New Zealand apple industry wants holiday visas extended

Some 25,000 visitors in New Zealand are on holiday visas. It seems that many want to stay as the pandemic continues to spread around the world.

Backpackers who want to stay in New Zealand have launched a petition calling for their working holiday visas to also be given a six-month extension. The petition has gained the support of more than a thousand people in the first 24 hours.

They have been excluded from the six-month extension granted to three classes of skilled and sponsored work visas, as well as visas for up to nearly 14,500 seasonal workers.

Another 350,000 temporary workers are in New Zealand, and half will need to renew or vary their visas soon. They can apply for an extension to stay for compassionate reasons, but it is not clear what qualifies as a valid reason. Otherwise, Immigration New Zealand will not renew any temporary worker's visa unless their employer can prove there are no citizens or permanent residents to do their job.

This is difficult to do with an unemployment rate expected to have risen to more than 7 percent in the last three months, and to peak at 9 percent by the end of the year.

Petition organiser Marie Bock, who is here from Germany on working holiday visa, said many people did not now want to leave but felt they have little choice. "A lot of backpackers and people on working holiday visas, they are leaving because they don't really know what's going on, so other working visas have been extended but not ours. If something happens, it needs to happen soon, that we can plan accordingly, that people don't book their flights back home."

New Zealand Apple and Pear spokesperson Gary Jones said the industry was a major export earner, but it relied on a temporary workforce.

Jones said between 60,000 and 80,000 temporary workers normally picked the fruit, but it may have to make do with less than half when the season began in spring.

"Essentially we're hearing it, really from the government and the minister, things such as we'll have to just expect to work with these Pacific Island workers or these working holiday scheme workers.

As explained on rnz.co.nz, temporary workers make up nearly 80 percent of the people who pick the fruit, but about 80 percent of the people who pack the fruit are citizens and residents and their livelihoods depend on the temporary workforce that picks the fruit.


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