Why is Labour so unkind to immigrants?

01/12/2022

Why is the party that purports to be kind so unkind to immigrants?:

A change to work rights for partners of migrants is going ahead next month in the face of concerns from immigration experts.

Until now, a partner could get an open work visa – but in the future only partners of green list workers will be able to do that.

Migrant couples will instead have to find accredited employers to sponsor applications for each of them – or have a partner who is able to visit but not work.

Immigration adviser Borey Chum wants the government to rethink the policy, saying it could lead to families choosing other countries to work in.

“I would like to see government doing a U-turn on their decision for some of the partners to get visitor visas instead of work visas. New Zealand is competing internationally for skilled migrants. If you’re a family you want the right to work for both of you when you arrive. You’re swamped with a lot of bureaucracy coming to New Zealand and to have more bureaucracy involved is not settling at all.

“And again, with another [visa] process means issues of resourcing. So the government are potentially hitting themselves with a stick in terms of being able to process the right for partners to have work visas so that they can work as a family and put food on the table.”

Immigration is already overwhelmed by visa applications, this will add to the workload and make the delays in processing worse.

Massey University Professor Paul Spoonley, who is co-chair of the International Metropolis Project looking at migration and integration, said Government immigration policy was focused on individuals, not families. . . 

The government kept hundreds of families apart for more than two years because of Covid border closures, now they’ve taken away partners’ rights to work without having to go through the protracted and cumbersome process of getting work visas.

A whole variety of businesses and service providers, including hospitals and rest homes, are desperately short of workers.

Farms are too. Until now farmers who employed immigrants were able to offer work to their partners. They will no longer be able to do so without the would-be workers getting visas which takes time and money.

Not allowing partners of immigrants to get open work visas will deter immigrants and and their partners who could be filling at least some of the many vacancies, from coming to New Zealand and make life harder for those who do come.

This policy is economically damaging and comes with a high social cost for immigrants and would-be employers.

That brings me back to my introductory question – why is the party that purports to be kind so unkind to immigrants?

Could it be that they just don’t like them?


Rural round-up

28/11/2022

HWEN wants govt review of methane targets – Neal Wallace:

The primary sector has asked the government to review its methane targets and the method by which it sets those targets before it starts pricing agricultural greenhouse gases.

In its submission in response to government proposals on pricing emissions, the He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) partnership is asking for the Climate Change Commission to take another look at the 2050 emission reduction targets to reset methane levels using the GWP* calculation.

HWEN chair Sarah Paterson said this reflects feedback from farmers and growers during consultation on the government’s proposals.

HWEN chief executive Kelly Forster said it “really is a call to ensure the [commission’s] review takes into account the latest science”. . . 

Setting a standard: How our beef and lamb footprint measures up against the world avatar – Liam Rātana :

New research has found that the carbon footprint of Aotearoa-produced beef and lamb is among the lowest in the world. We took a deeper look at what the report says, and why it matters.

So what is this research?

Commissioned by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, and conducted by AgResearch, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study looked at on-farm emissions – which allowed for direct comparisons with other countries – but also went further, looking at the full “cradle to grave” footprint (ie including on-farm, processing and post-processing emissions). The report’s findings showed that despite the additional emissions involved with exporting product, our total footprint was still lower than the majority of countries – even those who had domestically produced meat.

While the report acknowledges that differences in methodologies make it difficult to accurately compare countries’ footprints across the entire process, particularly notable is the difference in the liveweight footprint of our stock. This metric, used to measure emissions before an animal is processed, shows that New Zealand’s average carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) per kilogram of sheep meat is less than half the international average, and about 30% lower than the international average for beef. . .

Immigration red tape frustrates short-staffed farmers  – Robin Martin :

A Northland farmer fears immigration red tape will see an experienced German dairy hand walk away from a job vacancy that she desperately needs to fill.

Katrina Pearson said applying for a work visa under the Accredited Employer Scheme had been a bureaucratic nightmare.

She runs a 250-hectare dairy farm west of Whangārei, milking nearly 500 cows.

Pearson needs two full-time staff, but she is struggling to recruit. . . 

Father and son named national ambassadors :

Ashburton father and son, Phillip and Paul Everest have been named as the new National Ambassadors for Sustainable Farming and Growing and the recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy.

The announcement was made earlier this week at the National Sustainability Showcase at Te Pae in Christchurch.

The event was attended by all the regional supreme winners from the 2022 Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA). The BFEA is an annual celebration and promotion of sustainable farming and growing practices hosted by the New Zealand Environment Farm Trust (NZEFT) where regional supreme winners come together to share ideas and information.

The Everest family run Flemington Farm in Ashburton where they’ve expanded the255ha property into a sustainable dairy and beef farm. They were named the 2022 Regional Supreme winners in the Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment awards in July this year. . .

Fonterra confirms timeline for Capital Structure implementation :

Fonterra can today confirm that its new Flexible Shareholding capital structure is set to be implemented in late March 2023, subject to the Board being satisfied that the relevant preparations are completed before then.

The structure, which is laid out in a step-by-step tool for shareholders as well as this Guide to Flexible Shareholding, is intended to make it easier for new farmers to join the Co-operative and for existing farmers to remain, by allowing greater flexibility in the level of investment required.

Chairman Peter McBride says Flexible Shareholding will support Fonterra’s strategy by helping to maintain a sustainable milk supply, protecting farmer ownership and control, and supporting a stable balance sheet.

“Our Co-operative is already making good progress towards our 2030 strategic goals, and we believe moving to our Flexible Shareholding structure will help ensure that we stay on track,” says Mr McBride. . .

 

Innovative uses of forestry and wood products unveiled at Fieldays :

New and innovative uses of forestry and wood products will be on display at 35 stands in the Fieldays Forestry Hub near Hamilton between 30 November and 3 December, including a revolutionary treatment for radiata pine, a super carbon-storer – biochar – and cutting-edge research exploring using woody biomass for aviation fuel.

Planted trees are the raw material for more than 5,000 products we use every day. They also form the foundation of New Zealand’s next-generation bioeconomy, with the demand for new biomaterials only set to grow as fossil fuel-based products are replaced with renewable alternatives.

The revolutionary treatment for radiata pine allows it to be used in place of imported hardwood timber for decking, interior bench tops and as a fortified exterior cladding.

Called Sicaro, this timber treatment technology is being distributed by Motueka-based architectural company Genia. It uses a fortification process that replaces water within the cell structure with a water-borne solution that cures to a resin. . . 


Another immigration fail

26/07/2022

The government is implementing another anti-immigration policy:

Plans to axe partner work visas at the end of the year could see migrants working under the table or stuck in abusive situations due to financial dependence

Migrants following their partners to New Zealand will find themselves without options for work, which advocates warn could lead to a rise in worker exploitation and even domestic violence.

From December, most partners of temporary migrant workers will no longer receive work rights through their partnership, and will need to qualify for the new accredited employer work visa or be granted a visitor visa.

Right now, partners can get hold of a visa for the same amount of time as their migrant worker partners, allowing them to work or study for up to three months.

But with immigration rebalances bringing in the accredited employer work visa, migrants will have to jump through the same hoops as their work visa-bearing partners in order to earn money.

It’s raised questions about how it will help with current worker shortages and social harms it could cause, with more people forced to subsist in single-income family set-ups or work under the table in situations where they are vulnerable to exploitation. . . 

National Party immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford said the new system would put people off moving to New Zealand, right at a time when many sectors are crying out for workers.

“There’s a worldwide war on talent,” she said. “Our visa settings need to be as welcoming as possible.”

She questioned whether New Zealand would be an attractive destination for people who know their partner will not be able to work, especially in this age of a sharply rising living costs.

“If they do come it’s going to be significant financial pressure on them,” she said.

And for those who do, she said they could well end up in under-the-table work, where workers are much more likely to be exploited.

“Everything this Government has done has put barriers in the way of good people getting here,” she said. “I don’t understand the rationale when we desperately need people.” . . .

Why would a government do this at any time let alone when the country is facing a major labour shortage?

It is anything but kind.

It not only shows lack of compassion for immigrants, it also shows the government has no sympathy for employers who are desperate for workers.


