Govt stands by while farmers brace staff shortage impact

With just 14 days until New Zealand’s dairy season begins, the dairy sector is bracing itself for the impacts of a severe labour shortage, National’s Rural Communities spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

A recent Dairy NZ / Federated Farmers survey suggests the sector’s current labour shortage could be as high as 4000 workers, due to the impact of border closures. Yesterday, there were 1290 jobs advertised on Fonterra’s Farm Source website, more than double the number for May.

“Despite the seasonal nature of dairy work, the sector was allocated no managed isolation quarantine spaces as of last week.

“Dairy already employs more than 50,000 people. It makes up 34% of our national exports worth almost $20 billion. That’s more than our meat, wood, fruit, wine and seafood sectors combined. Why is the Government so willing to put such a vital part of our economy at risk?

“As a dairy farmer myself, I’m worried about the far reaching impacts the shortage will have when it comes to people and animal welfare this season.

“Farmers are going to be working even longer hours in order to try keep up with massive workloads and this could lead to burnout, workplace accidents, and negative impacts on mental health.

“The Government needs to prioritise enabling dairy workers to enter New Zealand now. This country relies on dairy and it isn’t right that the Government is standing by and watching farmers flail when they could easily provide a solution.”