More border exemptions for shearers unlikely - Immigration Minister

Sixty overseas shearers will be allowed to enter the country early next year.
Sixty overseas shearers will be allowed to enter the country early next year.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has indicated it's not likely there will be any more border exemptions for shearers, despite concerns over animal welfare issues.

Farmers have warned a shortage of shearers could lead to animal welfare issues coming into summer, with animals facing an increased risk of suffering in the warm heat.

Earlier this week the Government said it would allow up to 60 overseas shearers to enter the country between January and March to help fill the gap.

But when asked in Parliament on Thursday whether more shearers would be allowed in, Faafoi said there were no plans to do so.

"[Agriculture Minister] Damien O'Connor has been working very closely with the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association (NZSCA) to make sure that we have what, we believe, is the minimum viable number to make sure that we can get through the issues with the border at the moment," Faafoi said when asked by ACT's James McDowall if there would be further border exemptions made. 

The NZSCA originally applied for 200 shearers to be allowed into the country but subsequently scaled that back to 60. They said with that number it would be possible to shear 90,000 to 100,000 sheep a week - though that still fell short of the number required during the peak season.

When asked by McDowall if he would take responsibility for any animal welfare issues arising from unshorn sheep due to a lack of workers, Faafoi said he would.

"I am confident in that, because we work closely with the NZSCA and we've had praise from the likes of the head of Meat & Wool from Federated Farmers that we have the local workforce and the immigrant workforce to make sure that we can get through the season without any issues."

Earlier this week NZSCA president Mark Barrowcliffe said while the industry waited for help from overseas to arrive, it would make the most of the local workforce as best as it possibly could by moving shearers between the North and the South Island.

Asked by Labour's Kieran McAnulty what other border exemptions had been made by the Government for the primary industries, Faafoi said exemptions had been made for 30 veterinarians, 570 deep-sea fishing crew, 210 agricultural mobile plant operators, and 2000 seasonal horticulture workers.