Arrogance or inability?

13/07/2022

Health Minister Andrew Little can’t bring himself to say the C word  – crisis:

The Health Minister continues to deny a health crisis in New Zealand despite 93.5 per cent of doctors saying there is one, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“No one believes Andrew Little when he says he has responded to the health workforce shortage. He could start by acknowledging it is a crisis, and then he needs to explain why he is deliberately stopping international nurses from getting immediate residency.

“A survey, conducted by the New Zealand Women in Medicine Charitable Trust, collated the responses of more than 900 doctors working across 30 different areas of medicine.

“Authors of the survey said ‘the results indicate that we are at risk of a catastrophic collapse of the healthcare workforce’ in a letter to the Prime Minister, health and associate health ministers and leaders of Te Whatu Ora Health NZ.

“Respondents describe a health sector that is so bereft of nursing support that triage nurses are resigning because they are afraid that someone will die in the waiting room.

“The Health Minister’s refusal to acknowledge the crisis that the health workforce is screaming about shows how out of touch he is with what is going on. Instead of addressing the critical issues right now, the Minster’s focus has been on rearranging the health system in the middle of a pandemic.

“There is still no immediate residency for international nurses coming to New Zealand, and there is no pathway into the healthcare sector for many doctors have nurses that have passed their exams and are instead driving for Uber Eats.

“Additionally, a recent Written Parliamentary Question reveals the Minister is stopping new homegrown doctors with his confirmation of no new medical school places in the recent budget, despite spending on 1,000 new business consultants to prop up the health restructure.

“New Zealanders deserve better. This Government doesn’t know what it’s doing when it comes to health, and now it refuses to acknowledge its failings.”

If the Minister read Democracy Project’s daily round-up of links to political news and opinion, he might lose his inability to utter the C word.

Here’s yesterday’s:

HEALTH
Rachel Smalley (Today FM): Labour is allergic to our health system
Ian Powell: Health system now “beyond a crisis”
John MacDonald (Herald): Yes Minister, there is a health crisis
Matthew Hooton (Herald): Health NZ reform – why it could mean hospital closures(paywalled)
RNZ: Andrew Little: Govt responding to ‘chronic staffing shortage’ in healthcare
Dewi Preece (1News): ‘How many people have to die?’ – Paramedics at breaking point
Oliver Lewis (BusinessDesk): Charity hospitals, philanthropists covering health system gaps
Peter Dunne (Newsroom): Time is not on the Government’s side with health reforms
Rachel Moore (Stuff): Pharmacies under pressure, picking up overflow from booked out GPs
RNZ: New director of public health appointed
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): A lottery of death: Why are so many people dying without first-world care?
Cate Macintosh (Stuff): Surgical waiting list soars as patients languishing in pain say they feel like the ‘living dead’
Geoff Cunningham (Stuff): Health reforms are missing the problems at the coalface
Bryan Betty (Stuff): We’ll all suffer if pressures on GPs aren’t addressed
Rachel Smalley (NBR): Counting the human cost of terrible health system leadership(paywalled)
Kate Hawkesby (Newstalk): I’d have thought, at this time of year we’d be doing more to help the health system
Otago Daily Times: Southern hospitals struggling to treat patients at full capacity
Hannah Martin (Stuff): Long waits for frail Kiwis to access aged care will ‘collapse the health system’
Steven Cowan: Dark side of the moon
Lloyd Burr (Today FM): It’s time adult dental care was subsidised by the Government
1News: Midwifery sector in ‘crisis’ – Wellington community midwife
Nikki Macdonald (Stuff): Shame, suffering and strawberry sundaes – the underfunded, invisible ‘mess’ of palliative care
Waatea News: Bureaucracy kept in check at Māori Health Authority
Stephen Forbes (Local Democracy Reporting): Pharmac ‘procrastinating’ over funding glucose monitors, Diabetes NZ says
Waatea News: Culture lessons in way of Māori health change
Ben Gray (Stuff): Medsafe’s accountability to us is a reason we trust it over the FDA
Simon Wallace (Stuff): After years of neglect, aged care sector is under threat

That might not look like a crisis to the Minister, but it certainly feels like it to the health workforce and those needing its services.

But the problem isn’t semantics. It’s not what the Minister calls it but what he’ll do to fix it that matters; and if he’s not listening to those pleading for help, it’s hard to have faith in his ability and will to do anything that will make a positive difference.

Apropos of this, Tova O’Brien asks who do we turn to when the government stops listening?

. . .What is going on? I honestly cannot figure this out.

We’ve debunked the Government’s claim that there are retention issues with nurses, we’ve debunked the data that supposedly proved the claim. 2 percent more internationally trained nurses leave than domestically trained, which is nothing, and it’s old data from 2020 when migrant nurses were separated from their families.

We’ve also debunked the advice about nurses using NZ as a gateway to get into Australia – immigration clarifying it’s not actually nurses doing that or anyone necessarily but technically any migrant workers could. They might do it. Maybe.

If that was a real issue, how hard would it be to bond them so that residency was tied to staying here and working in New Zealand for at least two years?

We’ve debunked the initial line from the Government that it was actually the sector that asked for nurses not to be fast-tracked. The sector was swift to correct the record that it said no such thing.

It’s never a good look for the government to say the sector asked for something and the sector to immediately say they didn’t.

Finally, we’ve heard from everyone in the sector from the chief executive of Health NZ right through to nurses, surgeons, community health, and aged care – everyone that they want nurses urgently added.

So I scratch my head in befuddlement? Why is the Government refusing?

What does that leave? What could possibly be the rationale?

There’s only one explanation. Political arrogance.

Sadly the Government has gone full third term arrogance, just one and a half terms in. . . 

It’s certainly arrogant to steam roller ahead with a massive restructuring of the health system in the middle of a pandemic when addressing problems with services and the health professionals who provide them should have been the priority.

From the start there have been doubts about the government’s prescription of inflicting such radical surgery on the sector and there’s a warning in what’s happening with another government initiate.

While health horror stories are making headlines, so too is the failure of its mega polytech :

Leaderless, well behind schedule, and sinking into a $110 million black hole.

The fortunes of Te Pūkenga, the country’s new merged mega polytech are in dire straits before the organisation has even properly begun functioning. . . 

How confident can we be that Te Whatu Ora Health NZ will be any more effective at addressing widespread problems in health when the government’s answer to problems with only some polytechs has gone so badly and expensively wrong so soon?

Back to Tova and the nursing shortage:

When Governments get out of touch, when they stop listening, the system stops working.

This particular issue may not fire you up as much as it does me or those on the health frontline but think of it as emblematic.

If the Government won’t listen to something like this – something so simple to fix, something with the public will behind it, something in the interests of our healthcare system and therefore all of us – if it won’t listen on this, what else will it ignore?

That’s what really worries me.

But is it arrogance or simply inability?

Could it be that fixing problems in health is like housing, crime, vocational tracing, reading and literacy, truancy and so many other problems in desperate need of solutions is simply beyond this government?

Can it not see that pouring money into more bureaucracy won’t help front line services and the people who provide them?

And is it so blinded by its ideological drive to centralisation that it can’t see beyond it to practical solutions?


Lack of kindness kills

08/07/2022

The government must change its policy to allow nurses to gain residency faster:

. . .Uncertain, overworked and unable to buy a house, she is now looking for work in Australia. Of course, she will find it. . . 

Erica Stanford is talking about a migrant nurse working in a aged care.

She’s been in New Zealand for a decade, has trained to be a nurse, graduated and still has to wait two years before she can gain residency.

New Zealand is desperately short of 4000 nurses, 1500 GPs and 1500 specialists.

Our health system is buckling under the pressure.

Patients are waiting hours in emergency departments, parents can’t get their children into a doctor and surgeries and cancer screening procedures are all being delayed.

But skilled migrants are not being welcomed into New Zealand with immediate residency as they would be if they went to Australia.

The Government’s policy to exclude nurses from the fast-track residence list makes no sense.

Ultimately, it is costing New Zealanders their lives.

This lack of kindness and inexplicable intransigence that is preventing nurses to get fast-tracked residency is killing people.

