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Thursday, 15 October 2020 10:27

The calvary arrives — finally!

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Roger Parton. Roger Parton.

The first batch of overseas drivers for local agricultural contracting work is expected in the country next week, says Rural Contractors New Zealand (RCNZ) chief executive Roger Parton.

He says 119 applications filed on behalf of members by RCNZ were approved by the Ministry of Primary Industries and passed onto Immigration NZ for final verification and issuance of visas.

After arriving in the country, the drivers will spend two weeks at a Government quarantine facility. The cost will be met by the sponsoring contractor. Visas are being issued for six months and this includes the two-week spent in quarantine.

Parton says contractors will be breathing a huge sigh of relief.

“This will take a lot of pressure off the contractors,” he told Rural News.

Parton says drivers must have at least three years experience to qualify.

Federated Farmers Waikato dairy section chair Ben Moore says farmers will be happy to hear the news.

“Better late than never…finally the Government has listened. This is a step in the right direction,” Moore says.

For large contractors, the arrival of overseas drivers will ease an acute shortage.

Moore says the overseas drivers will also back-up local drivers who have been working long hours in recent weeks and have become worn out.

Last month, the Government agreed to grant visas to 210 machinery operators, mostly from the UK and Ireland.

For months agricultural contractors, who bring hundreds of drivers for short term work each year, have been urging the Government to relax border restrictions and allow experienced machinery operators in to ease a shortage of drivers.

Parton says rural contractors initially sought 700 overseas operators, including drivers who come to New Zealand on working holiday visas. Some vacancies were filled by locals, former drivers who agreed to help out rural contractors cultivate, plant and harvest crops this year.

“We did another survey of members and came up with an absolute minimum of 210 drivers needed for this season’s work,” he says.

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