18 May 2017

Filipino dairy workers given path to residency

5:31 am on 18 May 2017

Filipino dairy workers in the South Island are relieved they will become eligible for residence under a new visa - despite having initially used false documents to get a work permit.

dairy cow

Up to 600 Filipino dairy workers may have have used false documents to get their initial visa. Photo: 123rf

A visa scam in 2015 involving the dairy workers revealed a problem with some documents which exaggerated experience or qualifications.

That would not be held against those workers still in New Zealand if they met all the other criteria for the new South Island Contribution work visa, said Immigration New Zealand.

A new one-off visa will allow the roughly 4000 South Island temporary migrants to stay.

Standard character requirements would apply for the visa, but Immigration New Zealand said it would waive the good-character requirement if the Filipino dairy workers had done nothing else wrong.

Filipino Dairy Workers Association chair and farm manager Earl Magtibay said some Filipinos on temporary visas had been losing hope of becoming New Zealanders, but this development gave them a new opportunity.

"It's fair enough that they be given a second chance as long as they'll be honest in their (next) applications with Immigration.

"Because after all, it's their hard work and work ethics that brings them to where they are now in the industry," he said.

Bob Bolanos, who runs a dairy farm in Rangiora, agreed that it was great news as many Filipino workers were worried that every time they had to renew their temporary visa, they would be sent home.

"A lot of them have come to New Zealand in good faith and a lot of them are actually victims of recruiters who have manipulated their paper work to be able to get them here.

"They work hard, they pay their taxes, they're law abiding. There's no reason not to give them an opportunity to become part of the community," he said.

Ben De'Ath, from dairy recruitment agency Cross Country, said it was a pragmatic move by Immigration New Zealand because the sector would be crippled without the Filipino workers.

"The purpose of this South Island Contribution visa scheme is to recognise the contributions of people to isolated parts of New Zealand where it's near-on impossible to find local staff.

"And granting residence to temporary work visas holders is not going to jeopardise the local labour market," he said.

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