Farmers feel shunned after being excluded from plan to boost workers coming in to NZ

Farmers feel shunned by the Government after being excluded from a plan to boost workers coming into the country.

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Around 500 managed isolation rooms a fortnight will be made available for some sectors, with very limited spots for farming. Source: 1 NEWS

Around 500 managed isolation rooms a fortnight will be made available for some sectors, with very limited spots for farming.

Life on the farm is tough and finding good staff willing to work is even tougher for Southland dairy farmer, Jon Pemberton.

“There's a real shortage of staffing in Southland, and we've just got a bit of merry go round of staff going around because there are just so many options.”

The dairy industry has been fighting to get more foreign staff for months and was devastated when it was excluded from a targeted plan to get more workers in the country.

“Honestly it feels like [the Government’s] giving the dairy sector the middle finger on this,” said Bernadette Hunt from Federated Farmers Southland.

MIQ rooms have been made available for construction, RSE workers and international students but very limited spots for agriculture.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the door remains open for farm workers, but the industry needs to do more to find locals.

“I am really disappointed that the dairy industry pulled out of a campaign to attract people to work in dairy - one that we were funding - and they pulled out at the end of last year. I've said to them that was pretty short-sighted, they might regret that decision now.”

Benjamin De'Ath from The Regions Recruitment said he “challenges Damien on that, DairyNZ ran a very comprehensive and detailed GoDairy programme. We did attract a few locals…”

“The dairy sector did not pull out of a campaign to attract people into dairy – however in December 2020, DairyNZ undertook a review of the GoDairy farm ready training courses," DairyNZ told 1 NEWS.

"A new phase is currently being planned, and will be more targeted.”

In Southland, just over 30 per cent of the advertised jobs are in the agriculture, fishing & forestry sector, 80 more vacant positions than any other industry.

“The dairy industry is doing a huge amount of work to attract people of all ages and so for [Damien O’Connor] to suggest that stopping involvement in one campaign that wasn’t working means the dairy industry is turning its back on trying to attract people is just not correct," Hunt said.

De’Ath said there were simply not enough people to milk the cows in rural New Zealand.

Both Hunt and De-Ath said that even 50 allocated beds a fortnight will help them start to fill roles.

“We realise there is some pressure across the economy, but there is still New Zealanders that need work, we've got to make sure there are opportunities for them first and foremost,” O’Connor said.

“The rural sector is certainly doing its fair share, it would be nice just to have our backs on this one,” said Pemberton.

A heartland industry, hoping for a change of heart from the Government.