Halal butchers will join New Zealand’s immigration green list from March 2023

December 27, 2022

To help address shortages, halal butchers will join the New Zealand government’s ‘green list’ for work visas, with applicants able to count time on a work visa from 29 September 2021 towards their work-to-residence requirement.

The country’s Meat Industry Association (MIA) described this as a positive step. “New Zealand’s meat processing and exporting industry has a chronic shortage of halal butchers and we have been urging the government to make it easier for our companies to recruit them for some time,” said Sirma Karapeeva, CEO of the MIA.

She added: “Halal processing helps our industry capture greater value. Having each animal processed by a halal butcher means that different parts of the same carcass can be sent to various markets around the world. By providing our sector with the flexibility to match cuts to the needs of our global customers, we can lift the overall value of each carcass.”

A NZ$4.1 billion export market

Halal-certified products contribute approximately NZ$4.1 billion of annual export earnings, claims the MIA. Currently, processing companies across New Zealand rely on approximately 250 halal butchers, who make up 1% of the total workforce.

The sector can typically recruit only 100 butchers domestically due to this country’s small Muslim population and the nature of the job. “A religious component is a fundamental part of the job because they must be a practising Muslim, which we obviously cannot train for. We have no other choice but to look overseas to fill the vacancies,” said Karapeeva.

Ultimately, the MIA wants a special work visa for these specialised butchers as “a simple and pragmatic solution” to a unique problem. Inclusion on the green list is the first step in that direction. The critical shortage of halal butchers, is part of a wider industry industry malaise as it is still more than 2,000 workers short due to a tight domestic labour market.

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