Dairy migrant staff valued & valuable

10 July 2017

One size does not fit all in terms of immigration policy, says DairyNZ’s regional leader Southland/South Otago, Richard Kyte.

“On behalf of dairy farmers, we’re working closely with Immigration New Zealand to ensure there are no unintended consequences of change to visas for migrant staff employed by farmers, and our dairy farmers can continue to tap into this pool of willing and reliable workers when there are no New Zealanders available,” he says.

Others working with Immigration New Zealand on behalf of farmers are Federated Farmers, recruitment advisors and quite a few farmers who employ migrant staff.

Mr Kyte says for the dairy sector migrant staff are valued and valuable – they’re are reliable and hard-working; they and their families are valuable members of rural communities.

“Without migrant staff, dairy farms in several regions, especially Southland, and even Canterbury, would be severely impacted in terms of profitability. There’s also the real likelihood that with fewer, and unskilled, staff on the ground farmers would not be able to keep up their high standards of care for the environment they live and work in, or for such aspects as animal welfare, and health and safety.”

He says migrant staff and their families are good citizens, making vibrant and viable contribution to the rural communities they live and work in.

“They bring their cultures and values with them. Many partners of the primary visa holders are working in the likes of aged care, supermarkets, and cafes, where they’re also valued for their work ethics and reliability. Their children attend local schools and, far from putting pressure on class sizes, many rural schools may not be viable if not for these kids.”

Mr Kyte adds that it is not so much an immigration issue, but one of migration.

“In many rural areas in the South Island, especially Southland, and also Canterbury, people have moved away to cities and other jobs. With the decrease in rural populations, the pool of available workers has shrunk – impacting all business, not just dairy. Quite simply, there’s a shortage of Kiwis to work in these rural areas – migrant staff are the answer for many.”

A stable, skilled, and productive workforce is essential to the success of any business, he says.

“Dairy is no exception. Dairy farmers are the foundation of the dairy sector which earns this country upwards of $12 billion in exports, and contributes to the lifestyle, infrastructure, and technology all Kiwis enjoy, rural and urban. Farmers must be able to employ – and retain – the staff they need to run their businesses.

“Dairy deserves the best. Like most Kiwi employers, dairy farmers might not hire migrant staff as their first choice – due to language and visa bureaucracy – but often they have no other choice.

“Like other employers, many farmers are keen to give unemployed New Zealanders a fresh chance in life, but sadly many of the candidates put forward by the Ministry of Social Development are simply not suitable for a range of reasons.”

Mr Kyte says reasons include protecting the safety of farmers and their families – “for the most part farm workers live on the farm, where families with children also live”.

Nationally dairy provides 35,000 on-farm jobs, including contractors and staff – 3,774 of these jobs are currently filled by migrant staff, 80 percent of them in Southland and Canterbury.

Richard Kyte 

Media inquiries:

Lee Cowan
Senior Engagement & Communications Manager
Phone 021 930 836

Vanessa Feaver
Senior Communications & Media Specialist
Phone 027 836 6295

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