Rural groups welcome rule changes for overseas seasonal workers

Rural sector industry groups have welcomed changes to immigration rules affecting seasonal workers.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced the current restriction on lower-paid workers bringing their families to New Zealand will be removed.

A simplified system for both employers and foreign workers will be also be introduced, with only one 'Temporary Work Visa' replacing the current six visa categories.

Other changes include the establishment of 'sector agreements' which would see certain sectors agree to conditions that must be met for recruiting foreign workers for specified key occupations.

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman said the changes would simplify the process for hiring overseas workers.
Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman said the changes would simplify the process for hiring overseas workers. Photo credit: Newshub

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman said the changes were good news for growers.

"The changes mean that it will be more straightforward to hire skilled workers from overseas to work in areas of New Zealand where there are few New Zealanders available for the work," he said.

He said HortNZ and other representative groups had been lobbying for changes to the current complex and unfair system for many years.

Federated Farmers also welcomed the changes.

Employment spokesperson Chris Lewis said the simpler and streamlined temporary work visa process would deliver for the regions.

"Our message that workforce and related problems experienced by the big cities are not necessarily those experienced in the provinces has been taken on board - we congratulate the government," he said.

Federated Farmers' Chris Lewis congratulated the Government on the changes.
Federated Farmers' Chris Lewis congratulated the Government on the changes. Photo credit: Supplied

"The changes will help ensure farmers and others can more easily employ migrants when they need them, and when the options for taking on and training suitable New Zealanders are exhausted," said Lewis.

The meat industry will be one of the first to negotiate a new sector agreement with the Government under the changes.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie said it was a positive step forward.

"Labour shortages have been an ongoing issue for the meat processing sector, which affects our ability to run our plants to the desired capacity and fully process all products," he said.

"That deprives processors and farmers of revenue and rural communities of income," said Ritchie.

He said the sector was committed to training and employing New Zealanders first and foremost, however it still struggled to fill roles from New Zealand's rural communities.

"A sector agreement is likely to include how the meat industry will attract New Zealanders, improve productivity, offer training and continue to uphold employment standards."  

The new visa and application process will have a phased implementation in 2021.

Newshub.

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