The Government’s first failure was the lack of sympathy for nurses separated from their families during the lockdown.

Migrant nurses were trapped, half a world away from loved ones. It took 18 months of pressure before the Government finally offered families a chance to reunite but by then many had left for good.

DJs, other entertainers and whole sports team could come in, but the government wouldn’t extend its kindness to allow families of health professionals to reunite.

Second, the Government stipulated that migrant nurses must have lived with their offshore partners for three months for their relationship to be deemed “genuine and stable”.

If not, Immigration NZ sent them home to tick that box.

We should have instead offered partners a visitor’s visa to satisfy the relationship requirement in NZ, rather than losing this labour for months at a time, and possibly for good.

Such a simple solution either didn’t occur to the government, or it did and was rejected.

On top of that, nurses on student or working holiday visas weren’t allowed to apply for the Resident 2021 visa, which would have given them the ability to apply for residence and stay in New Zealand.

We trained migrant nurses in our education system and shut them out of a residence programme as they were about to graduate.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of them left.

A government that understood the desperate shortage of nurses would have done everything possible to keep those already in the country from leaving.

Lastly, the fundamental flaw in our immigration policy is that nurses still aren’t offered an immediate pathway to residency like they are in Australia – our main competitor for healthcare workers.

Here in New Zealand, doctors and engineers and even game developers are on the fast track – a move some have called out as sexist – but the Government claims that migrant nurses might stop nursing if they get residency. There is no evidence to support this.

New Zealand is short of 4000 nurses and is not incentivising them to come here.

Does the government not understand the impact this is having on the health system, and people whose treatment is being delayed?

The Government has failed to identify the stresses in our health system and the role immigration plays in mitigating the crisis in which New Zealand finds itself.

Timaru has closed 33 hospital-level beds, the Southern DHB has deferred all non-emergency and non-cancer-related surgeries at Dunedin and Southland Hospital, Wellington Hospital has also deferred non-emergency surgery, and screening programmes are hopelessly behind.

We rightly locked down rest homes and prioritised the elderly in our vaccination campaign, but we did nothing to stop 800 aged-care beds closing over the past 12 months due to a lack of nursing staff in aged-care facilities.

That has in turn added to the pressure on hospital because some elderly people in need of care can’t be discharged until there’s a rest home bed available.

Other countries moved quickly on this. The offer of immediate residency was a game-changer for nurses all around the world.

Here in New Zealand, the Government was too busy rearranging the health system and moving bureaucrats around to act on acute health workforce shortages.

National is calling on the Government to ensure that migrant nurses and midwives are offered a fast-tracked pathway to residency, without having to wait two years.

If the Government is worried about nurses leaving the profession they could make it a condition that migrants must stay in the profession for two years. . .

The problem is acute and the solution simple.

What is stopping the government from following its own mantra on kindness and applying it to immigrant nurses?


Pay isn’t the problem

05/07/2022

Changing sheets and cleaning rooms isn’t usually regarded as a highly skilled job, but it’s one of many positions hospitality businesses are struggling to fill.

Allowing more immigrants in is one solution, but it’s not one to which the Minister is open:

The Immigration Minister’s comments that employers across the tourism sector are struggling to hire staff because of low wages and insecure working conditions are unhelpful, insulting to business owners and an attempt to distract from the Government’s immigration failures, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Through no fault of their own, businesses across New Zealand have battled through two years of closed borders, taken on debt, endured a prolonged lockdown in Auckland which has now been deemed unnecessary, and are now staring down the barrel of critical labour shortages.

“Hotels are having to ask customers to clean their own sheets, restaurants are closing their kitchens early, and cafes are shutting down for a couple of days a week because they just don’t have the staff.

“Immigration Minister Michael Wood’s comments that ‘employers in sectors that continue to pay low wages with insecure working conditions also need to consider what changes they will make’ are an attempt to distract from his Government’s failure to deliver the workforce we need.

“We have just under five per cent of the working holiday makers that would typically be here pre-Covid, we barely have any international students, and the essential skills category doesn’t open to applications until tomorrow.

“Instead of blaming businesses, the Immigration Minister should consider what steps he could take to make New Zealand a more attractive place to migrants by changing the immigration settings to help deliver the workers this country desperately need.”

The Minister’s answer seems to be, pay workers more which shows how little he understands business and economics.

Increasing wages without any improvements to efficiency and productivity increases costs. That will, sooner rather than later, require an increase in prices which makes businesses less competitive and can lead to failure.

Artificially increasing wages for unskilled jobs would also put pressure on wages for skilled jobs.

If there’s not a significant difference in pay between lower and higher skilled jobs, people in the latter could decide to opt for less demanding roles for not much less money.

But even businesses offering well above the minimum, and living, wages can’t attract staff:

. . . Unqualified housekeepers and hospitality staff are being paid up to $27 an hour, and some believe it will set a new and unsustainable minimum wage.

Hospitality NZ regional manager Darelle Jenkins said there were more vacant jobs in Queenstown than ratepayers and New Zealanders were not applying for them. . . 

This suggest that the pay rate isn’t the problem and that begs the question – why are so many people languishing on jobseeker benefits when there are so many lower skilled jobs that pay this well available?

But pay is the problem in health. The Immigration Minister should be giving the advice to pay more to the Health Minister.

 


Nurses and midwives need fast track residency

23/06/2022

The government has the wrong priorities for immigration:

As New Zealand’s health system crumbles due to critical staffing shortages, National has launched a campaign to ensure that migrant nurses and midwives are offered a fast-tracked pathway to residency, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Labour has offered immediate residency to food technologists and ‘multimedia specialists’, yet not to these critical health workers.

Does the country have a dire need for food technologists and ‘mulitmedia specialists’ ?

It might, but the need for those people can’t be any higher than the need for nurses and midwives.

“Every day brings new headlines about our health system’s abysmal staffing shortcomings. Yet, the Government still hasn’t fixed its two-tiered immigration system that does nothing to attract nurses and midwives to New Zealand.

“Nurses and midwives are both on Australia’s priority skills list. If Australia offers the certainty of immediate residency, why would they choose New Zealand if they need to wait two years before they are even eligible to apply?

“We are short of around 4,000 nurses in this country. Continued unaddressed, we will surely hear worsening stories of 24-hour waits at Emergency Departments and patients even forgoing critically important treatment altogether.

“National has been calling on the Government to offer an immediate pathway to residency for nurses and midwives for months.

“However, the Immigration Minister can only provide an unfounded response that they shouldn’t be offered immediate residency because they might choose to leave their profession.

“That’s simply not good enough because we need these workers and the skills they would bring right now.

“National has launched a petition imploring the Government to immediately add nurses and midwives to the fast-track, start the fast-track process immediately and ensure the process of gaining residence is complete within three months of application.

“Until the Government takes action, it is Kiwis who will continue to pay the price.” 

The health system is sick and the prescription for treating it should have been given to frontline services and the people who provide them, not to restructuring the system.

Doctors and vets are on the green track for residency, as they should be, but so too should nurses and midwives. And the fast track should start immediately, not in September when the worst of winter illnesses will be over.

Hospitals are in crisis.

Staff are overworked, patients are facing long waits in emergency departments, surgery is being postponed, pregnant women are struggling to find a midwife, and resthomes have empty beds because they can’t find enough nurses :

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says the Aged Care sector is in dire straits without mandated minimum safe staffing levels.

In 2020, between 200 and 300 Section 31 notices were submitted to the Ministry of Health notifying of the health and safety risks to patients caused by understaffing.

841 were submitted in 2021. Now 841 have been submitted between January and April of 2022 alone.

Chair of the NZNO College of Gerontology Natalie Seymour says the Aged Care sector is in crisis.

“Nurses are doing 12-16 hour shifts without a proper stand down period. I recently worked a 93 ½ hour week and this is getting more and more common.

“We have a huge shortfall of qualified registered and enrolled nurses, which is having a massively negative impact. I manage a facility with four nurses on the floor for 75 patients who require specialist care.

“The voluntary standards for our aged care facilities say each patient needs only need half an hour of one nurse’s care. But our ageing population are sicker, older, and more acute. The patients we have need much more care than half an hour a day.”

