More international workers to help address New Zealand dairy staff shortage

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: Getty Images/brians101
Pic: Getty Images/brians101

Related tags Dairy New zealand workforce

Sustained advocacy from the dairy sector has helped secure 500 more international workers to help on dairy farms, however, the Government’s border class exceptions still fall short of the sector’s 4,000 worker shortage, according to DairyNZ.

The organization said it is relieved the Government is allowing an extra 500 international dairy workers into the country through a border class exception, meaning 800 international staff will be able to enter New Zealand to work on dairy farms.

DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said DairyNZ has been working hard to make sure the Government understands the huge pressure farmers are under, due to workforce shortages.

The organisation has pushed for 1,500 international dairy workers being allowed into the country in time for the 2022 dairy season, which starts June 1.

“We made it clear to Government that the 300 dairy border class exception workers previously approved was nowhere near enough to meet the demands on-farm and reduce the current high levels of farmer stress,”​ Mackle said.

“The Government’s decision to increase the number of international workers by 500 is a step in the right direction to reduce the pressure on farm teams. We will continue to advocate for more to be allowed into New Zealand, to help address the significant staff shortage.”

The dairy sector is estimated to have a shortage of 4,000 workers. Record low unemployment, combined with a prolonged border closure, have contributed to the shortage of workers.

DairyNZ has also launched a ‘Join Us’ campaign aiming to connect dairy farmers and New Zealanders and inviting Kiwis to join a dairy job – see​ for more details.

“We continue to encourage Kiwis to join our sector and farmers have been taking a range of steps to make dairy farming more attractive to staff, however in such a tight labor market the contribution international staff make to keep farms running is critical,”​ Mackle said.

“From here, we strongly encourage farmers who want international workers on board for calving to apply through the border exception process.

“It’s now simpler for farmers to use the class exception process, so we hope to see farmers take up the opportunity. People no longer need to stay in MIQ or isolate. There is also no limit on the number of farm assistants who can apply.”

Workers on a class exception visa need to be paid at least NZ$28 per hour.

The recent changes announced by the Government will increase the number of international workers allowed into New Zealand under the 2022 dairy class exception from 300 to 800.

This is in addition to the 2021 dairy class exception visa which allowed 200 international workers to enter the country.

Employers must apply to DairyNZ for nomination and have a class exception visa granted by Immigration New Zealand.

A limited number of dairy workers may be eligible to enter New Zealand under other criteria – for more details see​.  

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