Thursday, 23 September 2021 07:55

Editorial: Ball dropped!

Written by  Staff Reporters
The Immigration Minister seems to be missing in action as the rural sector cries out for migrant workers. The Immigration Minister seems to be missing in action as the rural sector cries out for migrant workers.

OPINION: For more than a year now the primary sector has been crying out for changed around immigration settings to help ease numerous critical worker shortages right across the country's key export earning industries.

The Government and immigration officials have badly dropped the ball on this issue - with the entire country is paying for their incompetence.

There is no doubt that things have been complicated by Covid-19 and the ongoing restrictions this has placed on allowing people into the country. However, governments are elected - and officials employed and well paid - to come up with solutions to such problems. Yet the piecemeal, ad-hoc, minimal changes made by both in this area are a national disgrace.

For starters, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has been completely MIA - that's 'missing in action', not the Meat Industry Association, which is probably keen to chat to him on immigration issues, as is the rest of the primary sector. He is clearly either out of his depth or not interested and the Prime Minister should have relieved him of the portfolio months ago. One suspects that because her caucus has all the depth of the bird bath, and any capable minister is already overloaded, there is no one with the talent to manage or oversee this highly challenging role.

This is leading to some frankly stupid decisions being made - like vias applications for desperately needed migrant dairy workers being declined over a contentious 40-hour working week requirement imposed by the Government.

And the problem is getting worse, as not only is the dairy industry not able to get workers from overseas, it's losing some of its existing workforce to countries such as Australia and Canada who are offering better visa deals for migrant workers.

Jason Herrick, Southland Federated Farmers sharemilker section chair, summed it up well in a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor calling for immediate government action.

"Using the excuse that it's keeping New Zealanders safe on one hand, and then allowing entertainers, sports personalities, and movie producers, cast and crew into the country through our MIQ facilities, and safely do so, then why can't this be replicated for our split migrant families and essential workers?"

The very same question can be asked about rural contractors, shearers, vets, and many others - and we deserve an answer.

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