Ms Seymour says Aged Care facilities are responding to understaffing by refusing to fill beds.

“790 beds were closed this past year. When this happens it backs up hospitals, which are already over capacity, or leads to people being discharged when they shouldn’t be, burdening their whānau and communities.

“In order to make up the wages we have to increase room charges, and these are already $1500-2500 per week. We have people selling the family home to pay for care.”

Ms Seymour told the Health Select Committee this morning that a standardised acuity tool is needed that would help set staff/patient ratios that ensure clinically and culturally safe care for our patients.

“But we must also address the disparity between DHB and Aged Care worker pay, which can be up to $20,000, and this makes it incredibly difficult to recruit and retain staff.

“We do our best to pick up the pieces and support families through their grieving, to give them the care, support, and touch they deserve in their dying days. But the reality is no longer possible for our burned out Aged Care nurses and health workers.” 

Making employment in New Zealand for nurses and midwives by putting them on the fast-track, doing it immediately and ensuring their residency process is completed within three months would help to solve those problems.

You can sign the petition here.


Health system nightmare

22/06/2022

If Health Minister Andrew Little doesn’t think the health system is in crisis, ‘he’s dreaming‘:

The health minister is “dreaming” if he thinks the health system is not in crisis, his National Party counterpart Shane Reti says.

The minister, Andrew Little, says the government has done everything it can to support the health system, and rejects the accusation it failed to take earlier opportunities to bolster the nursing workforce.

Restructuring the health system is anything but supporting it. It would have been undermining it at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a pandemic when the need for hopsital care was higher and the borders were closed, restricting access to immigrant health professionals.

In Auckland, emergency departments are under massive strain, with Counties-Manukau DHB putting $350 per patient towards already stressed GPs to help ease pressure on Middlemore’s Emergency Department (ED).

Wellington and Hutt Valley DHBs have been forced to delay planned care for another four weeks, on top of a two-week deferment, because of unprecedented staff absences, high levels of vacancies, and high demand from winter illness.

Canterbury has also been under pressure. . . 

Every DHB is under pressure and many, perhaps most GPs are too.

National’s health spokesperson Shane Reti said it was a crisis – and Little was “dreaming” if he thought differently.

“He is dreaming. Show me one ED, show me one DHB that is not in crisis – one. Just choose one, any one, and convince us that the health system is coping. He is wrong.”

He said New Zealand was 3000 nurses short and missing nearly a quarter of the midwife workforce, and this was not the time to be reforming the health system.

“What we’re seeing is seeing the system slowly break, unfortunately, across all areas – across primary, now across secondary care – and we remain of the view that this is terrible timing to be reconstructing a health system.”

He said if reporting of ED wait times had not been shut down a year ago, maybe the problem would have been seen earlier.

“This is the chickens coming home to roost. We know the figures were looking bad a year ago, that’s not a reason to stop looking at them. It’s a good signal – ED wait times – as to how the whole system’s doing.”

“If you look at the last reported data, Hawke’s Bay and Palmerston North had worse ED waiting times than Middlemore. Are they going to get free weekend GP visits as well? I think it’s a reasonable question to ask.” . . 

Every day there’s stories showing just how sick the health system is with surgery delayed, staffing shortages and people left in EDs for want of a bed on a ward.

A shortage of sonographers in Oamaru has forced women to go out of town for scans.

There’s a four and a half year waiting list at one resthome and elderly people are either having to wait in hospital or be shipped out of town for resthome care.

New comers to the district can’t enroll with a GP and those of us registered with a practice have to wait a week or more for an appointment.

People who don’t get timely primary care are more likely to need secondary or tertiary services which adds to the pressure hospitals are facing..

Dr Reti is right. If the minister doesn’t think this is a crisis, he’s dreaming when the reality is a health system nightmare for the people working in it and those requiring its services.


Extended orange for Covid or ‘flu?

25/05/2022

Fear of a second wave of Covid is why the government says it’s keeping the country at the Covid orange setting until the end of June:

. . . Hipkins said the orange setting remained appropriate for managing the Covid outbreak.

The arrival of new strains of cold and flu was another reason to remain cautious. . . 

This begs the question: is the extension of the orange setting for Covid or the ‘flu?

The ‘flu usually kills about 500 people a year. That’s more than have died of, as distinct from with, Covid in the last two years but is ‘flu as infectious and isn’t the vaccine reasonably effective?

Whatever the answers to those questions, is the extension because Covid and the ‘flu could put too much pressure on the health system?

If that’s the case, why aren’t ‘flu vaccines free for more people and why hasn’t increasing capacity in the health system been a far higher priority?

Focusing on the front line, including allowing migrant health professionals who are here to fast track residency, allowing more in from overseas and improving pay and conditions to make working here more competitive with Australia would have helped.

It would certainly do a lot more for better health outcomes than the extensive and expensive restructuring of the whole system.


Less for more

16/05/2022

Getting less while spending more money is a disturbing feature of the government and its agencies:

There’s the eye-watering $1.9 billion for mental health:

National’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Spokesperson Matt Doocey has written to the Auditor-General to request an investigation into why the $1.9 billion the Government allocated to mental health has not resulted in any material improvements in mental health outcomes.

“The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s damning report released last month found that improvements in mental health have not materialised under Labour despite the $1.9 billion of extra funding, with little change in access and wait times for mental health and addiction services. . . 

Then there’s Waka Kotahi:

The Government has been on a spin doctor hiring spree, with the number of communications staff at NZTA more than doubling in four years, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Labour is all spin and no delivery. They can’t get things done so they rely on spin doctors to try to cover up their failures in transport, wasting taxpayer money on doubling NZTA’s comms team rather than upgrading roads.

“The number of comms staff at NZTA has ballooned to the equivalent of 88 full-time staff in 2020/21, up from just over 32 full-time staff in 2016/17.

“The amount of money being spent on these spin doctors is eye-watering. Comms staff earning over $100,000 a year has increased almost 10-fold under Labour, from the equivalent of 6.6 full-time staff to almost 65.

“It doesn’t end there. Despite more than doubling the number of full-time comms staff, the Government is billing taxpayers over $75 million a year for consultants. That’s up from $31 million in 2016/17.

“In fact, NZTA spent almost as much on consultants as on construction for the NZ Upgrade Programme between 2019 and March 2022. During that time, $145 million was spent on consultants compared to $202 million on construction.  

“Labour has created a culture that is tolerant of wasteful spending. This is taxpayer money that would be better spent on building better roads and upgrading our transport infrastructure. . . 

All those consultants and extra staff and all the extra money they cost, yet the agency still produces an advertisement that shows a driver swerving to avoid a possum, contrary to the safety advice that drivers shouldn’t try to avoid a small animal.

All those consultants and extra staff and all extra the money they cost and the agency is substituting lower speed limits instead of the work needed to make roads safer.

All those consultants and extra staff, costing more and delivering less.

Immigration NZ is also guilty of  doing less with more money:

The Government has hired over 500 more staff at Immigration New Zealand since 2017 yet visa processing times have exploded, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“Labour has been on a bureaucrat hiring spree since they came into Government, but still can’t deliver better outcomes for New Zealand.

“The number of office staff at Immigration New Zealand has gone from 1357 in 2017 to 1879 in March 2022 and the Minister has increased spending by $150 million.

“Yet there were 100 fewer staffers employed to process visa applications in that time, and the processing time for a visitor visa application has blown out from 21 days in 2017 to five months in 2022.

“So the Government has delivered more bureaucrats to Immigration New Zealand and wasted more taxpayer money, for worse outcomes.

“Labour simply cannot get things done. It’s not enough to just make the announcement, spray the cash, hire more public servants and walk away.

“With the border set to reopen in just over eight weeks, more visa applications will come flooding in to add to the major backlog we already have.

“They’ve made their big announcement about opening the border, but exactly how they’re going to process visas and get people into the country, which we desperately need, remains to be seen.” 

This waste would be bad at the best of times, it’s even worse when inflation is raging.

A good government would be aiming to get more for less, instead ours is accomplishing less and spending more.


