Border exceptions announced for some workers

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Hundreds of specialist tech workers and some agricultural workers will be allowed to travel to New Zealand under new border exception rules.

Software and application programmers, ICT managers, ICT security specialists and multimedia specialists will be welcome to help meet demand which can't be matched domestically, says Digital Economy and Communications Minister David Clark.

They will have to meet a minimum annual salary threshold of between $95,000 and $120,000. The scheme is expected to be operational from early 2022.

"The sector is now one of our top three exporters, and jobs in tech have been growing at twice the rate of the general economy. It has continued to expand during the Covid-19 pandemic, placing pressure on the demand for talent," says Clark.

"The class exception announced today will relieve some of the pressure on New Zealand tech firms and support their continued growth and export earnings.

The areas selected had highlighted a "clear need for overseas talent," says Clark.

"For the last two years, the government has been working closely with the tech sector on addressing the key opportunities and challenges facing the industry. At the top of the list is a mismatch between the skills available domestically and what the sector requires.

"Providing this border exception is part of the next step in government's carefully phased approach to reconnecting with the world.

"We've seen other countries open up too early and have to reverse decisions. So it's a balancing act of supporting our economy and minimising the risks to our communities and health system."

The scheme would help the sector grow, but it has also made a commitment through the Industry Transformation Plan partnership with the government to develop domestic talent, says Clark.

Agricultural workers

The government has also approved border class exceptions for some agricultural jobs, including 200 mobile plant machinery operators, 40 shearers and 50 wool handlers, says Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

"We've approved these exceptions to support key autumn harvest requirements and relieve workforce pressures created by Covid-19.

"We've also altered the existing class border exception for 200 dairy workers to remove the previous split of 150 assistant dairy farm managers and 50 dairy farm assistants. There's huge demand for dairy farm assistants, so we're providing more flexibility for our dairy sector to fill jobs up to the maximum of 200 where they see the strongest need."

O'Connor acknowledges there are still labour challenges across the sector and says the government will work with them to meet them where possible.

"Taking into account our most recent decisions, the primary sector has received more than 5100 class exceptions since June 2020 - making it close to healthcare for the most industry exceptions.

"Added to this we started one-way for quarantine-free travel for RSE workers in October. Combine that with the one-off pathway to residence now available to some 9000 migrants working in rural New Zealand and we're making progress."


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