Shearers remain hopeful foreign workers will be given border exemptions as clock ticks

Work is expected to ramp up significantly in a month's time.
Work is expected to ramp up significantly in a month's time. Photo credit: Getty

The shearing industry is nervously waiting to find out if it will be able to bring in overseas shearers to help this season.

The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association had initially hoped to bring in up to 200 shearers to fill gaps in the local workforce, but with the clock ticking to get people into the country in time, that request has now been scaled back to 40 or 60.

Association president Mark Barrowcliffe said work would ramp up significantly in a month's time.

The industry had presented its case to the Minister of Immigration, but at this stage there was no certainty that it would be granted border exemptions, he said.

"[We're] just waiting for a tick of approval at the moment, we've got everything ready to go and have had for a while now but yeah, just keep getting put on the back burner."

Federated Farmers meat and wool chair William Beetham said the shortage raised serious animal welfare concerns.

More shearers would be required to avoid issues such as fly strike and animals suffering in the heat this summer, he said.

"We're very keen to be involved in a strong conversation around how important is animal welfare? How can we maybe look at releasing some of the border restrictions to ensure that we don't have any negative impacts on our animals?"

Barrowcliffe said the association was looking at how the local shearers could be best utilised, including moving shearers between the North and the South Island.

"We've already been talking to our members and getting them to talk to farmers and just to see what they can do to help alleviate the problem, if they can bring their shearing forward, spread it out a bit more, move staff between islands."