12 Dec 2021

MIQ exemptions for workers as labour shortage squeezes primary sector

4:06 pm on 12 December 2021

The government is letting more migrant workers into the country to help with the labour shortage gripping the primary sector.

Shearing sheep.

Photo: 123rf

Border class exceptions have been granted for areas like the dairy industry but with big demand for spots in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) not many have been able to get here.

The government has now approved more exceptions including 200 mobile plant and machinery operators, 40 shearers and 50 wool handlers.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the government approved these exceptions to support key autumn harvest requirements and relieve workforce pressures created by Covid-19.

"We've also altered the existing class border exception for 200 dairy workers to remove the previous split of 150 assistant dairy farm managers and 50 dairy farm assistants. There's huge demand for dairy farm assistants, so we're providing more flexibility for our dairy sector to fill jobs up to the maximum of 200 where they see the strongest need.

"I know there are still labour challenges across the sector and we will continue working with the sector to meet them where possible," O'Connor said.

He said discussions with other parts of the sector were ongoing including with the meat sector on how to address the shortage of halal butchers.

"Taking into account our most recent decisions, the primary sector has received more than 5100 class exceptions since June 2020 - making it close to healthcare for the most industry exceptions.

"Added to this we started one-way for quarantine-free travel for RSE workers in October. Combine that with the one-off pathway to residence now available to some 9000 migrants working in rural New Zealand and we're making progress."

O'Connor said providing this border exception was part of the next step in the government's carefully phased approach to reconnecting with the world.

"We've seen other countries open up too early and have to reverse decisions, we continue to seek a balance in our Reconnecting New Zealand programme, which minimises risks to our communities and health system while supporting our economy," O'Connor said.

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