Visa extension gives dairy farmers some certainty

Applications are now open for extended Essential Skills visas as well as border class exceptions. File photo/SunLive.

The Government has recently made a decision to extend Essential Skills visas.

DairyNZ says the decision provides some welcome certainty for farmers and employees who have their futures at stake.

Many workers and their employers have been living under a cloud of uncertainty since Covid-19 border closures, and the recent announcement will provide some relief to some of those affected.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the changes are a positive, as they will help resolve short-term pressure on some farms.

“It’s great to see the Government is listening and recognises the pressures dairy farmers and other sectors are under.

“However, it’s important to note this decision doesn’t add more workers into our workforce, so there’s still a gap between what we have and what we actually need.

“It’s about helping us hold onto the valuable migrant workers we already have.”

Since the closure of the border due to Covid-19, farmers have been crying out for dairy farm staff, with almost 50 per cent of farmers reporting unfilled vacancies on farms.

“There are plenty of jobs on farms for Kiwis and migrants but at this time the reality is, not enough Kiwis are applying for jobs,” says Tim

“This is despite a recent survey showing 87 per cent of farmers had made changes to make their business more attractive to staff, so we need our valued workers from overseas as well.”

From July 19, Essential Skills Visa holders will be able to apply for a longer visa, enabling them to remain in their current role.

The application process for Essential Skills visas will also be simplified for workers remaining in current roles.

Tim says while that’s a positive step, more needs to be done to ensure sufficient staffing on farms throughout the country for the wellbeing of staff and farmers, and animal welfare.

DairyNZ and Federated Farmers are working together with the Government to seek further solutions to the staff shortages, which have become desperate on some farms.

Applications are now also being taken by DairyNZ for dairy farmers applying for border class exception which could see 200 dairy farm workers and their families come into the country.

DairyNZ responsible dairy general manager Jenny Cameron says opening these applications is a positive step, providing more clarity and detail for farmers nationwide who are facing a staff shortage.

“This will help some of the workers stuck overseas to return to their jobs on Kiwi farms or new migrants looking to join the sector, while supporting our farmers by relieving some of the workforce shortage,” says Jenny.

More information on the process, criteria and timeframes is available at

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