20 Apr 2017

'We're not going to have cows being milked'

9:12 am on 20 April 2017

Proposed immigration changes could harm the country's economy if they prevented farmers from holding onto migrant workers long-term, Federated Farmers says.

A worker milks cows at Ngāti Awa's Ngakauroa Farm in Whakatāne.

A worker milks cows at Ngāti Awa's Ngakauroa Farm in Whakatāne. Photo: SUPPLIED

Yesterday, the government announced a string of proposals to control and tighten immigration numbers.

It included a proposal for foreign workers earning less than $49,000 to not be allowed to stay in New Zealand for more than three years.

Federated Farmers said this could harm the country's economic performance because it would affect farmers' ability to hire enough staff.

Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse said the proposed changes meant farmers would have to make more of an effort to employ New Zealanders.

Michael Woodhouse

Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

On Morning Report this morning Mr Woodhouse could not say how many immigrants would be affected by the changes, but it should lead to fewer lower-skilled foreigners seeking work here.

He said the changes should encourage farmers to take on and retain locals.

"Having a person there for three years and then sending them home is going to be difficult.

"I would encourage them to then start a pipeline of young New Zealanders that go into that industry, and that is exactly what these changes will be designed to do."

'If someone's not there they're not there'

Federated Farmers dairy industry chair Andrew Hoggard

Andrew Hoggard Photo: Radio NZ / Jemma Brackebush

However, Federated Farmers national board member Andrew Hoggard said it was already hard enough to find New Zealanders who wanted to work on farms.

"If someone's not there they're not there.

"It's all well and good to say 'You just have to work harder'. It's actually going to harm our economic performance in this country.

"We're not going to have fruit being picked, we're not going to have cows being milked we're not going to have crops being harvested," he said.

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