A much welcome announcement for the horticulture industry
Seasonal workers from Sāmoa, Tonga and Vanuatu will be able to enter New Zealand from September without needing to go through the mandatory two-week managed quarantine and isolation. This announcement, a further sign that the Government is progressively easing border restrictions, is coming in response to concerns from fruit growers who are in desperate need of picking staff for the upcoming season.
"The move is aimed at addressing worker shortages in certain agricultural areas" said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
With over 14,000 workers coming into New Zealand seasonally under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, the COVID pandemic and the imposed border restrictions have caused serious harm to many New Zealand businesses who had to rely on just 2,000 RSE workers granted an exemption since borders closed.
While the move is meant to address the shortfall, there will still be a selection process, though the details and quotas remain to be confirmed.
Balancing risk and benefit
As vaccination has steadily progressed in New Zealand, and the RSE workers' countries of origin are COVID-free or deemed as low risk, the Government is now in a position to meet growers' demand for international workers: the risk of causing pressure on the New Zealand' public health system through a COVID outbreak by bringing these workers in is minimal.
Further easing of border restrictions
While this particular measure is meant to answer concerns from the horticulture industry, pressure has been growing steadily from employers in many other sectors who are heavily reliant on overseas workers.
The Government is planning to detail around mid-August a road map to a progressive reopening of New Zealand borders.