Many backpackers in New Zealand are ready to return to Australia, in what could be a major boost for growers who are desperately seeking labor for the summer harvest. Although the border remains closed for now, options exist for entry under the COVID-19 pandemic visa, designed to maintain employment in important industries like food production.
The ongoing shortage of hotel quarantine places in Australia could be the biggest impediment for sourcing NZ-based workers in the coming months. Many Australians trying to return from New Zealand have been told it is likely their flights will be cancelled as limited spaces are available.
Air New Zealand has limited bookings available on its website until late October, with horticulture industry sources confirming it would be difficult for all but essential medical workers and returning Australians to gain places in quarantine.
New Zealand's government is also grappling with a labor shortage and how to reopen for migrants while retaining workers temporarily in the nation for the duration of the pandemic.
In a statement, the Department of Home Affairs acknowledged the disruption the pandemic had caused to the working holidaymaker program and said refunds were available to those who had paid the application fee but were no longer aged 18 to 30 as specified under the visa conditions.