Pukekohe vegetable growers are concerned that the COVID-19 checkpoints in their area could slow the flow of produce to supermarkets and other retailers. The large vegetable production area is close to the Auckland-Waikato border, with some market gardens split between both regions.
Newshub.co.nz reports that Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association's president Kylie Faulkner said staff were struggling to move between level 3 and level 2 COVID-19 restriction zones to complete essential work like harvesting crops. "We are hearing growers in the Tūākau and the Pukekohe areas are having waits of up to one to two hours to get through checkpoints, causing quite a disruption to production.”
Faulkner said it also needed to be clarified exactly what documentation essential workers were required to carry and whether this could be in a digital format: "In our own business we had some of our staff trying to move from level 2 into level 3 this morning for work and they were turned away, because they didn't have the official [exemption] letter printed out.”
Faulkner said growers didn't want the COVID-19 level 3 boundary running directly through a major horticultural production area. But if that couldn't be changed, it would be good for freight lanes on roads to be used to speed up wait times at checkpoints, she said.
In a statement, the Ministry for Primary Industries said it was keeping in touch with food producers to ensure their workers were safe and vital production continued. Travel exemptions granted by the Ministry of Health for key workers should help to smooth the path for travel in and out of Auckland for work.