‘Blokes and gum­boots’ dairy myths dis­pelled

Women made their voices heard at a re­cent dairy con­fer­ence. Jo McKen­zie-McLean re­ports.

Central Otago Mirror - - CLASSIFIEDS -

The dairy in­dus­try is not just about ‘‘blokes and gum­boots’’ and women are mak­ing their voices heard.

About 300 peo­ple at­tended the Dairy Women’s Net­work con­fer­ence in Queen­stown on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

Key­note speaker, As­so­ciate Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries, Louise Up­ston, opened the con­fer­ence and told the crowd the dairy in­dus­try fo­cussed too much on men, and she was try­ing to break up myths the pri­mary in­dus­try was about ‘‘blokes and gum­boots’’.

‘‘It sure as hell isn’t. It isn’t now, and it def­i­nitely won’t be in the next 10 or 20 years.’’

Per­cep­tions had to be chal­lenged in or­der to at­tract more peo­ple and meet the Govern­ment’s tar­get of 50,000 more em­ploy­ees to pri­mary in­dus­tries by 2025, and up­skilling 43,000.

‘‘We have got a grow­ing in­dus­try and we want it to grow sig­nif­i­cantly. It is about demon­strat­ing how fan­tas­tic the women are in the dairy in­dus­try so that we at­tract even more.

‘‘I know the chal­lenge we have ahead of us...We have to demon­strate with the work we do each and ev­ery day and how we re­spond to the chal­lenges thrown at us - and it is a great in­dus­try...It is about at­tract­ing the best of the best in al­ready what is an amaz­ing in­dus­try and a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to the econ­omy.’’

She was con­cerned at the short­age of peo­ple en­ter­ing the in­dus­try with­out higher level qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

‘‘We do have to do things sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ently. One of the things I am do­ing across the three port­fo­lios is to say what are the suc­cess­ful path­ways?

‘‘We have far too many that are train­ing in pri­mary in­dus­tries at lev­els 1-3 but are not pro­gress­ing. They are ei­ther not go­ing into em­ploy­ment, they are def­i­nitely not go­ing onto higher lev­els of study, so some­thing is not work­ing there. In terms of the ones get­ting qual­i­fi­ca­tions at level 7, which we need more of, what was it that con- nected them?’’

Her com­mit­ment was to find path­ways for young New Zealan­ders - not mi­grants, she said in re­sponse to a ques­tion about how chang­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws would im­pact on em­ploy­ers, as well as the abil­ity to meet the Govern­ment tar­get.

‘‘It is a bal­anc­ing act and I make no bones about the fact my com­mit­ment is to grow our own. When we have thou­sands of young New Zealan­ders who are not in em­ploy­ment ed­u­ca­tional train­ing, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to put them on a path­way. We ab­so­lutely have to do it.

‘‘There will be a point in time when we have to put more ef­fort into grow­ing our own. We are a long way off that yet so yes, there has been some changes at the mar­gins made in im­mi­gra­tion, and we have to in­vest more, which is what we are do­ing, to grow our own.

‘‘At the end of the day those young peo­ple, in my role in cor­rec­tions, if we don’t get them into train­ing or ed­u­ca­tion if we don’t get them into jobs we will pay for them for a very, very long time. It is not just an eco­nomic cost, as it is a so­cial cost. It is a so­cial cost in our fam­i­lies and our com­mu­ni­ties. I ac­cept that is go­ing to cre­ate chal­lenges. It is tough but we do have to do some re­bal­anc­ing.’’

Dairy In­dus­try Group na­tional chair­man and Fed­er­ated Farm­ers im­mi­gra­tion and em­ploy­ment spokesman An­drew Hog­gard said farm­ers were hugely con­cerned about the chang­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws.

‘‘It’s the main thing I am get­ting phone calls and emails about at the mo­ment.’’

Last year, Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand made a change ‘‘at the 11th hour’’ to the im­me­di­ate skills short­ages list which took of as­sis­tant herd and herd man­ager po­si­tions.

‘‘It meant you had to go through a labour mar­ket test if you wanted to em­ploy a mi­grant. They did make the test sim­pler but it re­duced the work visa for those po­si­tions from two to three years down to one year. A lot have been ab­so­lutely frus­trated by it. They have to do these labour mar­ket tests ev­ery sin­gle year.’’

An im­pend­ing change was a three-year cap on mi­grants, he said.

‘‘If you have some­one com­ing from over­seas work­ing on the farm, at the end of three years this per­son has to leave and is not al­lowed back in New Zealand for another year.

‘‘If you are in a re­gion that has very few suit­able peo­ple want­ing em­ploy­ment, or peo­ple want­ing em­ploy­ment but are not suit­able, the farm­ers are faced with hav­ing to re­place them with another mi­grant and teach them the whole farm op­er­a­tion again.’’

Na­tion­ally, about 15 to 20 per cent of em­ploy­ees on dairy farms were mi­grants - higher in re­gions like South­land, Otago and MidCan­ter­bury, he said.

‘‘They are pretty im­por­tant. It cre­ates chal­lenges for ev­ery­one.’’

JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

MP Louise Up­ston speak­ing at the Dairy Women’s Net­work con­fer­ence in Queen­stown.

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