The Government is looking at curbing our reliance on migrant workers as part of immigration service changes post-Covid.
Frustration is rife among farmers because the Government seems to be paying lip service to a crucial sector that has kept the company's economy buzzing for the past 18 months.
Like most primary producers, dairy farmers have been crying out for more overseas workers. However, it's becoming clear that the Government isn't genuine about helping dairy farmers.
In June, the Government announced that it will grant border exceptions for 200 dairy farm workers and their families, comprising 150 herd managers or assistant farm managers and 50 farm assistants for critical-need areas only. Within that announcement they specified that herd managers be paid a salary of $79,500 and assistant managers a salary of $92,000 per annum.
Since then the situation has turned to custard. Applications are currently open, but there is a long application and processing time, and there are some ongoing issues with this process.
Farmers who have made applications on behalf of prospective overseas workers are being told by Immigration New Zealand that the salary o $79,500 for herd managers can only be applied to a maximum 40-hour work week. If there is an expectation of more weekly hours, this salary must be increased. If farmers are happy to proceed with the 40-hour week, the application can proceed. Otherwise, the application will be declined unless the salary is increased.
Dairy News understands about 30 applications have been made that will be impacted. The issue highlights a major disconnect between Ministry for Primary Industries and other government departments, namely Immigration.
DairyNZ has praised the work done by the MPI director-general and his team to help dairy farmers during Covid. However, it seems the goodwill doesn't extend to Immigration.
DairyNZ, as the implementation partner, negotiated the deal with MPL Farmers were told that as long as salaries never want below the median wage, then the hours worked for the salaries had flexibility and would not be restricted to a 40 hour work week for the herd manager and assistant manager roles.
The solution is clear - the Government must instruct Immigration NZ to allow overseas workers the flexibility to work extra hours with appropriate remuneration given the nature of farming work.
But the worry is it may take several months for the Government to do this. Farmers need action now.
It's been three months since the Government allowed an extra 200 farm workers and their families to enter the country.
But farmers are still struggling to get applications approved. That's just not good enough.