New Zealand fast tracks immigration visas for foreign irrigation specialists

Published:  15 Oct at 6 PM
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Visa for irrigation professionals are now being fast-tracked by New Zealand’s Immigration Department, following a severe storm last month which wrecked irrigators in South Island’s rural areas.

The deadly nor’wester hit hard across South Island’s farming region, causing millions of NZ$’s-worth of damage including rendering around 800 irrigation systems inoperable. Dairy farmers fear that, if the typical dry spring and summer follows, milk production will be severely reduced and less revenue will be brought into the isolated farming communities.

As a result,, the country’s immigration department is fast-tracking the visas of irrigation specialists from the USA and South Africa, in order to have them begin repair work on the damaged systems as quickly as possible. According to the head of immigration, Andrew Curtis, New Zealand is short of irrigation technicians, making fast-tracking the visas the only way to avoid a disaster for many cropping and dairy farmers in the region.

Even with outside help, he added, food shortages may occur, as a number of irrigators will need complicated rebuilds which may take several months to complete. The manager of a local irrigation company, Lucas Cawte, agreed, saying that the severity of the storm had caught his company on the wrong foot as regards resources necessary for a fast turnaround.

He added that farmers in the locality had been very understanding in spite of the stress the situation was causing, as they were aware of the scale of repairs necessary. Immigration New Zealand spokesman in the Christchurch area Steve Jones said the department had done its best to help, with several urgent requests taking just 24 hours to process.
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