Minister missing when agriculture needs him most

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor must stand up for the industry that has carried New Zealand though the Covid crisis, says National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger.

“Every day, every facet of the industry is calling on the Minister to do more to support growers and producers, and every day there is radio silence from him.

“One of the most pressing issues is the shortage of skilled staff and the inability to bring skilled migrants into the country.

“Farmers, vets, contractors and processors are among many groups that need skilled people to keep our essential industries at full potential.  People are needed now.

“The Minister has this romantic notion that we can magic up the people we need from within New Zealand.

“He needs to wake up and support the Ministry for Primary Industries, which I’m told by industry bodies has worked very hard to try to convince Immigration NZ around the seasonal nature of agriculture and the resulting labour requirement.

“Minister O’Connor’s job is represent the industry in Cabinet and work to grow and improve it for the benefit of New Zealand.

“The Productivity Commission recently reported that we should not have further immigration without infrastructure.

“The infrastructure is on our farms, waiting for the people to come. The Productivity Commission didn’t look past city boundaries. How was this allowed to happen? Why has the Minister not gone into bat for the sector?

“We do need to give New Zealanders the opportunity to learn skills that are in short supply, but the industry is in desperate need right now and the Minister is doing nothing to help.

“There are people who are skilled and willing to come to New Zealand and they are not allowed to come by this Government.

“The Minister must find a way to sort the problems.”