Intellectual snobbery in immigration policy

12/05/2022

Credit where it’s due, some of the government’s changes to immigration policy are an improvement, including this:

The Government has agreed to temporarily exempt tourism and hospitality businesses from paying the median wage to recruit migrants on an Accredited Employer Work Visa into most roles.

“Instead, a lower wage threshold of $25 per hour will be required until April 2023. This follows the recent $27 per hour border exception that was granted around certain snow season roles to help the sector prepare for winter tourists.”

New sector agreements for the care, construction and infrastructure, meat processing, seafood, and seasonal snow and adventure tourism sectors will provide for a short-term or ongoing need for access to lower-paid migrants. . . 

That’s better than what’s been required in the past, but still not as good as it could, and should, be.

Requiring migrants to be paid more than locals is a type of unFair Pay Agreement (FPA) by stealth.

It’s supposed to make employing locals more attractive but with unemployment down to the unemployable, those who can’t, or won’t work, it’s simply adding unnecessary costs to businesses.

At least some of those costs will be passed on to customers and fuel inflation.

Requiring businesses everywhere to pay staff the same wages takes no account of cost of living differences in different places.

For example, workers in Oamaru or Duntroon face lower rents than those in Queenstown or Wanaka so don’t need to be paid as much to have a similar quality of life.

Then there’s the intellectual snobbery in the emphasis on skilled workers when there is a huge shortage of workers in so-called low or unskilled jobs.

These include carers in rest homes. Nurses need to be qualified and experienced. Carers do not, but they do need to have high EQ and interpersonal skills which don’t count in the immigration policy.

There are also a lot of jobs, on dairy farms for example, where qualifications and experience aren’t necessary. The skills needed are willingness to learn, the ability to start work on time, do what they have to do within a reasonable time and to the required standard, and do it every day they’re rostered to do it.

People able to do all that might not look like highly skilled to the government, they won’t have qualifications but they will have a good attitude and if the government listened to employers, they’d know that it’s very hard to find local people with that and willing and able to do ‘low-skilled jobs’, and not just on farms.

A restaurant owner in a small town knew there were nearly 200 people registered as unemployed in the area.

He approached WINZ saying he was happy to employ people with no experience as long as they were willing to learn. He was told that he wouldn’t get anyone if he drug tested them.

He said he wouldn’t drug test them and was told that even if they weren’t drug tested no-one on their books would want his jobs.

This example isn’t a one-off.

Employers in a range of businesses the length and breadth of the country are facing the same problems and still the government doesn’t understand the need for migrants who aren’t highly skilled in terms of qualifications and experience,  but are in attitude and other personal strengths and who are desperately needed and would be valuable workers.


Kindness doesn’t extend to kin

17/03/2022

The doors to New Zealand are finally creaking open.

Vaccinated Australians will be permitted to come here from April 13th and others from visa waiver countries will be welcomed after May 2nd.

We could quibble over why it’s going to take so long and also ask if many will want to come if we’re still at the Red Covid setting.

We might also wonder if this is an indication we won’t still be stuck in Red by then.

But there’s a bigger question – what about split migrant families who have been kept apart for two years and who aren’t in Australia or from visa waiver countries?

Could it be because the Immigration Ministry is so dysfunctional it couldn’t cope with the visas?

Whether or not that’s the case, it is indeed cruel that kindness doesn’t extend to the kin of migrants and these families will have to endure so many more months apart.


Rural round-up

04/03/2022

Farmers short changed by Labour yet again :

Labour needs to explain why it is severely restricting the number of dairy farm workers allowed into the country for no apparent reason, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford and Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger say.

“Last year the dairy sector requested border exceptions for 1500 international dairy workers that were urgently needed for this year’s calving season,” Ms Stanford says.

“But the Government only granted 300, meaning this crucial sector will be short staffed and overworked for yet another season.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, but farmers have had enough of the constant roadblocks from this Labour Government – this time in the refusal to grant border exceptions for urgently-needed workers.” . .

NZ-UK FTA ‘significant boost’ for farmers – Sally Rae:

The signing of a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the United Kingdom represents a “significant boost” for New Zealand farmers and exporters, the Meat Industry Association says.

Lamb and beef would eventually be allowed quota- and tariff-free access for the first time in decades, it said.

Under the FTA, New Zealand’s beef and sheepmeat exports to the UK would be fully liberalised over time, with no duties from the 16th year after the deal came into force following ratification by both countries.

During this time, beef and sheepmeat would be subject to duty-free transitional quotas, the quota for New Zealand beef rising in annual instalments from a starting point of 12,000 tonnes until it reaches 60,000 metric tonnes in year 15, after which it would be duty- and tariff-free. . . 

Businesses concerned over Gisborne’s kiwifruit ‘rates grab’ – Nikki Mandow:

The district councils attempt to treat kiwifruit licences as rateable land improvements will have wide-reaching affects on other businesses.

Kiwifruit grower Tim Tietjen didn’t know the Gisborne District Council would be doubling the rates bill for his property until he read about it in the local paper.

In a radical shift from previous rating policy, the council had decided licences for the SunGold or G3 variety of gold kiwifruit – licences Tietjen and his fellow growers buy from kiwifruit marketer Zespri – would now be counted as land improvements and billed accordingly.

Instead of his property having a rated value of $2.8 million, it was now calculated at $4.1 million. . . 

Build a resilient farm business with bloody good tips from DWN and DairyNZ :

Dairy Women’s Network are helping current and future farm owners and teams to future-proof their businesses with a webinar series on How to Build a Bloody Good Business, funded by DairyNZ.

Run between the 7th and the 10th of March, the online webinar series will look at the qualities of a resilient business and strategies that can be implemented to protect your current or future business from the unknown; how to increase the resilience of your team when considering the current talent shortage; and the role that different systems and technology can play in building a healthy and successful business.

Speakers from ASB, Xero, Figured and McIntyre Dick and Partners (part of NZ CA Group Limited) will discuss and answer questions on how great financial business systems will help your business thrive, led by people and strategy specialist Lee Astridge from No8HR. . .

NZ wine industry welcomes UK free trade agreement :

New Zealand Winegrowers is pleased with today’s announcement that New Zealand has signed a historic free trade deal with the United Kingdom.

“The agreement is very positive for the New Zealand wine industry. This will help remove technical barriers to trade, and minimise burdens from certification and labelling requirements. It will also support future growth in the market, and encourage exporters to focus on the UK,” says Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers. . . 

Carbon neutral sheep and beef farm on the market for sale for the first time in 100 years:

A substantial highly developed sheep and beef breeding and finishing farm which has been continuously owned by members of the founder’s family for the past 100-years has been placed on the market for sale.

The 1,038-hectare property known as Te Maire at Flemington just south of Waipukurau in Southern Hawke’s Bay was established in 1920 by S.A. Robinson Senior who purchased 203-hectares following the splitting up of Tourere Station.

Over the ensuing decades, Robinson’s sons, and their sons, added to the property – buying neighbouring blocks with their associated infrastructure, and expanding Te Maire to its current size which is subdivided into some 222 paddocks.

Generations of the Robinson family have taken an environmental approach to Te Maire’s expansion – always conscious of balancing ecological aspects with improving productivity. . . 


Rural round-up

03/03/2022

IPCC report condemns forestry use planned by NZ – Dame Anne Salmond:

If ever there was doubt NZ had gone up a blind climate alley by moving towards large plantings of pine trees, the latest international scientists’ report has firmly laid that to rest, writes Dame Anne Salmond.

It is now beyond doubt that New Zealand’s primary strategy for tackling climate change – offsetting through the Emissions Trading Scheme, with the financial incentives it gives to the large-scale planting of monocultures of exotic pine trees – runs in the opposite direction to international scientific advice.

In the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (AR6) report, for instance, released yesterday, the practice of “planting large scale non-native monocultures, which would lead to loss of biodiversity and poor climate change resilience” was placed among the ‘Worst Practices and Negative Adaptation Trade-offs’ for temperate forests.

By way of contrast, to  “maintain or restore natural species and structural diversity, leading to more diverse and resilient systems” was placed among the ‘Best Practices and Adaptation Benefits’, with very high impacts. . . 

