Government recognises dairy workforce shortfall

10 June 2021

Federated Farmers and DairyNZ are extremely relieved the government has recognised the crippling shortage of workers in the dairy industry by approving 200 skilled people to cross the border.

This exception process will help some of the workers stuck overseas to return to their jobs on Kiwi farms.

Federated Farmer immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says now the job of working through the details with DairyNZ, Immigration NZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries will begin, to see how these 200 spaces can be fairly allocated across the country.

Since the closure of the border, farmers have been crying out for dairy farm staff, with almost 50 percent of farmers surveyed reporting vacancies on farms.

“I have taken many, many calls from people who are struggling to cope without their farm managers and skilled staff. It has been a desperate time for many dairy farming families,” says Chris.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said this is a step in the right direction.

“This is positive news for farmers who will be encouraged that government have heard our concerns and responded,” said Dr Mackle.

“We will be ensuring farmers understand the detail of the class exception to be able to make an informed decision.”

It has also proved very challenging to get Kiwis interested in dairy farming careers, but both Federated Farmers and DairyNZ continue to run programmes designed to encourage people to give  farming a go. This includes the relaunch of GoDairy.

A recent DairyNZ and Federated Farmers survey showed that 87 percent of farmers surveyed had made changes to make their business more attractive to staff.

These changes included improved rosters to give more time off (42 percent), reduced hours of work (34 percent), flexible milking schedule (23 percent), increased salaries and wages (65 percent) and upskilling and training (36 percent).

Despite these efforts to attract New Zealanders to work on farm, the desperate need for overseas workers in some parts of the country continues.

This exception process will offer some farmers some respite for the coming season, but unfortunately it will not solve the long-term labour solution that so many industries are facing.

Media inquiries:

Vanessa Feaver

Senior Media Manager

Phone 027 836 6295

Ali Tocker

Senior Media Specialist

Phone 027 364 7532

Photo usage: If you require high-resolution versions of photos featured in this article, please contact