Farming group welcomes proposed work visa changes

The Government's plan to change the temporary work visa system is being welcomed by Federated Farmers.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the proposed changes represent a "significant shift" to New Zealand's immigration system, and willl make it easier for regions and industries to get workers.

The proposed reforms, released for consultation on Tuesday, will introduce a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas.

They will include checks for:

- Employers - where approval will be granted to an employer to enable them to hire a migrant.

- Jobs - to ensure no New Zealander is able to do the job.

- Migrants - to ensure they meet character and health requirements.

Federated Farmers employment spokesperson Chris Lewis believes streamlining of procedures and new regional skills shortage lists are useful features of the suggested changes.

"The proposals 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," he said.

He is also welcoming a regional approach to the issue.

"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," said Mr Lewis.

Chris Lewis said the proposal to reverse restrictions on migrant workers' families coming with them to New Zealand is also important for rural communities.

"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."

Federated Farmers is also pleased that the policy of enforcing a stand-down period after three years is being reviewed, although is keen to see this change made soon. 

"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."