Ireland, often a source of skilled farm machinery operators for rural contractors in New Zealand, is facing even worse driver shortages than NZ.
This comes following recent criticism by opposition political parties that these regulations are cutting New Zealanders out of employment.
Rural Contractors NZ (RCNZ) president Steve Levet says the use of temporary, skilled overseas workers is vital for agricultural contracting sector.
"Every year, in many parts of the country, it's often impossible for rural contractors to find skilled New Zealanders to carry out this seasonal work," he explains. "That's why it is necessary for us to look overseas to find experienced people to fill this need."
It is not known exactly how many temporary, overseas workers are needed by rural contractors each year – but it is thought to be around 900.
Levet says RCNZ has worked hard with Immigration New Zealand in an effort to resolve the problems around contractors bringing in overseas workers for the harvest season. Later this year, national body will implement a new scheme to bring in overseas workers – following a deal struck between it and Immigration NZ.
This will see RCNZ applying for an Approval in Principle (AIP) on behalf of all members of the national body and contractors. Contractors will then be able to apply online for a visa for the person being recruited – without having to advertise, go to WINZ or any the other requirements currently causing so much difficulty.
"As RCNZ will hold the AIP, there are a number of responsibilities placed on us and it will be important that all those contractors who wish to use this scheme comply with all these conditions and requirements," Levet explains.
"For starters, there will need to be a written contract between RCNZ and each member company participating in the scheme – to ensure each knows their responsibilities and that RCNZ and other member companies are protected. If these conditions are not complied with, the AIP can be rescinded.
"This is a safeguard to ensure that the appropriate statutory and regulatory compliances are being met," Levet explains. "Those applying to the scheme will also have to fully comply with RCNZ's Code of Ethics and our Code for Employing Overseas Staff."
RCNZ aims to have the new scheme up and running by June 1, 2016.