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The federation's North Canterbury dairy chairman, Karl Dean, said last month's announcement by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway of three-year visas and renewals, following a consultation process that began last December, was ''very positive news for farmers''.
''Obviously it's going to take time for the legislation to take effect, so the visas that are being processed now will still only be renewed for 12 months.
''But the salary limits should make it a bit easier to retain long-term employees.''
Projections produced by ChristchurchNZ showed that by 2031, Canterbury could be short of 70,000 workers under existing scenarios and long-term migration trends.
''I remember when we went from three-year to one-year visas. Most of those migrants employed at the time moved to other countries where there was an easier path to residency,'' Mr Dean said.
''We are still in a skills shortage in rural areas and those workers pay a lot of tax dollars to our country, but they can't get the benefits they should be getting unless they can get residency.''
Mr Dean said he was going through the process now to renew the visa of one of his workers and expected he would have to do it again next year, once the new legislation was in place.
He said the three-year visas would allow farmers to invest in training their workers to get them to the salary level required to allow them to stay in New Zealand longer.
''It usually takes 2.5 years to get to level 3 and to start level 4, through PrimaryITO, so we've been having to renew a visa three times before they can move up.
''It can be demoralising for workers and there's no guarantee a visa will be renewed, so there's no incentive to offer the training.
''Some workers have been here for six years and working as 2ICs, but they haven't completed the training, so these new rules should improve this process and offer an incentive for farmers to invest in their workers.''
-By David Hill