Agriculturalists have been anxiously waiting to see if recognized seasonal employer (RSE) workers would still be allowed into New Zealand, given the current Delta outbreak. Last Friday, the government announced that workers from Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu would be able to come into New Zealand quarantine-free from next month.
But some growers say that's still not enough; they are warning the labor shortage will result in New Zealand consumers paying more for fruit and vegetables. The labor shortage has also created huge stress for growers, some of who have given up and left the industry altogether.
One-way quarantine-free travel for RSE workers to start in October
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor have announced that the first stage of one-way quarantine-free travel with Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu will start in October, initially for RSE workers from those countries.
“We want to provide certainty to the horticulture industry that we are moving forward with safe quarantine-free travel for RSE workers in time for the upcoming picking season,” Damien O’Connor said.
“We need to take a cautious approach to opening up quarantine-free travel with the Pacific. While Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu haven’t had any community cases of COVID-19 we know first-hand how quickly Delta can spread if it gets in,” Chris Hipkins added. “To minimise risk we are putting in place additional health measures for these workers. These include requirements to be vaccinated with at least one dose pre-departure, complete a period of self-isolation on arrival and return negative COVID-19 tests at Day 0 and Day 5.”
“We are starting solely with RSE workers for several reasons. RSE workers come to New Zealand in a cohort, and stay in employer-arranged accommodation. This helps mitigate any additional risk from COVID-19 by ensuring they go into self-isolation in a pre-organised place immediately upon arrival.”
Damien O’Connor said it also reflects the important benefits that flow from the RSE scheme for New Zealand, Pacific partner countries, workers, and their families and communities.