9 Apr 2021

Relief in Australia as welcome mat goes out for New Zealand shearers

7:34 am on 9 April 2021

Australian farmers prepare to welcome hundreds of NZ shearers

Australian farmers are breathing a sigh of relief as much needed New Zealand shearers will now be able to travel over for their busy spring season.

Experienced, professional  sheep shearer manually  shearing a ewe with steel bladed shears at a barn in East Windsor, Connecticut, in early March just before lambing season.

Farmers in Australia have been paying more to have their sheep shorn in the absence of New Zealand shearers. Stock photo Photo: 123RF

Covid-19 border closures have meant nearly 500 New Zealand shearers who normally travel to Australia to help out have been unable to.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said it's been tough going with farmers paying almost double per sheep to have them shorn.

"It's been really tough and there's been months of delays. The standard rate over here for shearing a sheep is $A3.24 [$NZ3.51] but now in New South Wales which has about 40 percent of the country's sheep it's hard to get a shear for under $A3.72.

"The price has jumped up by at least 15 percent - if sheep are tougher to shear the price is well into the $4 mark and there's plenty of farmers across the country that are willing to pay $5 or $6 per sheep."

Letchford said despite the Australian government allowing New Zealand workers exemptions to work early on in the pandemic it was too little too late.

"Shearers weren't coming over because they had to do two weeks' quarantine which costs thousands and it was near impossible to get here with hardly any flights operating.

"Farmers are really excited about the travel bubble and the prospect of Kiwi shearers coming over to help with the busiest time of the year in late August, early September."

New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said people are still wary of the risk of travelling across the Tasman.

"There's not a lot of work in New Zealand at the moment so the shearers have to go where the work is so they will generally follow it - but they just need to make the call themselves if it's worth the risk of getting stuck there.

"Although the bubble is great news I don't think it's going to take much for it turn to an amber or red light - so there could be some issues with people coming home."

Barrowcliffe said it's a tight-knit community so the prospect of getting stuck away from family will put shearers off going to Australia for work.

"The lure of up to a $1000 a day will definitely attract some people over but most shearers have had a good run in the South Island and they're now waiting for the North Island shearing to get underway so I think most people are just having a bit of break," he said.

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