200 dairy workers ‘not enough’

Photo: Laura Smith

THE Government’s announcement another 200 dairy workers will be allowed into New Zealand to help alleviate shortages is being called a token gesture by a Southland farmer.

Last month, Southland Federated Farmers sharemilker chairman Jason Herrick wrote a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, asking for border exemptions, which prompted hundreds of farmers to do the same.

He was disappointed he only received a generic response.

Mr Herrick said the announcement, while appreciated, was just a blip in the worker-shortage pond and “not enough to alleviate pressure”.

He backed a petition launched by Southland MP Joseph Mooney which urged the Government to provide 500 MIQ spaces each fortnight to bring in skilled migrant workers before the beginning of the calving season.

Mr Mooney said the dairy industry made up about 28% of New Zealand’s exports and was incredibly important.

“If the Government does not address this issue immediately and more farm workers are not allowed into the country, our communities will suffer.”

A survey conducted by Dairy NZ and Federated Farmers showed 49% of dairy farmers were short-staffed.

“Not being able to get enough farm workers into the country to provide on-farm support is causing huge burnout and huge mental health concerns in the farming community.”

Mr Herrick said the announcement was an affront to migrant workers already in the country, unable to bring their families here.

“Yet they’re advertising they can bring in 200 new workers and their families.”

He felt it was poor for the Agriculture Minister to not reply to a Federated Farmers entity.

“He’s supposed to represent us in the rural sector. We all feel like that is just not happening.”

The minister was unable to respond to questions before print deadline.