Workers at a halal butchery in Wellington (Radio NZ)
Workers at a halal butchery in Wellington (Radio NZ)

Covid-19July 6, 2021

The Bulletin: Immigration, labour, and the halal butcher shortage

Workers at a halal butchery in Wellington (Radio NZ)
Workers at a halal butchery in Wellington (Radio NZ)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Halal butcher shortage raises meat industry fears, strict conditions on NZers returning from Australia, and border workers call for more saliva testing.

The meat industry is the latest in the primary sector to be short of critical workers without ready access to bringing in migrants. The story is particularly concerning for halal butchers, who slaughter animals in line with Muslim customary practice. As Stuff’s Catherine Harris reports, this is a major part of the meat export industry, currently to the tune of about $3bn. The industry is short on dozens of halal butchers, and close to a hundred more are on visas that could expire. On that point, MBIE weighed in on an aspect of it last year, regarding median pay rates. There are also barriers to training people in New Zealand’s Muslim community, including the simplest of all – the Muslim community is largely concentrated in the upper North Island, and people don’t necessarily want to move for the jobs.

This is not a new issue for those sectors that traditionally relied on migrant labour. For example, last month there was criticism from Southland dairy farmers, reported by the ODT, that even 200 more spaces for skilled workers wouldn’t be sufficient, with potential human and animal welfare costs as a result.

Despite some moves by the government to open up space for critical workers, we’re living through a grand experiment into what happens to the economy when the flow of migrant workers gets halted. The MIQ system is seen as unfriendly and unwieldy by travel agents, reports Newsroom’s Matthew Scott, so even though there might technically be room to accommodate more people, it hasn’t necessarily worked in practice. Migrant families remaining split is also meaning some leave, and others don’t try to come – here’s a Stuff story about National’s criticism of the government’s current policy.

All of that information leads to inevitable and understandable predictions of economic disaster. That isn’t necessarily how it has played out. The BOP Times reports Kiwifruit cooperative Zespri has seen staggeringly good returns for the year, despite earlier fears fruit would rot on the vine. And there is always an element in any labour market discussion to which a larger pool of potential workers means owners can pay less. But the low unemployment rate suggests there isn’t a lot of room to move for employers right now, and as this useful NZ Herald (paywalled) column by Kate Macnamara noted, skills aren’t necessarily being matched with jobs, and long term that could create significant structural problems.

Under strict conditions, New Zealanders currently stuck in Australia will be able to start coming back. Our live updates reports that will include a declaration they haven’t been at a location of interest or be a contact of a case, not be waiting on a test, and being symptom free. Over the week the bubble with more states will be reopened, except not New South Wales any time soon.

Border workers have repeatedly raised a wish for saliva testing, rather than the nasal swabs they have to repeatedly do. The story comes from leaked emails between workers and the health ministry reported by One News, on the grounds that the nasal swabs are invasive and can be painful. Auckland University professor Des Gorman suggested saliva tests should in fact be the main way we test for Covid. Minister Chris Hipkins noted that there are some additional requirements that need to be met for those doing saliva tests, like not eating or smoking just beforehand.

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I missed this one at the end of last week, but a group of activist lawyers are suing the Climate Change Commission, alleging their advice is incompatible with the Zero Carbon Act. As the NZ Herald’s Hamish Rutherford reports, their concern is that the actions contained within the Commission’s advice will not be sufficient for New Zealand to meet obligations under the Paris Agreement. Climate minister James Shaw is also named in the proceedings.

Researchers will spend the next six months adjusting the parameters for what is considered “normal” weather for New Zealand, reports the NZ Herald. That involves looking at periods of thirty years, and currently the baseline for assessing normal involves looking at 1980-2010 – however that will soon change to be 1990-2020. The change is somewhat material, because the last 53 months in a row have seen temperatures higher than a “normal” month, so the benchmarks will likely be adjusted up.

Labour MP Louisa Wall has spoken out against alleged forced organ harvesting carried out by the Chinese government, in a story within a wider series by Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner. In doing so, Wall did what some of her parliamentary colleagues declined to do – particularly those that hold senior ministerial portfolios. She based her allegation on recent findings of an independent tribunal. Wall and National MP Simon O’Connor are both involved in an international network of parliamentarians who are critical of the Chinese government.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Get in touch with me at

Cashew, Astrid and Chewbacca (Photos: Nancy Zhou)

Right now on The Spinoff: Emma Vitz looks at the generational divide around how much you’d need to earn to afford a house over the decades. Hadeel Salman explains how ransomware hackers are upping their game, and what can be done to limit the damage. Alice Webb-Liddall, in partnership with WSP New Zealand, explores how “20-minute cities” could transform the way we live. Books editor Catherine Woulfe takes stock of the finalists for the 2021 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young People, and writes about the need for outlandishness and joy in children’s fiction. Andrea Graves sets out the facts on EV batteries. Heritage adviser Kerryn Pollock writes about the Rainbow List, dedicated to recognising the places that tell the stories of our queer history. And Olivia Sisson, in partnership with NZTE, writes about a man who lost his job and then struck it lucky with a new business idea for dog gravy.

For a feature today, an exploration of the modern digital economy, and how it isn’t necessarily delivering all that much commercial innovation. On The Terminal, Australian journalist James Hennessy has gone deep into the world of “dropshipping”, and how it increasingly bears an overwhelming resemblance to mere ticket-clipping. Here’s an excerpt:

Over on YouTube, there are tens of thousands of guides to setting up a dropshipping business using platforms like AliExpress. It’s pitched as incredibly easy money. You don’t even need to have to do any of the hard stuff, these tutorials say. You just need to figure out how to market cheaply manufactured, already existing Chinese stuff well enough that there’s decent margin in it for you.

This produces amusing outcomes. As influencers and content creators attempt to get in on the gold rush and run their dropshipping storefronts, the narratives they weave around the cheap garbage they’re hawking often veers into outright lies. One Australian influencer, Olivia White, sold distinctive-looking champagne flutes she said had an “identity” and “message” inspired by her mother. Of course, her followers soon realised the glasses — which White was pushing for $40 each — were readily available on AliExpress and Wish for only a few dollars. “I never said they were designed by me,” she told Business Insider Australia. “Simply that the identity and message behind the glasses was inspired by them.”

In sport today, a celebration of elite performance, and pushing the body beyond any reasonable limit of human endurance: The Guardian reports American man Joey Chestnut has broken his own world record for the most hot-dogs eaten in a ten minute period, smashing through 76 of them. Chestnut was competing in an annual Independance Day event, and it’s hard to think of a more perfect symbol of American patriotism and exceptionalism.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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