NZ’s economic outlook is given a lift as dairy prices rise again – Point of Order:

Dairy prices have  hit  a  new  peak at  Fonterra’s Global Dairy Trade  auction.  The GDT index shot up 5.1% to an average price of US$5,065 (NZ$7,509). Whole milk powder rose 5.7% to US$4,757 a tonne while cheddar rocketed up 10.9% to $6,394.

Butter prices gained 5.9% to an average US$7086/tonne, anhydrous milk fat 2.1% to US$7048/tonne and butter milk powder firmed 5.8% to US$4217/tonne. Skim milk  powder was  up 4.7% to US$4481/ tonne.

“This train isn’t slowing down,” said NZX dairy insights manager Stuart Davison.

Other  business-sector commentators  see  the  boom in the dairy  sector   injecting  new  strength into  the  economy at a  time  when it is badly  needed, with  other sectors  like international tourism  and  hospitality hard hit  by the Covid pandemic.

Bidding at  the  auction was  fierce, driven by the  tight supply   position,  as well  as  Russia’s war  on Ukraine. . . 

Good news to wake up to for farmers and growers :

The early morning signing of a free trade deal between the United Kingdom and New Zealand means farmers and growers can wake up with a smile this morning.

Federated Farmers national president and trade spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says with the world the way it is right now, this trade deal gives us reason to be reassured good things do still happen.

“With everything going on in Europe, in the hospitals and health centres, and even on the steps of our own Parliament, it’s reassuring to see this deal signed and sealed,” he says.

The free trade deal will result in the full liberalisation of all trade between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. . .

More international dairy farm workers available soon :

Federated Farmers is pleased to see more international dairy farm workers will be able to cross the border for the 2022 dairy season.

“Farms are short thousands of staff and with continued low domestic unemployment, workers from overseas are the only option to plug the gaps in many parts of New Zealand,” Federated Farmers National Board member and immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“Many dairy farms are desperate to get teams back up to strength prior to calving and today’s announcement will provide a measure of relief.”

The industry, farmers and the government have done all they can to attract and retain Kiwi workers in the industry, but the need for international labour remains. . . 

Cauliflower selling for nearly $15  :

Bad weather affecting crops has led to a shortage of cauliflower causing a spike in prices.

Some consumers have taken to social media expressing outrage at seeing cauliflower for nearly $15.

United Fresh president Jerry Prendergas said heavy rain in November saturated crops and affected new plantings. . . 

Clever Canterbury sheep smashing stereotypes by smashing smarts :

A sheep in suburban Christchurch is doing its bit to show just how smart a sheep can be.

Lucky, who is six years old, and originally from a farm in Burke’s Pass in South Canterbury, knows a few tricks.

In fact, he knows so many tricks that his owner Caroline Thomson needs a list to keep track of them all.

“He does sit, bow, turn, back, shake, stay, jump, pose, pose is his favourite, through, so that’s when he’ll go under something, wait, go to bed. Now go-to-bed he learnt by getting feijoas, feijoa is his most favourite food. If you give him a feijoa it’s instant,” Thomson said. . . 

Brazil’s beef industry starts to tackle methane emissions – Michael Pooler and Carolina Ingizza:

New farming practices could help the country achieve one of its COP26 promises.

On his ranch in the state of Mato Grosso, deep in Brazil’s agricultural belt, Raul Almeida Moraes Neto has spent the past six years breaking new ground in cattle farming. In the name of sustainable husbandry, the trained agronomist has been undertaking a series of measures to lessen his environmental impact. A small portion of his property near the municipality of Torixoréu has been dedicated to “intensification”, with 15 animals per hectare, instead of fewer than one. Slaughter takes place at 18 months, rather than at 30. Breeding happens at a younger age, too. “It takes less time to produce the same amount of meat, but it emits less methane,” explains the 52-year-old, who has been in the business since 2000.

In the name of sustainable husbandry, the trained agronomist has been undertaking a series of measures to lessen his environmental impact. . .


Rural round-up

05/02/2022

Feds: costly unemployment insurance wrong move and certainly wrong timing :

Federated Farmers is dismayed by the Government’s hugely expansive and expensive unemployment insurance scheme, unveiled yesterday.

“It seems strange to say the least to advance this costly scheme, especially at such a time,” Feds President Andrew Hoggard says.

“The nation is in the Red setting and on the cusp of an expected Omicron surge that will be a stressful period for many who will be impacted by this scheme. It’s hardly the right time to be consulting on such a contentious piece of legislation.”

The Federation strongly believes consultation on key issues should only be occurring when the country is in the Orange setting. . . 

Border changes will allow international airy workers onto farms:

Today’s announcement on border changes brings much needed clarity for the many dairy businesses that have been in limbo, desperately seeking international workers to fill vacant roles on farm.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says the dairy sector is not unique in needing more workers, and appreciates the Government granting permission to bring in 200 international workers through border class exceptions in 2021.

However, Dr Mackle says that without the ability to get the workers through the border the class exception was not achieving its goal of allowing international workers onto farms.

“We have been working with the Government, putting forward several suggestions as to how our sector could manage the balance between the health risk and our labour needs, such as exploring how on-farm isolation would work. It is rewarding to see this planning has paid off today.” . . 

New Zealand ag sector looking to another profitable year ahead Rabobank 2022 outlook:

Despite significant ongoing global turmoil, New Zealand agricultural producers are positioned for another profitable year in 2022, according to a just-released report by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

This would represent the sixth consecutive year of general profitability for the country’s agricultural sector.

In the bank’s annual flagship report, Agribusiness Outlook 2022, titled ‘Will the Party Continue in 2022?’, Rabobank says while the outlook for another profitable run looks likely for most of New Zealand’s agricultural commodities, it is “too early to break out the champagne just yet” as elements of 2022 will be “unpredictable”.

Report co-author, Rabobank senior agricultural analyst Emma Higgins said as 2022 gets underway, the year “will hold bright sparks, despite headwinds gathering strength”. . . 

Rules helping foreign investors turn NZ farmland into forestry reviewed – Sally Murphy & Maja Burry :

Rules which help foreign investors purchase farmland in New Zealand for forestry conversions are under review, with a paper expected to be brought to Cabinet later this month.

Figures provided to RNZ by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) show in the last three years 36,000 hectares of farmland has been approved for sale to overseas investors under the special forestry test. About 23,000 hectares of the consented land will be the subject of new planting.

The special forestry test is used when an investor is looking to invest in production forestry for harvesting, it was introduced in late 2018 in a bid to support the government’s forestry priorities, including more tree planting.

But farming groups have raised concerns too much productive farmland is being lost and repeatedly called on the government to urgently review foreign investment in forestry. . . 

Right tree, right place, right direction, mostly :

Robyn Haugh, CEO of Project Crimson Trust/Trees That Count, is delighted to hear strong support for native trees from the Minister for Forestry: but believes a shift in the way we see native forests will bring even greater benefits for New Zealand.

‘Right tree, right place’ is an adage for a reason. It effectively communicates the need for tree planting to be a considered, ecologically based process, rather than a token gesture.

The use of this adage in Minister Nash’s recent communications is heartening: and as he notes, this kind of strategic approach to planting is crucial to ensure the sector’s sustainability.

The Minister is also correct in placing the mandate to ensure that tree planting is carried out in an ecologically responsible way with the Government. . . 

 

Mānuka Charitable Trust and honey industry remain steadfast in protecting the term manuka honey:

The Mānuka Charitable Trust and the Mānuka Honey Industry remain steadfast in protecting the term ‘Mānuka Honey’ for all New Zealanders and supports the decision of Manuka Honey Appellation Society and Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) to pursue an appeal on a point of law regarding the UK Intellectual Property Office ruling on the “MANUKA HONEY” Certification Trademark application.

“Our shared goal remains to protect the term MANUKA HONEY internationally so that it may only be lawfully used on products containing Mānuka honey from Aotearoa New Zealand,” said Pita Tipene, Chair of the Mānuka Charitable Trust (MCT). MCT is strongly supported by Mānuka Honey Appellation Society (MHAS), UMFHA, Apiculture New Zealand, and New Zealand Beekeeping Inc.

