The government has granted border class exceptions for an additional 50 general practice veterinarians and 200 dairy workers to enter the country, Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor announced.
The New Zealand Veterinary Association chief executive Kevin Bryant says this will help alleviate the critical shortage of veterinarians that has been made worse by the border restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.
"We are particularly pleased by the timing of this announcement given the considerable pressure our members have been under in regard to animal welfare, biosecurity, production and surveillance.
"A continued shortage has potentially significant effects on veterinary service provision to farmers and pet owners.
“This announcement gives our members a fighting chance to get the help they need,” says Kevin.
Tauranga veterinarian, Phil Rennie, says the pressure vets have faced is considerably more than pre-Covid.
“There are less vets and support staff on hand to service high client demand, especially here in the ever popular Western Bay of Plenty,” says Phil.
“My team has been stretched to service consults in clinic and or call out requests. This means longer than normal working days; plus, with less people on the afterhours roster we are more frequently on call.”
Phil says only a few vets have become available at this point but later in the year more vets are expected to arrive.
Two hundred farm workers (sidehead)
Federated Farmers and DairyNZ are also extremely relieved the government has recognised the crippling shortage of workers in the dairy industry and believe the exception process will help workers stuck overseas to return to their jobs on Kiwi farms.
Federated Farmer immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says the job of working through the details with Dairy NZ, Immigration NZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries will now begin, to see how these 200 spaces can be fairly allocated across the country.
Since the closure of the border farmers have been crying out for dairy workers, with almost 50 per cent of farmers surveyed saying they have work vacancies.
“I have taken many, many calls from people who are struggling to cope without their farm managers and skilled staff,” says Chris.
“It has been a desperate time for many farming families.”
Despite efforts to attract New Zealanders into the farming industry, the desperate need for overseas workers in some parts of the country continues.
This exception process may offer some farmers some respite for the coming season, but will not solve the long-term labour shortages that so many industries are facing.