Farmers plead for more space in managed isolation facilities amid critical skills shortage

Farmers are pleading with the Government to open up more space in managed isolation facilities amid a critical skills shortage they say can only be filled by overseas workers.

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The industry is desperate for workers. Source: 1 NEWS

Farming contractor Brook Nettleton is one of the farmers calling for seasonal workers from overseas, saying Kiwis don’t have the skills for the job.

“It's about the experience. They've experienced hills, they've experienced wet country - they work. They come out here and they want to work. They don't pull a sickie on a Friday night,” Nettleton said.

The Government announced in September that 210 operators could enter the country, but the move was too late for many.

“All the key staff that we have every year and wanted to come back by then had found other jobs,” Nettleton said.

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It's aiming to fill 10,000 roles in the primary sector but there's concern the approach won't stop a looming shortage of skilled workers. Source: 1 NEWS

Most contractors come from Britain during New Zealand’s summer months. So far, only 58 have arrived as getting vouchers confirmed for isolation facilities hold up the rest. It's feared by the time they enter the country, the season could be almost over.

“Mother nature doesn't wait for politicians and bureaucrats to make up their mind to allow these people into our country,” Federated Farmers’ Chris Lewis said.

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Nettleton said unless the workers “can be on the plane at the end of the week,” the farmers “won't get those key guys”.

Farmers feel they have not been treated fairly compared to other industries hard-hit by the pandemic.

“I think it's very disappointing that the Government quietly let in 600 different workers for the fisheries and we basically got told to suck it up,” he said.

Immigration New Zealand said it’s working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries to help allocate agricultural operators.

Recent rainfall and good growth means it’s the perfect time to make silage, a type of feed. However, the process requires machinery operators, and a shortage of the feed could affect a farm’s profitability.

“What's important for New Zealand is keeping the economy going and actually having some skilled people in on these seasonal jobs,” Lewis said.