Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Border plan to return seasonal workers

The Government has announced quarantine free commencement dates for Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers from Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga.

“We’re pleased to announce that RSE workers from Vanuatu can begin arriving into New Zealand from 4 October, with Samoan and Tongan workers arriving from 12 October,” said Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor.

“This will provide much needed certainty for our growers as they gear up for summer and autumn harvesting.”

The Minister said people arriving under the scheme must meet strict health conditions. 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. Employers will be providing the self-isolation facilities.

They must also complete their vaccination post-arrival, he said.

“Despite the challenges of a COVID world, which has constrained the number of RSE workers who could come through MIQ, the Government has remained committed to the RSE scheme.”

“The horticulture sector is worth over $6 billion to New Zealand’s exports. Having people coming to our shores through the RSE scheme to harvest and prune is essential to us maintaining our economic recovery from COVID-19, a recovery which is very much export-led.

“We are also aware of the positive impact the scheme has on our Pacific neighbours with the benefits of the hard work done by RSE workers flowing back home from our shores,” Mr O’Connor said.

He said the commencement of quarantine free travel (QFT) for RSE workers forms a pilot scheme to test systems in preparation for a broader and safe reopening of the borders.

“We will closely monitor this first stage of one-way quarantine-free travel as we want to expand eligibility for quarantine-free entry to New Zealand from these countries and Tokelau when we can be sure it is safe to do so.”  

“I thank Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu for their co-operation with us and also the horticulture and viticulture sectors for their collaboration,” Mr O’Connor said.

Up to 14,400 RSE workers normally come through New Zealand each year, with approximately 10,500 being in the country at peak harvesting times pre-COVID. As at August 2021 around 7,000 workers were in New Zealand.

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