As I travel around the agribusiness sectors, one of the most common themes that I hear from employers is how skilled staff shortages are really impacting negatively upon their businesses, and they are struggling to maintain or increase both productivity and profitability.
With the New Zealand labour market currently very tight, immigration policies need to be focused on allowing local businesses to be able to access qualified and talented employees to fill the shortfall, and to be able to do this in an efficient and timely manner.
Likewise from the potential immigrant’s point of view, they will also want some sort of security that if they make the move from their country to ours that unless it is only on some sort of short term visa they will have options to establish themselves here and be able to plan some sort of future for themselves and their families.
Currently the dairy sector is facing large staffing issues, and, in many instances, these have had to have been filled by immigrants who are willing to show a good work ethic and are willing to learn.
A fantastic example of this is the large Filipino population we have living and working on New Zealand farms, who are in many cases the backbone of those businesses and are skilled and tireless employees that would be a huge loss to the industry if they ever had to leave.
Yet that is case under current immigration rules, as many of the junior and mid-level management roles within dairy farming are not classed “essential” under Immigration New Zealand (INZ) policy.
This means that in many cases they cannot bring their families into New Zealand with them and must go back to their home country after three years, regardless of how much training and tuition an employer may have invested in them. This is bad for the farming industry and the rural community as a whole.
There have been some examples of this over the years, the most recent being INZ looking to deport a Ukrainian family who owned and operated a successful restaurant in Auckland, or the British man who operated a successful business in Nelson and was a volunteer firefighter fighting the fires earlier this year.
And yet the Immigration Minister initially allowed a convicted drug smuggling fraudster to remain here, and only public outrage saw him revisit his decision.
With the recent tragic events that happened in Christchurch, we more than ever need to increase security at our borders. But at the same time, it showed us all how we are all the same, wanting the same things for ourselves and our families, be it safety, security, prosperity and aroha.
The current system is broken as is demonstrated by the continuing demand for skilled staff across all industries, and if we are to be considered by the talented and the qualified to live here then we need an immigration system that not only protects NZ’s interests and security but also can deliver to those who make the huge leap to move here.
After all it should be a win-win.