The group remains strongly of the view that it is not appropriate for honey producers in another country to use the name MANUKA HONEY when the plant the nectar came from did not grow in Aotearoa New Zealand. . . 


Black Heels & Tractor Wheels – Loshni Manikam

27/01/2022

Black Heels and Tractor Wheels Podcasts are a Rural Women NZ initiative in which they share stories from a range of women around New Zealand.


For want of workers . . .

19/01/2022

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The problem in New Zealand is not a shortage of horse shoe nails but a dire shortage of workers:

A critical lack of workers in New Zealand is pushing the meat industry to plead with the Government to urgently allow in more overseas staff.

Major meat processor and exporter Silver Fern Farms says it’s one of the most challenging years to date for accessing skilled labour. It says that the company’s plants are not fully manned and warns that livestock may not be able to be killed – especially if it gets dry – risking hard-fought international markets and valuable export revenue for the country.

“We are presently about 550 people short across our processing network. We have a number of initiatives underway to help address this, including raising our minimum productive rate by 10%,” SFF chief executive Simon Limmer told Rural News.

“However, we are constrained by the historic low unemployment rate here and the reality is that bringing in overseas workers is going to need to be part of the solution. In particular, we’ve been asking the Government to allow us to bring in AIP workers from the Pacific Islands. We’ve had this successful arrangement for 12 years, and it has increased production levels here as well as providing these workers and their family excellent earnings.” . . .

Staff shortages are delaying lamb processing. Feed covers have been good, lessening pressure to get stock away form farms, but recent dry weather could change that.

“The kill profile is late this season and any significant dry period from this point on, coupled with labour-related capacity reductions, will create livestock pressure on farm.”

Alliance Group’s general manager of manufacturing Willie Wiese told Rural News that NZ’s meat processing and exporting sector has a chronic labour shortage and this has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Without sufficient labour, we cannot run our plants at the desired capacity,” he says. “The border closure, as well as the limited managed isolation spots, have prevented us from employing seasonal workers from overseas to help make up the shortfall in numbers we can recruit locally.”

Wiese says Alliance Group is currently between 200-300 workers short during what is an extremely busy processing period, in particular for the Easter chilled programme for the UK and Europe.

“Importantly, we require additional halal butchers. Over 90% of animals are processed in the halal manner because that provides f greater flexibility to send different parts of the same carcass to various markets. That means fewer opportunities for hardworking Kiwis and fewer value-add products going to our markets.” . . 

Prices for red meat are reasonably good this season but that could easily change.

“Building valuable relationships with customers takes time and is underlined by consistently delivering on a commitment to supply product to customer specifications. These relationships are hard won but easily lost when customers have many global choices for supply, and when we don’t have the labour capacity to enable us to deliver to customers’ needs and return greater value to farmers.” . . 

The dairy industry is also short of staff:

Dairy farmers say they urgently need 1,500 overseas workers within the next six months.

While farmers are happy with changes announced last month to the existing class border exception for 200 dairy workers, they desperately need more skilled workers from overseas.

Farmers were happy with the announcement but like so many form this government, the announcement wasn’t followed by action.

Federated Farmers immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says the dairy sector cannot afford another calving season without skilled staff.

“We urgently need reinforcements,” he told Rural News. “We have managed two calving seadons by cutting corners. Staff are burnt out, stress levels are very high and another calving season like the past two years will result in some sad statistics.”

Securing MIQ spots remains the biggest hurdle to get workers into the country. Of the 200 border exceptions for dairy workers issued last year, only a handful arrived in the country. . . 

Border exceptions were welcomed but that’s only the first step in getting workers into the country.

However, Lewis says border exceptions are useless unless the overseas workers can secure MIQ spots.

“I suspect the electric driverless tractor would make a appearance quicker than a MIQ outcome. Border exception is just the first part of the process of getting the overseas workers in,” says Lewis.

Employers and their workers are still faced with a complex and lengthy process to get employees into New Zealand and working on farms.

“Employers and their workers will need to work closely with their respective industry groups to sort MIQ, flights and all the associated paperwork.

“This is not an easy or cheap task for either party, but with unemployment at such low levels this is really the only option for much of the primary industries at the moment.” . . 

Rural contractors are similarly frustrated:

Despite rural contractors being told in mid-December they could bring in 200 skilled machinery operators into the country, not one has been given any MIQ space.

Rural Contractors NZ chief executive Andrew Olsen describes getting MIQ space as like peeling an onion.

“It’s layer after layer and it brings tears of frustration for our members who are already working impossibly long hours and as yet have not even been able to lodge Expressions of Interest for staff positions, which Ministers had approved to come in.”

Olsen says despite the best efforts of MPI staff to help find MIQ beds for the approved operators, the indications now are that few, if any, will be available until March at the earliest for rural contractors.

“This will mean many of them will pass on the option to bring workers in. It’s just too late, too hard and too stressful for contractors who are working their guts out trying to help farmers get in crops and ensure animals can be fed.” 

Olsen says RCNZ and Federated Farmers, supported by MPI, have done everything they could to help contractors meet a crushing labour shortage.

“We understand and respect that the resurgence of another Covid variant and border entry changes have put the squeeze on MIQ,” he adds. “That said, those risks would have been part of the assessment when we had Ministerial approval just on a month ago to bring in the desperately needed 200 machinery operators.”

Olsen says rural contractors whose work is essential to food production and our export economy, find themselves towards the back of the MIQ queue.

Olsen is now calling on the Ministers of Immigration and Agriculture and the Prime Minister’s Office to act.

“We received approval December 12 and now more than a month on we’re looking at another two months before the first arrivals,” he adds. . . 

Harvesting is well under way. Workers are needed now and the shortage will put pressure on existing staff which will increase the risk of accidents and crop wastage.

Primary industries have been one of few bright spots in the export sector.

When the other big export earner – tourism – is in the doldrums with little hope of a turn around in the short to medium term, the need for farming and horticulture to be operating at their peaks is even greater than normal.

The government has been warned about the worker shortage and the consequences of it and last month’s announcement of more MIQ spots gave employers hope.

But like so many other of its announcements it has failed to deliver and so for want of workers primary production and processing are under unsustainable stress.


Grounded Kiwis take Govt to court

09/10/2021

Grounded Kiwis are taking the government to court over the MIQueue shambles.

Grounded Kiwis, a newly incorporated society advocating for Kiwis at home and abroad impacted by the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) system, has filed a judicial review claim in the High Court in respect of the Government’s operation of the MIQ system, and the limitation this has placed on New Zealanders right to return home.

The claim alleges that the Government has acted unlawfully, unreasonably, and in breach of section 18(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 in the way it has established and operated the MIQ system, in particular in respect of the ‘fastest finger first’ model, the current ‘lottery’ model, and the emergency and group allocation system.

Paul Radich QC and Lucila van Dam, public law barristers at Clifton Chambers in Wellington, are acting for Grounded Kiwis. . .

The claim is a judicial review. The right to apply for judicial review through the High Court is a central part of the “rule of law”. A core role of the courts is to enforce legal rights and obligations, and judicial review specifically is a key way of making sure that government bodies and officials act within the law and not arbitrarily.

The claim filed by Grounded Kiwis alleges that the Minister of Health, Minister for Covid-19 Response, and Chief Executive of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment acted unlawfully and unreasonably in respect of the design and operation of the MIQ system. It alleges that the previous ‘first-in-first served’ allocation system, the current ‘lottery’ allocation system, and the offline allocation system (including emergency allocations) are in breach of section 18(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and that the Ministers have failed to take into account the right of New Zealanders to enter New Zealand. The claim also alleges that the Minister for Covid-19 Response breached the public’s legitimate expectation that he would develop a sustainable, scalable model for isolation as a matter of priority. . .   

The MIQ system is not fit for purpose and all the lottery has done is to show the extent of the problem with more than 20,000 people trying to return to New Zealand.

Grounded Kiwis has set up a GiveALIttle page to pay the legal costs. The link at the top of the page will take you there.

UPDATE:

The GiveALIttle target has been reached.


Rural round-up

04/10/2021

Shearer aiming to take jeans product to world stage – Sally Rae:

Could Woolies Jeans be the next Allbirds? Jovian Cummins certainly hopes so.

