OPINION: Rural NZ is again getting the rough end of the stick when it comes to services - this time in relation to Covid-19 vaccinations.
Despite the Government granting 50 border class exceptions three months ago, only two vets have arrived in the country. Two others are on their way and six are awaiting MIQ spots.
NZ Veterinary Association chief executive Kevin Bryant told Rural News that others have hit the “pause button”.
“The situation is hopeless,” he says. “We have a good process in place with Ministry for Primary Industries and Immigration NZ but the roadblock is MIQ.”
Overseas vets need to plan their move to NZ. They have to give three months notice to employers back home, pack up belongings and in some cases arrange schooling.
Bryant says vets are reluctant to plan with no guarantee of MIQ spaces.
“Some of them are saying why even apply for visas when there is no MIQ space available.”
The delay in arrival of overseas vets is exacerbating the situation in vet clinics around the country. About 50% of the shortage is in rural areas.
Bryant says the association has worked well with MPI and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor to get border class exception for an additional 50 general practice veterinarians to enter the country.
“But MPI don’t control MIQ, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) does that,” he says.
“There’s a limit to what MPI can do.”
Bryant says the NZVA is trying to “lift understanding” within MBIE.
Julie South of recruitment agency, VetStaff agrees that securing an MIQ space is the major hurdle.
South says it’s clear that the government departments – Immigration NZ, MPI and MBIE – “aren’t on the same page” when it comes to allowing critical overseas workers in.
“I would have expected that when one government department signs off on something to do with an essential worker – like getting them here – that other government departments would all be on the same page to make sure essential workers could get into NZ as soon as possible,” she told Rural News.
South says she’s flabbergasted that MBIE won’t set aside MIQ spaces to allow essential workers to get into NZ so they can work here.
A survey by NZVA earlier this year showed that 120 extra vets were needed by clinics around the country. The delay in arrivals is making a bad situation worse.
Bryant believes the lack of action is jeopardising the wellbeing of animals. He says NZVA are concerned about the possible impact of delaying things any further.