New Zealand lamb shearers in short supply

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Lamb shearers are in short supply as summer shearing enters a bottleneck in New Zealand, which could be aggravated by a bumper lambing season. They hope to alleviate the problem by using overseas workers.

Some contractors were still waiting for shearers to confirm their availability for Christmas, said the past president of the New Zealand Shearing Contractors' Association (NZSCA), Ron Davis. The industry was short of shearers at this time of the year. "This has been the trend for the last 10 years, and it has just built up. A lot more farmers are shearing from December to the end of February, and this has put more pressure on people."

The NZSCA got on the occupation shortage list last year, so overseas workers could be hired without going through a three-month waiting period.

There were still stories of delays, said Davis, and the association planned to build relationships with immigration authorities. Contractors could not afford to wait for three months if they needed shearers now.

"We need these offshore people to get us through the season, because we do not have the people to get through January, February and March. The biggest reason is the clash with the North Island and South Island shearing seasons." North Island farmers used to shear most of their sheep before Christmas.