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Pacific Islanders in on-farm quarantine trial under review before more arrivals

Emerald grape farm manager Douw Van Der Merwe said the business would have lost millions of dollars in rotten fruit if it had not been able to secure employees.

"If we didn't have these people, we definitely wouldn't have got this crop off this year — it was very stressful with not a lot of people," Mr Van Der Merwe said.

The Emerald charter flight was the first of four due to arrive as part of a Queensland Government trial to help address the state's urgent worker shortage before the season ends reports

Mr Van Der Merwe said another 50 Tongan workers were due to arrive at the farm next week.

A first for Australia
Queensland was the first state in Australia to allow farmworkers to work while quarantining.

Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) central region director Stephen Smith said the trial had gone extremely well but was being reviewed before any more flights arrived.

"Like everything COVID-19, things can change so we will do a complete review of the process that went on here to make sure it was absolute best practise," Mr Smith said.

"The entire cohort was completely isolated from the rest of the farm. They were completely isolated from the packing, they had their own transport and logistics and their own food production."

He said while the other locations for the trial were not confirmed, north Queensland, southern Queensland and an additional flight to Emerald seemed to be the likely options.

As part of the scheme, only Federal Government-approved employers could organise charter flights to bring the workers to Australia, which is done at their own cost.

The approved employers were responsible for all associated costs, including transport and COVID-19 tests.

In Emerald, the costs were shared between a labour hire company and a grape farm with the cohort divided across the two properties.


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