The nation’s rural contracting organisation has welcomed the Government’s proposals to make it easier for regions to get workers.

Rural Contractors New Zealand president David Kean says last month’s announcement looks like a step if not a leap in the right direction.

“Our members help farmers get in enough winter feed, stay on top of weeds and a host of other tasks which allow our nation’s farms to stay productive.”

“Just like industries such as pipfruit and kiwifruit, we struggle every year to get enough workers locally.

“Unlike those industries which are stretched for a few weeks over harvest, we need skilled operators to drive our machinery from spring to autumn; getting approval to employ such people from overseas through the hoops of WINZ and Immigration is an annual and frustrating nightmare.

“So, the proposals from Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway a week before Christmas to introduce a simpler, employer-led system for temporary work visas for skilled regional workers could, at face-value, provide the sorts of changes which are desperately needed.”

Mr Kean says he understands the Government’s wish to stop some of the rorts that go on with migrant labour.

“That said, this largely applies to lower-skilled people where often English is an issue; our imports are skilled machinery operators who are mostly from English-speaking countries or have good fluency. Our members are so keen to have them that often they become part of the extended family for a few weeks or months.”

“We also share the Government’s wish to employ as many New Zealanders as possible. Our 500 members regularly provide opportunities for Kiwis to train to drive machinery. Unfortunately, ours is a seasonal industry with some long hours when conditions allow; you need the aptitude to drive big machinery day in, day out and many aren’t cut out for it.”

Mr Kean says he trusts this will all be taken into account as the Government considers submissions on its new regional work visa proposals.

“RCNZ will be making a submission by the March 18 deadline. We will be asking officials to ensure that they recognise the particular demands that rural contractors face.”

The paper to Cabinet paper has Minister Lees-Galloway wanting to implement the new Regional Skills Shortages lists in April this year. He also wants three-year sector agreements in place by this time next year for key shortage areas – residential aged care, dairy farming, tourism and hospitality, road freight and transport. Other sectors such as the forestry, fishing and meat may be included.

David Kean says RCNZ will shortly engage with allied organisations such as Federated Farmers to assess the case for rural contracting to be put alongside the dairy farming, forestry and meat industries in the first sector-wide agreements.

Contact: David Kean, President, Rural Contractors New Zealand 027 436 4632

RCNZ Communications – Brendon Burns 0274 305501