The young New Zealand entrepreneur, at present shearing in Western Australia, is launching an equity crowdfunding campaign on the platform PledgeMe on Monday.

He hopes to raise up to $500,000 to help him patent the designs for the merino-lined jeans for workwear and help build a supply chain.

The genesis for the business came in a woolshed in 2018 when the then 22-year-old decided he was “fed up” with the hot and sweaty jeans he was wearing, he said. . .

The future of farming: What will NZ’s agri sector look like in 20 years? – Catherine Harris:

One thing you can be certain about in the agricultural sector iis that it’s always changing. Adaption is a constant for farmers, as sure as the weather.

But the challenges farming is currently facing are some of the greatest the sector’s ever had: climate change, environmental constraints, labour shortages and shipping issues.

Which raises a question: will these be the same challenges farming is facing in 10 or 20 years?

The Government has already been contemplating this question. Last June, the Ministry for Primary Industries put out “Fit for a better world,” a game plan to accelerate farming’s potential. . . 

Biosecurity finalists protecting every corner of New Zealand:

The 2021 Biosecurity Awards finalists named today show the huge effort under way to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

The 24 finalists named out of a record number of 90 entries include an iwi partnering with local and central government to eradicate wilding pines from their local taonga, Ruawāhia/Mount Tarawera, and a school on Stewart Island/Rakiura whose efforts are keeping Ulva Island pest free.

Biosecurity efforts have even expanded into space, with Xerra Earth Observation Institute’s leading-edge software which is helping protect Aotearoa from pests via international shipping.

Judging panel chairman Dr Ed Massey says the finalists represent a diverse range of individuals, teams, businesses, government agencies, research organisations, iwi, schools and community groups. . . 

Migrant groups are urgently call ing on the government to include Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers:

The government announced a one-off pathway to residency for several temporary work visas however are excluding a large group of migrants. Migrant groups are urgently calling on the Government to include Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers in the new immigration policy, before it is released. RSEs contribute significantly to Aotearoa’s economy and wellbeing through the work that they have been employed to do.

Most of the RSE workers have been in Aotearoa for at least five consecutive years since the scheme began in 2007. They have boosted the economic growth and productivity levels in the horticulture and viticulture industries. In 2007, New Zealand’s annual export earnings prior to the scheme were $2.6 billion dollars. In 2020, the earnings from the horticulture and viticulture industry were $9.2 billion dollars. The RSE workers were significant contributors to this growth.

The RSE scheme contributes an estimated $34-40 million NZD into the Pacific through remittances and in the period of the pandemic, this is critical to the livelihoods of households across the Pacific region. Aotearoa’s commitment to the Pacific relationship needs to be shown through its support of the RSE workers. . . 

The history of DWN:

Did you know that Dairy Women’s Network began as an email group?

Our story starts when Hilary Webber became a director of the New Zealand Dairy Group and saw women working at the ‘coalface’ of dairy. They were the ones carrying buckets, rearing calves, doing the accounts, raising their families, and supporting their rural communities. But in the boardrooms of dairy companies, the women were almost invisible.

Hilary wasn’t the only one to feel this way and do something about it. Joined by Christina Baldwin, Robyn Clements and dairy farmer Willy Geck, they got funding from Wrightson’s to send Hillary to Washington, where she attended the 1998 International Women in Agriculture Conference along with Willy and the wife of the NZ diplomat to the US. It was at the conference that they heard women described as the ‘silent heroes of agriculture’, which reinforced the need for DWN.

The conference revealed four key things: . . 

Silver Fern Farms to halve  coal use :

Silver Fern Farms welcomes $1 million co-funding from the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund for a $2.6 million coal-out project at its Pareora processing site, south of Timaru, as a significant boost to achieve the company’s commitment to end all coal use by 2030.

The Pareora heat-pump conversion project is the company’s third successful project under the GIDI fund and represents another important step in Silver Fern Farms’ commitment to playing a leadership role in driving sustainability in the red meat sector.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive, Simon Limmer, said Silver Fern Farms was committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the company’s value chain.

“The work we are doing to reduce the environmental impact of our processing operations is just one of the ways we’re making sure we do the right thing by our customers, who increasingly want to know that their red meat is sustainably produced. . . 


Rural round-up

01/10/2021

Ball dropped! – Rural News:

For more than a year now the primary sector has been crying out for changed around immigration settings to help ease numerous critical worker shortages right across the country’s key export earning industries.

The Government and immigration officials have badly dropped the ball on this issue – with the entire country is paying for their incompetence.

There is no doubt that things have been complicated by Covid-19 and the ongoing restrictions this has placed on allowing people into the country. However, governments are elected – and officials employed and well paid – to come up with solutions to such problems. Yet the piecemeal, ad-hoc, minimal changes made by both in this area are a national disgrace.

For starters, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has been completely MIA – that’s ‘missing in action’, not the Meat Industry Association, which is probably keen to chat to him on immigration issues, as is the rest of the primary sector. He is clearly either out of his depth or not interested and the Prime Minister should have relieved him of the portfolio months ago. One suspects that because her caucus has all the depth of the bird bath, and any capable minister is already overloaded, there is no one with the talent to manage or oversee this highly challenging role. . .

Catchment groups need to be farmer-led – Jessica Marshall:

Catchment projects need to be farmerled, according to Louise Totman, who coordinates the Rangitikei Rivers Catchment Collective.
Totman says the decision to join the collective needs to be a farmer-led initiative on behalf of the sub-catchment group.

The Rangitikei collective is an umbrella for 17 sub-catchment groups, covering 700,000ha across the Rangitikei, Turakina, and Whangaehu river catchments. Recently it received $910,000 in Government funding.

“We don’t do a big push to get these groups up and running,” she told Dairy News. . . 

Old dogs finding a new home – Shawn McAvinue:

A North Otago teacher is giving retired working dogs a second chance at life.

Waitaki Boys’ High School agriculture teacher Elizabeth Prentice adopted her dog Meg after seeing her listed on the website of Retired Working Dogs.

Before retiring, the pig dog worked in pest control around the world, including Bali and Canada.

Her former owner lives in Ashhurst, near Palmerston North, and loved Meg, she said. . . 

Radical dog biscuits the cherry on top – Ashley Smyth:

There is a saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but after turning to pet food production after 50 years of farming, John Newlands may beg to differ. He talks to Ashley Smyth about how Radical Dog started, how it is going and where it is heading.

When it comes to food for dogs, Radical Dog could be the pick of the crop.

The dog biscuits are made using Montmorency tart cherries and are the brainchild of John and Maureen Newlands, of Incholme, near Maheno.

In the late 1980s, the couple were considering options to integrate something different into their farming business which used their irrigation more efficiently, and they wanted grow something high yielding and profitable, within a small land area.

 

Auckland BioSciences buys Australia’s CellSera, creating $40m firm – Chris Keall:

In a pandemic year that has seen so many New Zealand tech firms bought by offshore rivals, Auckland BioSciences (ABS) has bucked the trend by acquiring Australia’s CellSera.

ABS manufactures and exports New Zealand-made serum and plasma, derived from the blood of cows, pigs and sheep, sourced from meat processing plants around NZ.

Animal serum is a key ingredient for cell culture in bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing and is used in medical research and in the manufacture of human and veterinary products such as vaccines and other biological preparations, ABS says.

The global cell culture market is expected to reach US$36 billion by 2027, according to one market researcher. . . 

Allbirds 2.0? Woolies seeks crowdfund to take ‘NZ Made’ merino jeans worldwide :

Auckland-based jeans company Woolies Jeans will launch an equity crowdfunding campaign on 4 October to fund their international launch

Started in 2018 by Jovian Garcia Cummins, Woolies Jeans was created in a woolshed, where a then 22 year old Jovian, became fed up with the workwear he was wearing – and thus enlisted his mother to help create his first pair of jeans made with comfortable merino lining and protective denim exterior.

“I’m excited to share my invention with the world because I’ve been making these jeans for mates in exchange for some beers, but want to hire some smart hardworking kiwis to help really get this thing going and start shipping worldwide,” says the enthusiastic entrepreneur. . . 


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