Alan Pollard, Chief Executive, New Zealand Apples & Pears
The government has announced a further border exception for 150 RSE workers to enter the country every 16 days from around mid to late July.
All of the conditions associated with the previous 2,000 worker border exception remain, but in addition employers will be required to fund an additional $828 + GST per worker to cover additional dietary requirements, worker care packages, translation services and water. The government have also introduced a condition that the $22.10 minimum will be extended to apply to all RSE contracts as they come up for renewal.
NZ Apples & Pears did not and does not agree with this proposal. However, despite extensive “negotiation” the government were not prepared to move much from their offer save for some movement on the additional MIQ costs. However, we agreed that it should at least be offered to businesses to make their own commercial decisions about whether to participate or not.
While the additional border exception may provide some relief for the wine industry, particularly given their winter pruning needs, it offers little benefit for our industry. It is likely that the incoming numbers will only be sufficient to offset the number of RSE workers who have expressed a desire to return home. There is also at this stage no guarantee that the Minister will extend the visas for those workers who remained in NZ at the time of lock down and are still here, or came in under the 2,000 border exception. The risk is that unless there is movement on both numbers and visas there will be fewer RSE workers in the country by year end. We are continuing to lobby for visa extensions.
Prior to Christmas, Hawkes Bay industry and local government lobbied the government for a regional solution. It was rejected at the time. NZAPI has commissioned that same consultant to update that submission and again argue for a regional solution. This is again supported by regional businesses and local government.
We need substantially more workers to return to NZ in time for October/November thinning. We have always acknowledged that MIQ is an appropriate process where risk supports it. But we have also argued strongly that the RSE workers should not enter via MIQ given that they are coming from Covid free regions. Not only would this create a safer environment for the workers, and a more commercially sensible option for employers, but it would free up even more spaces for kiwis wanting to return home from Covid infected areas.
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