11 Aug 2020

Federated Farmers wants agricultural workers allowed into the country

8:31 pm on 11 August 2020

Millions of dollars' worth of production is at risk if the government doesn't allow agricultural machinery operators into New Zealand, Federated Farmers claims.

Dorie, Canterbury, New Zealand - January 19 2019: A combine harvester unloads barley into the bins in a field in summertime

A combine harvester in Canterbury unloads barley into the bins in a field in summertime. Photo: 123RF

Lobby group Federated Farmers said a survey by Rural Contractors NZ found that 57 contractors urgently needed 206 skilled operators.

Drivers come from overseas to operate combine harvesters and other machinery.

Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis said the issue had almost gone past critical.

"We're on the cusp of spring activity and we need to get these seasonal workers on flights and into quarantine for two weeks," he said.

"The primary industries can help us pave the way post-Covid economic recovery but not if crucial cogs in our production system are hobbled by key gaps in the workforce."

Federated Farmers has written to the Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi expressing its concern.

It said if managed entry could not be allowed for machinery operators, experienced senior dairy staff and a limited number of other skilled technical staff, there was a significant potential for economic, health and safety and animal welfare issues across the primary industries that could other be avoided.

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