10 Jun 2021

Vets welcome border exemptions for overseas staff

5:44 pm on 10 June 2021

The Veterinary Association says it is "absolutely delighted" the government is allowing more overseas vets into the country.

17158882 - mid section of male veterinarian doctor carrying a rabbit

File photo. Photo: 123RF

It was announced this morning that 50 general practice vets would be allowed to enter the country with a border exception, provided they had two to three years experience and were earning at least $85,000 a year.

Exceptions for 150 dairy farm managers, 50 assistants and a six month extension for 10,000 people on working holidays visas were also rolled out.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor hoped it would help to fill acute skills shortages - including in isolated rural veterinary practices.

"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.

"This announcement recognises the immediate need for additional expertise to come through our borders. Dairy managers and vets have specialist skills developed over many years, which we can't replicate overnight," O'Connor said.

The Veterinary Association found there was a national shortage of between 50 and 100 staff earlier this year, which it said was harming the welfare of people and animals.

Association chief executive Kevin Bryant said the help was desperately needed.

"Our veterinarians have been under considerable pressure right across the board, and the concern that they have is the impact on animal owners, in terms of 'can they access the support when they want it?'"

Bryant was worried Australia fast-tracking veterinarians through its borders meant it would be a more appealing place for vets to work, but said the announcement "levels out that playing field a little bit."

He said he was glad the government had listened to the association's concerns and was focused on finding long term solutions, so it could reduce its reliance on overseas labour.

In September last year, the Government allowed 30 vets into New Zealand under a class border exception. Meanwhile a further 58 have been granted access under a different critical worker exception, over the last 12 months. Immigration New Zealand said this was due to their "unique experience and technical or specialist skills."

  • Vet shortage nationwide pushing staff to breaking point
  • Horticulture, dairy industry leaders welcome visa extensions but still have concerns
  • MPI thought border exemptions 'arbitrarily limited to certain sectors'
  • Veterinary staffing shortage puts animal welfare at risk
  • 'Stressed' vets desperate for help from 200 foreign workers