More border exceptions for critical roles

  • Hon Kris Faafoi

The Government has established class exceptions for border entry for a limited number of veterinarians, deep sea fishing crew, as well as agricultural and horticultural machinery operators.

“Tight border restrictions remain the backbone of the Government’s border strategy to protect New Zealand against COVID-19 and ensure New Zealand citizens and residents can return home,” Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said.

“The Government understands the challenges the tight border restrictions create. We continue to review possible exceptions that would help address critical workforce gaps that cannot be filled by New Zealanders and help support the COVID-19 economic recovery, while ensuring our managed isolation and quarantine system can cope.

“We also know that because of COVID-19, more New Zealanders will be seeking work. When we consider exceptions for workers from overseas, we’re prioritising industries that can demonstrate a plan for education, training, wages and other activities that will attract New Zealanders into their sector.”

Kris Faafoi said the latest exceptions are for up to 30 veterinarians, 570 deep sea fishing crew, and 210 agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators, and these exceptions will be time-limited.

“There are not enough New Zealanders to fill current needs for livestock veterinarians, especially in isolated areas. Training to be a vet takes years so these vacancies cannot be filled quickly. Vets provide significant benefits to our economy and communities, by ensuring biosecurity and food safety requirements and supporting animal welfare.

“Agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators are employed across regional New Zealand to operate highly-specialised machinery. Their skills are required urgently to avoid the loss of crop and animal feed that will soon be ready for harvest.

“Foreign deep sea fishing crew contribute significantly to New Zealand’s economy. The Government accepts that there are few additional Kiwis with the experience to safely work on these ships in the short term. In exchange for the border exception, the fishing industry has committed to removing barriers to employing New Zealanders, including reviewing pay structures and business models, and investing significantly in training and education,” Kris Faafoi said.

The exceptions are limited in numbers, and Government will look to industry representatives to identify which workers will be eligible for a border exception within the allocation.

Kris Faafoi said the Government would continue to review border settings as appropriate, and consider class exceptions where they are warranted and manageable, to meet New Zealand’s needs as the country recovers from COVID-19.

“Our decisions on border exceptions take into account a large number of factors, including humanitarian reasons, reuniting families, economic benefits, and ensuring sufficient skills, experience and talents are available.

“In the past month, exceptions were made for some normally resident temporary visa holders, more partners of New Zealanders, and now, additional critical workers. These are pragmatic decisions that help New Zealand, while protecting the critical role our border plays as the first line of defence against COVID-19,” Kris Faafoi said.