Border class exceptions approved for more dairy workers, vets

The Government has approved border class exceptions for an additional 200 dairy workers and 50 veterinarians to enter New Zealand, announced Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“It is clear from conversations with the dairy and veterinarian sectors that they are facing workforce pressures. These border exceptions will go a long way towards relieving those pressures,” Damien O’Connor said.

The exceptions will allow up to 150 dairy farm workers in management roles on farms, up to 50 workers in dairy assistant roles, and up to 50 general practice vets to enter New Zealand, along with their partners and dependent children.

“What we have also made clear to sector leaders is that we need to ensure there is a strong incentive for New Zealanders to take up entry level roles and develop careers in dairying.

“The Government and food and fibres sector have been working hard to mitigate worker shortages by training and upskilling New Zealanders, but we know that takes time. This announcement recognises the immediate need for additional expertise to come through our borders.

“Dairy managers and vets have specialist skills developed over many years, which we can’t replicate overnight.
“With the new dairy season kicking off last week, migrant dairy farm workers will supplement the domestic workforce and provide critical support.

“Despite the previous border class exception for vets, our domestic vet skill shortage remains acute, including in hard to recruit roles in isolated rural practices.

“This new class exception will allow veterinarians to enter New Zealand if they have between 3-5 years’ experience and meet the remuneration threshold of $85,000 per year.”

Damien O’Connor said dairy farm workers and vets played a key role in animal welfare, food safety, and safeguarding New Zealand’s international reputation as a producer of safe and sustainable food.

“In making this decision, we’ve balanced the need to keep New Zealanders safe and ensure appropriate MIQ capacity, with seasonal and strategic skills shortages, and seasonal variations for overseas New Zealanders travelling home.

“To relieve workforce pressures, the Government has previously approved exceptions for vets, along with shearers and rural mobile plant machinery operators, and others.

“These new border exceptions will help drive New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19,” Damien O’Connor said.


Employers will be able to start requesting to bring workers in through this class border exception by the end of the month.

The new border exceptions will enable:

· up to 150 dairy farm managers (plus their partners and dependent children) earning above $79,500 per annum for Dairy Herd Manager roles and above $92,000 per annum for Assistant Dairy Farm Manager or 2IC managerial roles, up until April 2022
· up to 50 dairy farm assistants (plus their partners and dependent children) earning at or above the median wage at the time of application, up until April 2022
· up to 50 general practice veterinarians (plus partners and dependent children) earning at or above $85,000 per annum, over 12 months, with 2-3 years of experience across key roles in both urban and rural veterinary settings.

All exceptions require continued commitment from sectors to provide attractive employment opportunities for workers, improve workplace conditions (including offering flexible working arrangements), and reduce overall reliance on migrant labour.

MPI works closely with industry to implement class border exceptions. Industry will need to check applications to make sure migrant workers entering under the border exception meet the requirements of the Immigration Instructions.

Spaces are limited and demand may outstrip supply. Government will work closely with industry to ensure that, together, we prioritise those employers located in acute need areas, or employers that have gone above and beyond to support the sector and recruit Kiwis into roles over the last year.

Any dairy farm employer can apply for a border exception visa provided they meet the criteria set out, and up until the relevant class exception cap is reached. Government will be relying on DairyNZ and the New Zealand Veterinary Association to be implementing partners for these class border exceptions. This process has worked well for previous class border exceptions, for example, industry group HortNZ performed this role for their RSE workers.

Other critical worker border exception process:

Highly skilled dairy farm managers who earn more than twice the median wage at the time of application may be eligible for entry to New Zealand under the ‘other critical worker’ border exception process.
The ‘other critical worker’ pathway also remains available for the highest-skilled, most specialised veterinarians (i.e. those who earn more than $106,080 per year).

Employer requirements:
For dairy workers, employers will be required to:
· meet MIQ costs
· pay the workers 2-weeks’ salary while in MIQ
· offer a payrate of at least 1.75 times to the current median wage for Assistant Dairy Farm Manager/2IC managerial roles ($92,000 per year).· offer a payrate of at least 1.5 times the current median wage for Dairy Herd Managers roles ($79,500 per year).

Employers will also need to ensure workers entering New Zealand are provided with safe and suitable accommodation, and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will be working through this with the dairy sector.

For vets, employers will be required to:
· meet MIQ costs
· pay the workers 2-weeks’ salary while in MIQ