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Temporary visa changes heading in right direction

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Streamlining of procedures and new regional skills shortage lists are useful features of proposed changes to employer-assisted temporary work visas, Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The proposals released by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway are a step in the right direction from the government, especially as they acknowledge the difficulty that some employers face when they can’t find suitable New Zealand workers to hire and train for a role,” Chris says.

The Labour party signalled prior to the last election that they wanted to look at regional skills shortage lists.

“Now they’re doing that, and Feds applauds this regional approach.

“The problems in places such as Balclutha, Methven and Ashburton are not the same as in Auckland and it’s important that we have a framework that doesn’t punish farming businesses for the housing and other infrastructure pressures face by population growth in our major cities. In many cases, it’s the families of migrant workers that provide the critical mass to keep provincial community resources like schools and sports clubs alive.”

The regional skill shortage lists can be a vital tool but, just like the existing skills in demand lists, as proposed they will only include occupations of high and medium skill level. This is a big problem for agriculture because the Government currently categorises most farm workers as low skilled. For the regional skills shortage lists to be of any value, this needs to change, Chris says.

Federated Farmers has opposed the broad application of the current rules that limit temporary visas to three consecutive 12-month periods then an enforced stand-down of a year where the worker must return overseas before they can apply for another visa.

“These and other conditions, including those that make it hard for workers to bring spouses and children to New Zealand while they work here, were brought in by the previous government in a panic just before the election.

“It’s great that the Minister has proposed reversing restrictions on migrant workers’ families coming with them to New Zealand because that is really important for rural communities.

“We’re also glad that the policy of enforcing a stand-down period after three years is being reviewed, but action can’t happen soon enough. The problems associated with this change when combined with 12-month visas have been patently obvious since their introduction and we have been discussing the impact they have been having on farmers for some time,” Chris says.

“New Zealand needs to be an attractive proposition for the best migrant dairy workers. Since even those with experience are currently considered low skilled, and subjected to their jobs being advertised annually and with no prospect of staying after three years, we aren’t going to able to attract the best or keep the people that we have invested in over the first three years.”

Source: Federated Farmers

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