gone to the South Island," he said.

"So we're actually starting to look after our own clients better... but there's still going to be a staff shortage [in New Zealand] for a very long time ... which Australia is feeling now as well," he said.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia estimates that New Zealand-based shearers can make up to 50 percent of the workforce.

However, Western Victoria contractor and New Zealand expat Donna Cook told the ABC it was struggling to find New Zealand shearers after seeking local workers.

"I'm finding it hard to get the Kiwi shearers that used to come over, because now it's not worth it for them," Ms Cook said.

"It puts more pressure on us and if they all start going home, where are we going to find our shearers to shear the amount of sheep that we have?"

Victorian contractor Roger Pearse moved to Australia from New Zealand 14 years ago and said he was also finding it difficult to source New Zealand shearers.

"That pay rise in New Zealand is certainly going to slow down the number of shearers, shed hands, and presses coming over to Australia to look for bigger money," Mr Pearse said.

Mr Pearse said New Zealand had to do something to stop the flow of shearers leaving the country to find better paid work elsewhere.

"They were losing a lot to Australia and other countries around the world," Mr Pearse said.

"They're in pretty dire straits over there for finding people to do the job as well."


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs