Immigration rules too strict for dairy workers

26/08/2008

A change in the way Immigration New Zealand is interpreting policy  is hampering would-be employers trying to recruit overseas staff for dairy farms.

Immigration Placement Services manager Bruce Porteous, who is based in Manila, said as many as 500 workers have had their visa applications declined because they were not skilled enough.

Assistant herd manager and herd manager are on the INZ Immediate SKills Shortage list but the department has determined that an assistant herd manager needs the equivalent of a National Certificate in Agriculture Level 2, or two years’ work experience or both.

Five Rivers lower order sharemilker Scott Christensen said the rules were too strict. He had hoped to employ another Filipino as a dairy assistant this season but the person had had his visa application declined.

Mr Christensen said the man, who was a qualified veterinarian and worked in a zoo, was turned down by Immigration NZ because he did not have any practical dairy farm experience.

“We can take someone off the streets here and teach them to milk cows in five minutes,” he said. “If this man had milked 10 cows for the past two years then that’s all that would have been required.”

We’ve been having problems with INZ too because our herd manager wants to apply for residency but the rules require him to have a Bachelors degree or five years relevant work experience. He’s been working for us for 2 1/2 years and he’s worked his way up to herd manager, while completing AG ITO levels 2, 3 and 4. He’s had enough relevant experience and has the relevant qualifications for us but that’s not good enough for INZ.

 I sought advice from Federated Farmers which quite rightly works at the policy level rather than with individual cases. However, the bloke I spoke to said he’d had so many approaches from farmers struggling with INZ he could be working on the issue fulltime.

I don’t know who makes the decisions on what’s required but they obviously don’t listen to employers who are usually far more concerned about attitude than relevant experience.

People with good work ethics can easily be trained to milk cows and overseas experience is often so far removed from what happens here it can be a hindrance rather than a help.

I understand the need to ensure that immigrants aren’t taking jobs which could be done by New Zealanders. But there is a desperate shortage of good workers at all levels in the dairy industry and it’s being aggravated because INZ requirements are far stricter than those of the employers.


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