The Government says its reconnecting plan will see all New Zealanders and key visa holders able to start to enter the country over the coming three months.
The Government’s gradual opening of New Zealand borders is too late for worker-short primary sector employers seeking an injection of foreign workers for the harvest season.
Under a five-step graduated process announced today, New Zealanders fully vaccinated against covid living in Australia and those with border exemptions can return home from 11.59pm on February 27, with 10 days of self-isolation.
From 11.59pm on March 13, the borders will open to New Zealanders and eligible travellers under current border settings from the rest of the world.
Under this step, self-isolation will reduce to seven days.
The new process replaces managed isolation quarantine (MIQ) with travellers tested on arrival and then self-isolating and returning clear rapid antigen tests on day one and day five or six.
MIQ will remain for New Zealanders who are unvaccinated.
The Government says its reconnecting plan will see all New Zealanders and key visa holders able to start to enter the country over the coming three months, “assisting with the economic recovery and immediately address worker shortages”.
But, NZ Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Colin Bond said any impact from working holiday and skilled migrants entering the country in the coming months will be too late for this season’s harvest.
“Working holiday and skilled migrants entering the country now will not help the summerfruit harvest that has almost finished,” Bond said.
“It will also have limited benefit for the wine grape and apple harvests that are about to get under way.”
The expectation that a large number of working holiday visa holders will quickly enter the country for the kiwifruit harvest is highly speculative, he said.
Rural Contractors NZ chief executive Andrew Olsen said the MIQ border changes are also too late for farm machinery contractors.
From March 13 the border exemption visa endorsement will be reopened to allow contractors to apply to bring in more skilled machinery operators.
“Now the cost and uncertainty of MIQ has been removed, that’s a very good and positive step to reconnect NZ families,” Olsen said.
“Unfortunately for most contractors, any arrival from mid-March at earliest, followed by a week or more of self-isolation, will mean it is getting too late for autumn harvest work.”
Other key dates in the Government border reopening plan are 11.59pm on April 12 for offshore temporary visa holders who meet visa requirements and when 5000 international students will be able to enter.
Also at that stage, consideration will be given to critical workforce employees who do not meet the median wage rate requirements.
The Government says by July the border will be open to anyone from Australia, along with those with visa waivers and with accredited employer work visas.
The aim is to have the border operate as normal by October.