2000 more Pacific horticultural workers to be admitted

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
The Government has announced 2000 workers from the Pacific will be allowed into New Zealand to fill shortages in the horticulture and wine-growing sectors.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor and Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said the workers, who would be required to isolate at isolation hotels, would arrive from January to March.

It comes after Central Otago orchardists and winegrowers have been among those who have blamed the Government for significant worker shortages.

Ahead of the announcement, some questioned why fishermen from countries rife with Covid-19 were allowed into New Zealand when workers from the relatively untouched Pacific were not.

The industries have typically been reliant on both backpackers and the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which allowed workers from Pacific countries to come to New Zealand for seasonal work.

In a normal year, up to 14,400 RSE workers filled seasonal labour shortages, but only 6000 remain in New Zealand now.

Both workforces have been hit by Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Mr O’Connor said the Government had listened to concerns from the industries.

"We accept they need help to meet labour shortages that threaten harvests this coming season."

As there was limited capacity in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, entry would be staggered — starting from January, to avoid peak holiday demand from New Zealanders wanting to return for Christmas.

“This is the single largest economic-based class border exception to date.’’

The Government had also made clear the industry needed initiatives to attract New Zealanders into horticultural work.

Mr Faafoi acknowledged fewer seasonal workers would be available than in previous years but noted that the Government was helping New Zealanders take up seasonal jobs and had made changes to allow foreign workers already in the country to stay.

The exception would also help New Zealand’s Pacific Island neighbours whose economies had been hit hard by Covid-19.

The exceptions showed the Government’s willingness to adjust border settings if a balance could be struck which protected against Covid-19 while supporting New Zealand’s economic recovery, he said.


 

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